How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home During COVID-19

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home During COVID-19

Spring cleaning is typically the perfect time to sweep out the garage, reorganize the linen closet and wipe down the windows. But in Spring 2020, our cleaning goals are slightly different.

While shelter-in-place orders around the country may be giving families plenty of time to tackle those Marie Kondo-inspired tidying-up projects, these guidelines are essential to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Here are some helpful cleaning strategies that may help you keep germs at bay, even if your family is in good health:

Protect Yourself

Remember to wear disposable gloves when you’re cleaning, and wash your hands before and after to help minimize the spread of germs. It’s also best to work in a well-ventilated space, as disinfecting chemicals can be very strong. Also, never mix cleaning chemicals as this can create toxic off gassing.

Clean First, Then Disinfect

The CDC explains that cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. Cleaning helps remove dirt, debris and other residue, whereas disinfecting helps kill bacteria and pathogens.

First, wipe down surfaces with a cleaning towel or soap and water to remove dirt. Then follow up by using an EPA-approved disinfectant or a diluted household bleach solution containing 4 teaspoons of unexpired bleach for each quart of water.

Your disinfectant will need to remain on the surface for a certain amount of time, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For a household solution, wait at least 1 minute.

Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

The CDC also recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces in high-traffic areas. These include bathroom and kitchen surfaces, faucets, doorknobs, hard-backed chairs, lightswitches, game controllers, computer keyboards and mobile devices.

Explore Cleaning Guides from HomeServe

If you’re like me and have become somewhat obsessive about keeping your house clean and wanting to try to keep the coronavirus at bay, check out the following HomeServe blogs for general cleaning tips and tricks that may help with hard-to-clean spots and surfaces.

Don’t forget to bookmark this post so you can come back to these helpful hints when next year’s Spring cleaning season comes around.

Cleaning Products to Use Around the House

Bathroom Cleaning Guides

Kitchen Cleaning Guides

Living Space Cleaning Guides

Prepare for the Unexpected With a Home Repair Plans

As you and your family follow shelter-in-place orders and spend more time at home, you’re counting on your essential home systems to stay in working order. Now, more than ever, your home is playing a major role as your living space, office, schoolhouse, play zone, fitness center and more. An unexpected home system breakdown could have consequences for all of these aspects of your life.

Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy.

What Is the Cost to Install a Water Heater?

What Is the Cost to Install a Water Heater?

A few months ago, I wrote about my water heater mishap. (I know I’ll never forget that feeling of a freezing cold shower). I’m glad to report that my new water heater is still providing our family with hot showers and clean laundry – but I’m always on the lookout for the signs it might need maintenance.

During the frigid winter months, it’s more important than ever to check in on your water heater. If you do catch a problem early on, or realize you need an entirely new system, you can be proactive in receiving repairs (and won’t be caught in a mid-shower frozen surprise).

From my experience, I learned that installing a water heater is half the battle – and the majority of the cost – of purchasing this essential system. Don’t settle for lukewarm showers and half-washed dishes. Here’s everything you need to know about the cost to install a water heater.

The tank vs. tankless debate

The fact of the matter is, installation costs depend on the type of water heater you need or already have. Home Depot breaks down two of the most popular choices for homeowners:

  • Traditional water heaters: Typically store between 20 and 80 gallons of water heated by gas or electric power. The average total cost for a new traditional water heater and installation is $1,308.

  • Tankless water heaters: Gaining popularity in recent years, these units are also fueled by gas or electricity but only heat water as needed. They’re accepted as being more environmentally friendly, though they come with higher upfront costs. The average total cost for a tankless water heater is around $3,000.

Total costs include everything from the unit itself, permits, materials, installation, labor costs and removal of the old unit. Thumbtack.com estimates the national average cost of installing a water heater ranges from $500 to $1,000.

What’s your fuel source?

Water heater installation costs aren’t just affected by the type of water heater chosen, but also by the fuel sources available. Both traditional and tankless heaters can use gas or electricity to warm up water. A gas water heater may cost $50-100 more to install than an electric tank water heater. Likewise, you can expect to pay $500 more for a gas tankless water heater than an electric water heater.

If you need – or want – to switch fuel sources, you’ll most likely need to add some room to your budget. Going from an electric to gas water heater may require the addition of a gas line, that usually costs $500 to install, reports Homewyse.com.

Other factors to consider

The size, model, home layout and any additional – necessary – work can all contribute to the costs associated with installing a water heater. Traditional water heaters may require expansion tanks to minimize the risk of pressure damage to the plumbing system. TheSpruce.com explains this is mostly needed in closed water supply systems, so always factor that into your water heater costs.

While tankless heaters come with higher upfront costs, they can require less maintenance in the long run and families can see energy costs decrease because water is heated on a need-only basis. Both kinds of water heaters have energy-efficient models available for more cost savings.

Though each system comes with its own unique costs, installation can also vary based on your needs and wants. Always make sure to do your research before deciding on the best water heater for your home and have a licensed professional install it.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Better Than the Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Better Than the Holiday Meal

Remember that episode from Season 5 of “Friends” entitled “The One With Ross’ Sandwich” where Ross has an actual breakdown after someone steals his Thanksgiving leftovers? (One of my all time faves!)

Apparently, Ross had been looking forward to that Thanksgiving sandwich all year long – ‘cause it’s just that good.

While you binge on Netflix after the parade and pumpkin pie, wondering what to do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers, why not bookmark a few of my favorite post-Thanksgiving recipes?

My kids say these are better than Thursday’s turkey and stuffing — but I’ll leave it to you and yours to decide.

Breakfast

Try these low-carb stuffing waffles with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Or start your morning with Thanks Benedict, featuring stuffing cakes smothered in a sage hollandaise sauce, by one of my favorite chefs, Giada de Laurentiis.

For a weekend brunch with friends (and mimosas), I love making a sweet potato and kale frittata with creamy goat cheese, or this stuffing and turkey quiche.

The kids will adore breakfast sausage and stuffing bites — they’re so good you’ll want to pop a few before heading out for the Black Friday doorbusters.

Get a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America today

Soups and sandwiches

My favorite turkey soup is a creamy, one-pot recipe for turkey and dumplings. It’s a great way to use up whatever turkey meat and veggies you have left.

I also recommend this hearty leftover turkey chili recipe. With a bowl filled with leftover goodness plus edamame and a homemade spice mix, it’s a great way to help your taste buds (and waist line) transition out of the holiday weekend.

And, while you can easily throw together a turkey sandwich to relive the flavors of Thanksgiving Day, why not take it up a notch with a gooey brie, apple and cranberry grilled cheese sandwich? Simple but oh-so indulgent.

Savory pies

If you’re in the mood for comfort food, don’t miss this Thanksgiving shepherd’s pie. Or, remix the same festive flavors into a turkey pie with a cornbread stuffing crust.

I also can’t speak highly enough of Paul Hollywood’s ham and turkey pot pie. As seen on the Great British Baking Show holiday masterclass, it features a creamy sauce with leeks simmering beneath rough-puff pastry and looks as impressive as it tastes.

Get a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America today

For something quicker, pop these easy Thanksgiving leftover hand pies into the oven. They’re made with store-bought pie crust and the kids will enjoy crafting their own homemade hot pockets.

Pizza

Leftover pizzas are a serious crowd-pleaser! Layer up turkey and sides into a Thanksgiving pizza baked in puff pastry. This version is topped with fried onions for an extra crunch.

My kids always request this yummy mashed potato pizza with leeks and bacon crumbles, but I also like to make up another pizza with turkey, cranberries and barbeque sauce for the grown-ups.

Before you get busy using all your appliances in the kitchen, it’s a good idea to have an appliance home warranty plan in place – just in case there’s a breakdown. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

DIY Shower Pressure Fixes

Low or declining shower pressure may be a frustrating situation. Fortunately, most of the causes of low shower pressure can be fixed quickly, easily and without a lot of personal expertise.

To determine the culprit behind this issue, there are a number of places to look. The best place to start is in the shower itself.

Here are some DIY shower pressure fixes you can complete without the assistance of a plumber:

Remove shower head sediment

Older homes may experience water pressure problems due to years of sediment build-up in the shower head.

You may be able to clean out an older shower head with a simple life hack: An eight-hour soak in vinegar. Inspect the shower head afterward to see if that fix solved the problem and clear any remaining debris manually. If you’re still experiencing low shower pressure, it’s probably time to buy a new shower head.

Adjust necessary valves

If you just moved into a new home, you might find the pressure isn’t to your liking because the builder or previous owner installed a low-flow shower head. Try removing the flow regulator to improve the water stream.

If the problem persists, the low shower pressure may be the result of a water-restrictive shower valve instead of the shower head itself. Adjusting the central shut-off valve may increase the pressure.

Check with your water provider

For homes that get their water from municipal sources, there may be a problem with the amount of water flowing into the property as a whole.

You can increase the flow of water into your home either from the curb-side main or via the one coming into the house. This should be done carefully, however, and may require a call to your water provider.

Look for leak

In some cases, valves themselves could be the source of the problem. If decades-old pipes start to leak, you’ll encounter reduced water pressure in not only the shower, but also throughout the whole home. However, those issues may only present themselves in the shower. If you have low water pressure in your home overall, you may have bigger issues to deal with, like an issue with your water service line.

If you discover any leaks in your home plumbing system, you can attempt to patch them up – if the pipes are relatively new – with little fuss. All you’ll need to do is shut off the water to that pipe, make sure it’s dry and apply either a tape- or epoxy-based sealant, available at most hardware stores, to the affected area of the pipe. Some patches may not be advisable for lines that supply drinking or shower water, so check the packaging to make sure you get the right one.

When You Might Need to Call a Professional

As we have discussed, many low shower-pressure issues can be fixed on your own with a quick trip to the local hardware store to buy a replacement shower head or valve, and a few DIY how-to videos.

Once you have completed these repairs by yourself, it’s a good idea to plan for the future. Should you have any future problems, having a home warranty for your interior plumbing and draining system is a good idea.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

Reasons to call a professional plumber

Not sure if you need the help of a professional plumber? If the issue falls under one of these scenarios, you should definitely call a professional for expert help.

When the water pressure is low

If the water in your home isn’t flowing at its normal pressure, there could be a blockage or leak in the system, fractured pipe or eroded waterline. It can be difficult for the typical homeowner to pinpoint an issue like this. A plumbing professional can identify the source of low water pressure and advise on appropriate solutions.

When there’s no hot water

If your water isn’t heating up efficiently, it’s likely a water heater problem. As these units run on electric or gas systems, it can be dangerous to do repair work on your own. Similarly, if there is no water at all, call a professional to determine the cause.

When you notice severe pipe issues

If you think you have blocked, burst or frozen pipes, call a plumber immediately. Look out for signs, such as strange noises when the tap runs, sewage smells coming from faucets, lack of water or frost on exposed pipes.

Blockages are typically caused by sediment buildup or large debris in the sewer line. DIY attempts to fix these issues can cause more damage, resulting in a much larger repair bill. Even worse, a failed repair to a broken sewer line can cause issues for an entire neighborhood.

When you hear concerning noises

If you hear an extremely loud noise coming from the pipes, it may be a sign that something in the system is broken or about to break. If you hear a gurgling sound coming from the drains or pipes, it can be a sign of a clogged or compromised plumbing system. The sounds will likely appear when you’re using the toilet, shower, washing machine or dishwasher. If you hear these sounds, turn off the water immediately. This step will prevent the system from backing up into the house until the plumber arrives to inspect the issue.

When you’re doing a home renovation project

If you’re renovating the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or other areas of the house that involve plumbing, make sure you get professional advice before starting the project. Relocating or installing plumbing-related items, such as sinks or dishwashers, requires the correct placement of supply lines and drains. A plumber can tell you if your renovation plans are feasible and ensure you have the proper permits. With that advice, you could save money on a potential repair or re-installation.

When you notice water damage

Look out for signs of water damage, such as leaks, water stains and mold growth. It’s ideal to catch water damage before the mold growth gets too severe, as the fungus is a health and safety hazard. A plumber can determine the source of the moisture and perform appropriate repairs to prevent further mold growth.

When DIY solutions aren’t enough

There are easy DIY fixes to many common plumbing issues, such as leaky faucets or clogged drains. Keep these plumbing do’s and don’ts in mind if you are attempting to repair the issue on your own. However, if the problem persists even after you’ve tried to fix it, a more serious problem may require expert plumbing knowledge to repair.

If you’re uncomfortable performing DIY plumbing, never hesitate to call a professional – even if it’s for a simple fix. A mistake could lead to a more severe issue, so it’s better to save yourself the hassle and get it fixed properly the first time around.Being prepared before home maintenance issues arise is always a good strategy. 

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

DIY plumbing: How to install a toilet

If you’re ready to put your handyman skills and toolbox to use, a toilet installation is a relatively simple job to start stretching your DIY muscles. Here are some tips you need to know about installing a toilet on your own.

Reasons to take on the project:

  • Replace or upgrade an old toilet
  • Remove and replace during remodeling
  • Save water and energy

If your toilet troubles are persistent, such as excessive clogging or cracking porcelain, the best option is to replace it. You can save money on your water bills by upgrading your unit to a low-flushing, energy-efficient model. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets are responsible for 30 percent of a home’s average indoor water consumption. Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label for high-performing, water-efficient models. Be sure to measure your bathroom before purchasing so the new toilet will fit in your space.

How to remove the old toilet:

Keep your safety in mind, and try to avoid breaking the toilet as a way to remove it. Plus, if it isn’t in terrible condition, you can sell or donate the unit.

Here’s how to dismantle the toilet without breaking it:

  1. Turn off the water supply. The valve is on wall or floor behind the toilet.
  2. Drain all the water from the bowl. Start by flushing the toilet, then use a plunger, small cup or sponge to remove any excess water.
  3. Disconnect the supply line. Use a wrench to carefully release it.
  4. Remove the tank. Start with the lid, and then use a wrench to loosen the bolts at the bottom of the tank. Lift it straight up, but gently twist it side to side if you feel resistance.
  5. Remove the bowl.Take off the bolt caps at the base of the toilet, then use pliers or a wrench to remove the bolts. Gently rock the bowl back and forth until you can pick it up entirely.
  6. Clean the floor. Use a putty knife to remove any gunk from the floor and around the mounting flange. Wipe down the surface before installing the new toilet.

 How to install a new toilet:

Just like removing the old one, you’ll install the new one in pieces. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific guidelines.

  1. Place the wax ring on the flange. Pro tip: Lowe’s recommended making sure the ring is warm before placing it, as it will be softer and easier to work with.
  2. Set and secure the bowl. Place the toilet bowl onto the flange, aligning it with the bolt holes. Place a washer and nut on each bolt, and tighten into place. Alternate from side to side to make sure you tighten them evenly. Be cautious of over-tightening, as this can crack the porcelain. Place the bolt caps, and use a sealant around the base of the toilet to secure its position.
  3. Install the tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placing the rubber gasket (if it’s not already installed.) Insert the mounting bolts through the inside of the tank, and then place it into position. Alternate tightening the bolts, like you did on the base.
  4. Secure the toilet seat. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Reconnect the water supply line. Turn the water back on, and then flush the toilet to test your work.

Not everyone is a DIY type, but if you are, it’s definitely worth a shot. If during the task you find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated, don’t hesitate to call in a professional. Serious plumbing issues can become a huge inconvenience, so it’s never a bad idea to have a certified plumber check out the problem.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Mold Removal

As a homeowner, you’re bound to deal with troublesome maintenance troubles. However, spotting problems early can help minimize the severity of the issues and protect your wallet from the burden of significant home repairs.

To catch and help avoid mold-related issues, here’s what you need to know about removing this common fungus from your home:

What is mold?

While it can be a nuisance inside your home, this fungus is a natural part of the environment. Mold can grow almost anywhere – on plants, food, wood, paper, carpet and tile grout – as long as there is moisture in the area. You’ve probably seen it darken the grout lines in your shower or build up on damp outdoor decks. The most common type of mold is mildew, which starts as little black spots and grows into a larger infestation. Black mold can be furry and possibly toxic, so homeowners should take extra precautions when trying to remove it. There’s also hidden mold, which you can usually smell even if you can’t see it.

Mold can occur at any time throughout the year, so, unfortunately, you and your home are always vulnerable. The fungus can cause health issues for you and your family, including allergic reactions, asthma and skin irritations, so it’s important to remove mold before it gets to be severe.

Can you clean mold?

With the right tools and precautionary measures, you can usually clean the surfaces where mold develops. Always wear a mask, goggles and gloves while cleaning to limit your exposure to the mold.

The first step for DIY mold removal is to dry the surface and vacuum any dust or debris. Then, scrub the mold off the surface with a bristle brush and mold cleaner, rinse and dry the area completely. For light surfaces, such as tile grout, you can use diluted chlorine bleach to remove the mold. According to The Maids, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda are effective natural, non-toxic cleaners. However, if there is black mold, you may need to purchase a specific cleaner to disinfect the area. While these methods work for hard surfaces, keep in mind that absorbent materials with mold, such as ceiling tiles or outdoor seating cushions, should ideally be discarded and replaced.

How can you avoid mold?

Your cleaning efforts will go to waste if you don’t control the moisture in the area. To prevent mold from growing, start by identifying the source of the moisture, which could be leaks, condensation, humidity or poor ventilation. Once you know where the water is coming from, the key is to act quickly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible, and dry materials within a day or two of leaks or spills.

The EPA further recommends reducing the humidity levels in your home by 30 to 60 percent in order to decrease mold growth. To do so, make sure there is proper ventilation in all bathrooms, and take action by completing small steps like running the fan during and after your shower. Adding insulation to windows, doors, piping and floors can reduce condensation and improve the airflow inside your home. Dust also causes mold to grow, so make sure to clean your home regularly, focusing on baseboards, floorboards and air vents where dust is prone to build up quickly.

When should you call a professional?

When it’s ignored, mold can become excessive and cause health risks, so it’s never a bad idea to have your home inspected by a trained professional. Plus, while cleaning can be an effective temporary home mold removal solution, the mold may persist or you may experience plumbing or HVAC problems that only a professional can completely and safely repair.

Preparing for the future is the best line of defense when dealing with issues in and around your home. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

8 Ways To Conserve Water At Home

Long showers feel great, but with every minute you spend pampering yourself, your wallet and the environment struggle. Along with saving money on your monthly bills, water conservation is critical for your community. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s likely that at least 40 states will experience water shortages by 2024.

Follow these tips for how to save water at home:

1. Be mindful of running water.

Don’t keep the faucet running the entire time you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands. You may have heard this one before, but it’s easy to lazily run the faucet instead of turning it off while scrubbing and then turning the tap back on when you’re ready to rinse. Similarly, avoid luxuriously long showers. Try to limit shower time to 10 to 15 minutes maximum to prevent wasting excess gallons of water.

2. Fix leaks as soon as possible.

Look out for leaky faucets, dripping water from shower heads, rusting pipes and signs of water damage.Locate the source of the leak, and fix it immediately to avoid wasting more water.

3. Don’t let the toilet run.

If you notice that your toilet is constantly running, try replacing the flapper. Simply shut off the water to the toilet, and flush to drain the tank. Unhook the old flapper from the base of the tank and chain, and then replace it with the new one. Turn the water back on, and you’re all set. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to buy a new toilet. Look for an energy-efficient model, and follow these steps to remove the old unit and install the new one.

4. Wash full loads only.

Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before you run them. If you have a unit with energy-saving settings for light washes and smaller loads, take advantage of them. When it’s time to invest in a new machine, look for water-saving models with the settings that allow you to adjust to load size.

5. Use a compost bin.

An in-sink garbage disposal needs a lot of water to work efficiently, so opt for a compost bin instead. It’s healthier for the environment while reducing water waste and increasing the energy efficiency of your home.

6. Insulate pipes.

Be sure to insulate exposed pipes around the house, especially in the attic and basement. When they’re not insulated, it takes longer for water to heat up, meaning it’s running for longer periods of time. You can also cover the water heater with insulating blanket to further speed up the process.

7. Run the sprinklers in the morning.

The optimal time to water your lawn is early morning. This strategy prevents rapid evaporation from midday heat, which means less water is required to sufficiently cover the grass. Avoid rogue sprinklers wasting water by spraying the sidewalk or side of the house, instead positioning them to face the grass and landscaping appropriately.

8. Perform routine appliance maintenance.

Proper appliance care and upkeep can prevent potential leaks and wasted energy. This preventative maintenance includes regular cleaning and seeking professional advice when necessary. Plus, if it’s time for an upgrade, buy energy-saving products and appliances. According to the EPA, the average household can use about 20 percent less water with water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Complement your water conservation at home with these ways to increase energy efficiency. With mindful changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money each month.

If you notice spikes in your water bill, serious leaks or other maintenance issues during your water conservation efforts, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

How to Fix a Screen Door

I grew up in a house with an outside deck. So I have many fond memories of sitting outside on warm, sunny days, reading and enjoying the view of my neighborhood. I would often open the sliding deck door to the adjacent living room while keeping the screen door shut so I could hear music from the living-room stereo without worrying about insects sneaking to the indoors.

So when that screen door started showing signs of wear and tear, my mom would complain how my brother and I were to blame (“too much rough housing” she would say) and “how in the world am I going to fix it?” What mom didn’t know is that while trying to patch a ripped screen door can seem difficult, it’s actually not so hard to fix.

We’ve compiled a list of common issues and helpful DIY remedies to make screen-door repairs a breeze:

Screen replacement 101

Because the screens in most screen doors consist of lightweight fiberglass, tears in the material are hardly unheard of, according to Popular Mechanics. Fortunately, they’re also easy and fairly inexpensive to replace. Your local hardware store will almost definitely have a replacement screen that fits your door. They’ll also have the specialized tool for dealing with spline – the rubber tubing that surrounds the perimeter of a screen and keeps it affixed to the door frame.

Let’s go step by step:

  1. Remove the old screen by lifting it away from the track-mounted rollers. Pull the bottom of the material out and then lower the door until the screen clears the top edge of the frame.
  2. From there, you can cut your own portion of screen material from a large roll, as HGTV noted, or purchase an a la carte pre-cut screen from your local hardware store.
  3. Next, unscrew the door’s handle, then remove the segments of spline surrounding the door frame with an awl. (Don’t get rid of your spline if it doesn’t show signs of damage, as intact spline can be reused.
  4. Use a screwdriver to remove the rollers and reattach either new or existing spline.
  5. Align the replacement screen with the frame, using the spline tool’s convex and concave rollers to press the rubber tubing into the frame grooves.
  6. Fit the screen snugly into the splined frame.
  7. Finally, trim any excess fiberglass and reattach any parts of the door (latch, rollers, panel and so on) you might’ve removed.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

Dragging wheels and other irritations

If opening your sliding screen door is a chore – it moves slowly, creaks or doesn’t close all the way – it’s time to remedy that situation. (Especially if you want to avoid insect intruders.)

The culprit behind the dragging screen is frequently worn-down or broken wheels along either the top or bottom edge of the door’s frame, according to The Family Handyman. But just like a torn screen, this problem isn’t too hard to remedy – and neither are some other issues that may be at play.

  • Make sure the wheel track is clean and unobstructed.
  • Addressing a jammed track is even easier than a wheel replacement: just clear any debris or dirt from it. If the track is bent, straighten it with a pair of pliers.
  • Check the screws holding the wheels in place – if they’re too loose or too tight, adjust as necessary.
  • Don’t forget to check the sliding screen’s top row of wheels. Because of their location, they don’t experience as much wear and tear, but better to be safe than sorry.

If these steps don’t address the issue, you probably need to change the wheels. As with replacement screens, you can easily find spare screen-door wheels at most hardware stores. To start, remove the screen door from its tracks. From there, you can unscrew the old wheels, affix your replacements to the door and put the adjusted door back in place. Ideally, it should move smoothly from then on.

Worst-case scenario

A screen door that is damaged beyond repair will need to be completely replaced. You can call your local hardware store, handyman, or big box retailer to find a new screen door that works for you.

Being prepared for home repairs before they arise is always a good strategy. See how plans from Service Lines of America can help with the costs of covered repairs.

Ever Wonder What A Dishwasher Air Gap Is?

I’ll admit it, I never thought about the inner workings of my dishwasher until it started giving me issues, and I had to figure out why the dishes weren’t coming out clean. When someone asked me if I’d checked the “dishwasher air gap”, I had no idea what they were talking about. So, that prompted me to Google how dishwashers work. (I’m somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert now.)

What I learned is: Your dishwasher is connected to the same plumbing infrastructure as the rest of your kitchen, meaning it’s eerily close to the dirty drain water that flows down your sink. If there’s a clog in your drains, that dirty water could flow back up into your dishwasher, contaminating your kitchen’s sanitation haven. Lucky for you, the dishwasher air gap is there to prevent such an unfortunate event from plaguing your appliance.

So what is a dishwasher air gap anyway?

Usually fitted to an existing hole on the sink or countertop and covered with a decorative cap, a dishwasher air gap connects to hoses below the sink or countertop. One is the dishwasher drain hose and the other typically connects to the sink’s drain pipe or garbage disposal.

As the unit runs, the dishwasher pump pushes wastewater to the air gap so it can exit through the drain hoses. If there is a backup or build up in pressure, the air gap also pushes fresh air into the hoses to prevent dirty water to flow back into the dishwasher. The process is essential for preventing cross-contamination between pipes and backflow into the dishwasher.

Does your dishwasher have an air gap?

I know, after all this talk about dirty sink water, why wouldn’t you want to have a dishwasher air gap? Well, some building codes only require minimal ventilation systems, so if you can’t find an air gap in your kitchen, odds are your area doesn’t consider it a compulsory component. However, if you’re planning on installing a new dishwasher any time soon, be sure to check local building and plumbing codes to determine if you should be including an air gap.

Do you need to do anything with the air gap?

Your dishwasher air gap will generally get on with its business with little necessary maintenance. However, cleaning it regularly can prevent blockage issues. To do so, simply remove the cover and unscrew the plastic cap. DoItYourself.com recommended removing the air gap entirely so you can flush it with water and wipe away debris. While you have visibility to the hoses, check it for clogs. If you see any signs of trouble, you can remove them to rinse and dry. Once you get everything back in place, be sure to check for leaks during the next dishwasher cycle.

If you want to install an air gap for your existing dishwasher, you can purchase a kit and follow this step-by-step guide from SFGate Home Guides. Alternatively, a licensed plumber can easily handle the project.

Maintaining the air gap goes hand in hand with overall dishwasher upkeep. For instance, loading your dishwasher correctly and cutting down on excessive water use can boost the appliance’s efficiency. And while it may feel a tad counterintuitive, you should clean your entire dishwasher about once a month.

Being prepared for home repairs is always a good strategy. See how plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of water sewer line repairs and replacements.

How Much Do Common Plumbing Repairs Costs?

Plumber fixing leaky pipes under sink

When something goes wrong in your home, your first thought may be, “Oh no, what is this repair going to cost me?!” When it comes to plumbing, you may definitely be thinking “plumbing repair costs are going to put me in debt!” But getting a rough estimate of how much plumbing repairs will be can help you feel prepared, mentally and financially. There are a lot of factors that go into plumbing pricing, so there’s quite a bit of variation in how much you might have to pay.

Average Plumbing Repair Costs

The average plumbing repair tends to be about $175 to $450. However, there can be quite a bit of disparity. Simpler jobs may be as little as $50, while more complicated repairs can be around $500. The overall average trends toward the cheaper side because the majority of plumbing repairs are for very basic and easy-to-fix issues. However, for major plumbing repairs that involve system-wide fixes, you could pay around $1,000.

Costs for a plumbing repair may include:

  • Labor for the job
  • Parts and supplies to repair the problem
  • Replacement parts or appliances
  • Service and diagnostic fees
  • Permit fees
  • Haul-away fees for old plumbing

Typical Plumbing Costs by Service Type

To get a more accurate idea of how much you might be required to pay, you need to identify the problem. The problem could be anything from a shower drain clog to a major sewer pipe malfunction. Due to the variations in how long a repair takes and how challenging it is, different repairs have widely different prices. Here are the average costs for plumbing repair broken down by repair type.

  • Drain clog: $125 to $300
  • Leaky pipe: $150 to $700
  • Drain line problems: $250 to $1,000
  • Toilet issue: $150 to $300
  • Broken water heater: $200 to $900
  • Water main repair: $400 to $2,000
  • Septic tank problem: $300 to $2,500
  • Well pump repair: $350 to $1,350
  • Sewer issue: $1,200 to $4,000

What Should a Plumber Cost Per Hour?

Many plumbers’ fees will depend on how long the job takes. Something simple like busting a clog in a drain could be completed in under an hour. Meanwhile, a major repair such as replacing piping throughout the home may take up to 10 days. Plumbers’ prices tend to be about $20 to $150 per hour. This variation in pricing is usually due to the individual plumber’s expertise and can also be due to geography. A new journeyman plumber may just charge local minimum wage, but an experienced plumber who takes on challenging jobs can command a much higher price.

Do Some Plumbers Use Flat-Rate Plumbing Pricing?

Though most plumbing repairs are priced on an hourly basis, some plumbers may use flat-rate plumbing pricing. This is typically done for small jobs, like replacing a faucet, that can be done quickly. It may also be done for more major jobs like handling the piping for a bathroom. Since there’s so much variation for flat-rate pricing, you can expect this to be anywhere from $75 to $6,000.

Can You Save Money With Plumbing DIY Repairs?

If the price of plumbing seems a little high, you might be interested in doing the repairs yourself. Whether or not this is a good idea will depend on the problem. There are several plumbing repairs you can DIY for just the cost of parts or tools, so it is possible to save hundreds. For example, handling a clogged drain may just require you to purchase a $5 plunger instead of paying the full plumber fee. The typical competent DIYer can manage:

  • Clearing a clogged drain
  • Fixing a toilet that runs constantly
  • Repairing a leaky faucet
  • Replacing a shower head
  • Installing a new faucet

However, for more complex tasks like rerouting pipes, fixing a dishwasher, or handling large repairs, you may need to call in a professional. Depending on where you live, your building code may specify that certain tasks like a water heater replacement only be done by a licensed plumber.

Find Affordable Services by Understanding Cost Factors in Plumbing

There are several reasons that there is such a wide range in plumbing costs. Understanding all the various cost factors in plumbing can help you hire an expert to get the job done properly.

First of all, the area you live in has a huge effect on plumbing costs. You may want to enter your zip code into cost calculators for plumbing to find out how much the average price is in your location.

The condition of your current plumbing also has a big influence on costs. Older homes with galvanized plumbing should expect to pay around $100 extra or so for plumbing assistance. Multiple stories or extra plumbing fixtures in your home may increase prices as well.

Another factor is the company itself. Some bigger companies can charge less since they have more customers. Sometimes, more experienced plumbers will also charge more for their expertise. You may want to call around and get plumbing estimates to find the best deal.

If you want to save money on plumbing repairs, be prepared with a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America. Having a plan in place before things go wrong can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

Once you have a plan in place and a plumbing issue arises, you can call our 24/7 repair hotline and schedule an appointment with HomeServe’s network of plumbing technicians. We assist with the cost of repairs so you can protect your finances.

Learn more about  how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of plumbing repairs.

5 Easy Steps to Get Water Out of Your Washer

How to clean your washing machine

Most people assume that drainage is something a washing machine does automatically. However, this appliance actually needs a pump and drain line to drain properly. If the machine breaks down or if you are moving the machine, you need to take a little extra time to drain it completely. This easy guide will show you some tips for getting all the water out of your washing machine.

Step 1: Power It Down and Turn Off the Water Supply

Start by powering down your machine. If there is any problem, powering off the machine can keep it from getting worse. If you are trying to drain a washing machine for moving or drain a washing machine for storage, powering it down will keep any electronic problems from popping up. To do this, you need to both switch the power button on the model off and unplug your washer from the outlet.

Next, you just need to find your water supply hoses and turn them off. The water supply will be the red and blue hoses or knobs running from your machine to a pipe on the wall. Twisting them counterclockwise until they will not move further will shut off the water to the machine.

Step 2: See If You Can Drain the Drain Hose

The drain hose is the line that carries water away from your machine. It is gray on many models, and it typically just sits loosely in a large pipe on the wall. This drain hose almost always has some water in it, so you will need to drain it before you move the washing machine or clean it. If your washing machine is broken, it is still important to try to drain the drain hose. Often, the whole reason for a washing machine that won’t drain is just a clog in the hose, so you need to disconnect it and take a look inside.

To do this, you can usually just wiggle the hose and slide it right out. Hold it upright in the air because if the end goes below the waterline in your washer, water may start to shoot out. When you have a bucket ready, lower the drain line and place it in the bucket. If water drips out or moves slowly, you probably have a drain clog. Fortunately, drain lines are short enough that removing a clog is simple. Just break up the blockage with a plumber’s snake or an unclogging solution.

Step 3: Check Out the Drain Pump

Washing machines use a pump to remove water from the machine, and this can also get clogged. If that happens, you can open up the washer and access the pump. Models vary, so check your user manual to see where the pump is located. Drain pumps are usually translucent, so you may be able to see the clog from the outside.

Following the user manual, disconnect the drain pump to access the clog. Have a bucket handy since water may come out when you do this. Then, you can just use pliers to pull the clog away. In some cases, the pump itself may be bad. This usually results in leaks and strange noises, and it will need to be replaced to drain the machine.

Step 4: Drain the Interior Manually If Needed

If you have checked all the components of the drain line and still cannot get the machine to drain, you may want to consider draining it manually. This is not an actual fix, but it will keep water from sitting around inside your machine and let you access your clothes.

If you want to drain water from a front-loader washing machine, you can try the drain hose process outlined in step 2. Do not try to open the door since this will let water gush out all over your floor. For a top-loading machine, it is quite simple. To drain the water from your washer manually, start by using a siphon or a bucket to get out most of the water. When it is too low to scoop up any more, use towels to soak up the remaining water.

Step 5: Know When to Call a Professional

One of the final and most important steps of how to drain water from a washing machine is simply knowing when to get some help. Washing machines are fairly complex appliances. The average homeowner can handle the basic drainage project, but some repairs may be hard if you do not have the expertise. There are potential issues like a broken drain pump or a snapped belt that can keep your washing machine from draining properly. Call an expert plumber if it still will not drain or if the machine is making strange noises.

It’s a smart idea to be prepared with a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America . Once you have a plan in place and a washing machine issue arises, you can call our 24/7 repair hotline and schedule an appointment with HomeServe’s network of plumbing technicians. We assist with the cost of repairs so you can protect your finances. Learn more about  how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

How to Drain a Water Heater the Right Way

Water heater dripping water

Your Guide to Draining a Hot Water Heater

Your hot water tank is meant to hold water for years and years, but regularly draining your tank is an important part of home maintenance. Once you learn how to drain a water heater, you’ll see that this task is quick and simple!

Step 1: Know When to Drain the Tank

The first thing you need to be aware of is when you should be draining your water heater tank. You can often check your user manual to get instructions on the exact timing for tank draining. According to BobVila.com, most tanks should be drained at least once a year.

Draining a tank helps to clear out sediment that settles at the bottom of the tank. Sediment is a problem because it can reduce the quality and cleanliness of your hot water, and it also makes it harder for your tank to heat water. If sediment does get pulled into your pipes, it can cause buildup that requires repairs to unclog pipes. Therefore, draining a tank helps lower your energy bills and improve the quality of your hot water.

Step 2: Turn Off Your Heater and Water Connection

Safety first: All of the following steps for draining a water heater should be done with the power turned off. For electric tanks, just flip the switch. If you have a gas tank, turn your heater to pilot mode. It is safer to let the water cool before proceeding. You can take a hot shower or just turn on hot water faucets to go ahead and remove some of the hot water.

Afterwards, locate the cold water supply. Turn the knob or trip the lever to turn off the water. With the water and power off, you can safely proceed to the next steps.

Step 3: Run the Drain Line to a Good Draining Location

Unless your tank is outside and in a well-drained location, you will need to attach a drain line. This can be as simple as twisting a garden hose onto the drain and running it outside. If your tank is at a low level, like in your basement, you may need to attach the hose to a pump. This can help counteract gravity and push the extra water away. Anywhere that connects to a drainage point, like a shower floor drain or a cleanout, is a good spot for the end of the hose.

Step 4: Quick Flush Your Drain and Check Your Pressure Relief Valve

Before flushing the drain itself, check to make sure the pressure relief valve is working. This step is not necessary, but it also needs to be done regularly. If you notice any issues with your water heater or pressure relief valve, you may need to check this valve sooner than scheduled. Combining these jobs will let you get two maintenance tasks out of the way at once.

Place a bucket under the valve and pull up the lever on the top of the valve. You should hear air hiss or water expel through the overflow tube. If nothing comes out, you may need to replace the valve. Next, move on to the drain valve. Open it for a few seconds and then close it. Repeat this a couple times. This high-pressure burst can help push any sediment through the drain valve so the tank drains quicker.

Step 5: Open Your Drain Valve

Once your garden hose is positioned in a spot where you can dump a lot of water, proceed with opening the drain valve. If you notice water is leaking out very slowly, you most likely have a vacuum forming in your pipes. You can turn on a hot water faucet somewhere else in your home, like the bath tub, to break the vacuum. This will let water flow out more quickly.

Step 6: Flush the Tank

Next, it is time to use some fresh cold water to flush any remaining sediment out of your tank. While leaving the power to the tank off, turn on the cold water for a few seconds. Give it just enough time for a few gallons to flow into the tank, then turn off the water again. Run cold water through and let it drain a few times to finish flushing your tank. These short bursts of high-pressure water will break up the sediment clumps still in your tank. When the water starts running clear, you can move on to the next step of how to drain a water heater.

If you’re having trouble with this step, consider contacting a professional. They may recommend a hot water heater replacement.

Step 7: Refill the Tank and Turn It Back On

Now you can refill your water heater fully. Remove the hose on your drain and close the drain valve. If you had any hot water faucets on in your home, you can turn them off now as well. Turn on the cold water supply and leave it on to fill up your tank. Restore power to the tank so it can start warming your water again. If the pilot light went out on your hot water heater, you may need to relight it before it will start warming your water again.

Step 8: Check Both Valves for a Tight Seal

The final step of draining a tank is making sure all the valves you adjusted are back to their initial, leakproof positions. If you left your pressure relief valve on, go ahead and turn it back to its original position now. There is a small chance that an older, plastic drain valve may not be able to close again completely. If this happens, you might notice a slow, steady drip from the valve. You can put a cap on it to stop any drips for now or get a plumber to replace it with a sturdier valve.

In case anything goes wrong, be prepared with a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America . Our plans can assist with the stress and associated costs of hot water heater repairs. Once you have a plan in place and a plumbing issue arises, you can call our 24/7 repair hotline and schedule an appointment with HomeServe’s network of plumbing technicians. We assist with the cost of repairs so you can protect your finances. Learn more about  how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

Is a Tankless Water Heater Worth It?

Heater Money

At the end of a long day, nothing’s better than relaxing in a warm bath or shower. If you want plenty of hot water without high energy bills, a tankless hot water heater is a great option. These handy little appliances give you on-demand hot water without breaking the bank. When you’re ready to replace your hot water heater, use this guide and decide if a tankless water heater is worth it for you.

Why Go With a Tankless Water Heater?

Tankless heaters work a little differently than traditional water heaters. Instead of storing gallons of hot water, the tankless heater only heats up water when you need it. It looks like a small box mounted among some piping. Whenever you turn on a hot water tap, it instantaneously heats up the water you need.

The big advantage of tankless water heaters is that they use less energy since they only heat up water when you need it. You can save hundreds on your energy bill each year. Because they don’t waste power, you can also enjoy the fact that your home will be more sustainable and eco-friendly.

The only downside of a tankless water heater is that tankless water heater costs for installation tend to be a bit higher. According to Consumer Reports, you should expect to pay about $800 to $1,500 or more to have your tankless water heater installed.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters: Which Is Better?

One of the very first things to consider is whether you should get a tankless heater powered by gas or electric. Generally, electric-powered heaters are easier and cheaper to install. Every home has electricity, and installation just requires connecting a few wires and pipes. Furthermore, electric tanks are about $500 cheaper due to their simplicity.

Gas tanks are trickier to install, especially if you don’t already have a gas line running to your home. With gas tanks costing about twice as much as electric tanks, you might be wondering why people even bother with them. The big perk is that gas tanks are way cheaper to run since gas is cheaper than electricity. That difference can amount to about $100 to $200 a year in utility costs.

Choosing Between Condensing and Non-Condensing Types of Water Heaters

Non-condensing tankless heaters are the first generation of tankless heater design. They use a heat exchange system to warm water, and they vent hot exhaust outside your home. Home Depot explains that non-condensing heaters are cheaper to install and are less likely to need water heater repairs.

Condensing water heaters use the hot exhaust as a secondary means of heating water. This makes them more energy efficient. Though they are more complex and pricier to install, you end up saving on your energy bills. Another plus is that they work with cheaper PVC piping instead of requiring pricey stainless-steel flue pipes.

Should You Consider Point-of-Use Water Heaters?

Also called on-demand water heaters, these are a special type of compact tankless water heater. They work just like a typical tankless heater, but they do not supply water to the entire house. Instead, you install them right by your sink, shower, or washing machine. With these heaters, you do not end up losing precious heat as the water travels around the pipes in your home, so you save on energy. These heaters can be a great way to supplement your hot water heating.

How to Find the Right Hot Water Heater Capacity

You need to consider flow rate to find the right capacity. This will tell you how much hot water your machine can comfortably produce on demand. You can calculate your required flow rate (usually expressed in gallons per minute, or GPM) by thinking about what sorts of water fixtures you plan on running simultaneously and then adding up all their individual flow rates. Here’s a helpful list of the flow rate for common fixtures.

  • Standard Dishwasher: 2 GPM
  • High-Efficiency Dishwasher: 1 GPM
  • Faucet: 1 GPM
  • Shower: 2 GPM
  • Rain Shower Head: 5 GPM
  • Standard Washing Machine: 2.5 GPM
  • High-Efficiency Washing Machine: 1 GPM

Things to Know About Tankless Water Heater Costs

The average tankless water heater costs between $450 and $1,050 to purchase. When looking at costs, you also have to factor in installation. Typically, installation will add from around $400 up to around $1,000 to costs. If you need to install a gas line as well, expect to pay an additional $500. On average, total costs for buying the unit and installing it can be as low as about $600 or as high as nearly $3,000.

If you want lower costs, you may want to look at electric, non-condensing models. Lower-capacity models are also cheaper. Brands like Rheem, Takagi, and EcoSmart tend to have more budget-friendly models while higher-end models come from brands like Rinnai, A. O. Smith, and Bradford White.

A high-quality tankless water heater can in many cases last for 20 years as long as it is properly maintained and repaired. That’s why being prepared is a smart move.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

How to Deep Clean a Garbage Disposal

Homeowners who have a house with a garbage disposal often report that it is an added convenience. Whether it was pre-installed or you installed it, to maintain the garbage disposal and keep it in good working condition, you should keep it relatively clean. Industry professionals recommend that you clean your garbage disposal once a week. Once it begins to emit foul odors, the disposal requires a deep cleaning. The good news is that cleaning the appliance only requires a few steps and materials. Here is a step-by-step guide to get you started on cleaning the disposal.

Gather Your Supplies

When you clean the garbage disposal, begin by gathering your supplies. They include:

  • A cup of baking soda
  • A cup of vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Ice cubes
  • Citrus peels
  • A kitchen sponge
  • Rock salt
  • An old toothbrush
  • A flashlight
  • Tongs

It’s important to note that professionals in the plumbing industry do not recommend pouring harsh cleaners down your home’s pipes for any reason. Even though you may be trying to unclog a drain, there are alternatives to harsh cleaners. And when in doubt, you can always call a plumber.

Pick Your Cleaning Method

After gathering your supplies, you need to assess the current cleanliness of the garbage disposal in order to choose your cleaning method. You can clean your garbage disposal with just liquid dish soap and a sponge. If you notice that there is a slight odor coming from the appliance, however, you should consider going the baking soda and vinegar route. Citrus peels are used when the odor from the drain is persistent.

The best way to clean the garbage disposal is to get rid of the gunk, kill the majority of germs and eliminate the odor from the drain. If you have been keeping it fairly clean, begin with soap and a sponge. Then, go from there. You can give the appliance an easy scrub every other day.

There are times when persistent, foul odors from a garbage disposal are a sign that something is stuck in the appliance. It could also mean that the disposal is showing signs of age. The typical garbage disposal lasts eight to 15 years. If yours has reached this maturity, you may need to call in a professional for a closer look.

Step 1: Disconnect the Garbage Disposal

Safety first: Before you begin to clean your garbage disposal, disconnect it. You need to ensure that it will not be accidentally turned on by yourself or someone else. To disconnect the appliance, look under the sink for the cord that leads from your wall to the disposal. Pull the plug.

Turning on the garbage disposal is one way to double-check that you successfully cut the connection. If it does not run, you are good to go.

If you are not sure where the disposal’s power source is located, cut the power off from the circuit breaker. Then, turn on the appliance. If it does not start, you are set to begin cleaning the disposal.

Step 2: Shine a Light and Clean

Next, take your flashlight and look down the drain. You are looking for food scraps and any other debris that might be stuck on the blades. With the tongs or old toothbrush you’ve gathered, pull at, loosen and clear away the dirt and grime.

Once scraps have been cleared away, pour down the ice cubes and rock salt. The goal here is to get rid of the debris you loosened from the blades.

Step 3: Cleaning With Dish Soap and a Sponge

To clean the garbage disposal appliance with the soap and a sponge, create a lather. A sponge with an abrasive portion is helpful in this situation because you need to scrub all sides of the drain’s rubber baffle. It is important to clean underneath it so you can kill the germs in that area. Those germs have an impact on the rest of your kitchen sink.

Next, wash the grinding chamber. It is a good idea to keep running water on as you do this so you can clean the gunk you are scraping off from the sponge as you go.

Warm water works best and can help to keep killing the germs. If it gets too hot, run cold water. Then, switch back to warm.

Step 4: Clean the Drain With Baking Soda and Vinegar

Pour half of the baking soda down the sink drain. Next, pour the vinegar down the drain as carefully and slowly as possible. White vinegar is preferred.

Cover the drain opening with your sink stopper because the combination of the ingredients is going to cause fizzing and bubbling. The stopper acts like a splash guard.

Wait about 15 minutes before removing the stopper. Pour warm water down the drain to flush out your homemade cleaning solution.

Use the remainder of your baking soda and vinegar to repeat the process one more time, if necessary. If you have two sink basins, clean them at the same time.

Step 5: Deodorizing the Garbage Disposal

You are well aware of all the items that you pour down the drain when you wash the dishes or clean up after cooking. (Nasty bits of food scraps, etc.) So it should be no surprise that the sink can get a little stinky. To deodorize the garbage disposal appliance and help your kitchen smell great, try citrus peels.

Cut the peels into small pieces. Pour them down the drain with cold water and some ice cubes. Turn on the disposal and let it run so that it grinds up the peels. The fragrant oils will be released from the peels and into your drain and kitchen.

The other way you can deodorize the disposal is to use bleach. Since bleach is a harsh chemical, you must be careful of backsplash and the amount that you breathe into your lungs. Dilute one part bleach with two parts warm water and pour this solution down the drain. After pouring, run warm water for a few seconds to clear away the bleach. Before taking this final step, remember that deodorizing the drain works best after you have cleaned it.

Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy to protect you and your family from expensive repair bills.

How to Keep Septic Tank Pumping Costs to a Minimum

Nobody likes to deal with the awful smell of sewage in the house, not to mention dirty, stinky water in the front yard.

If you’re experiencing these issues, it most likely means your septic tank is full, or damaged, or there’s a drain field issue. Odors and water pooling are common symptoms, but there are other symptoms that can include slow house drains, gurgling pipes and a very green patch of grass in the drain field area.

Why Septic Tank Pumping?

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their septic tanks and drain fields. So you may be wondering just how much does septic tank pumping cost?

The septic tank pumping cost is dependent on a number of factors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires a septic tank to be pumped when the scum (top) layer reaches within 6 inches of the outlet pipe. Unfortunately, you may not discover your septic tank is full until there is a problem, like foul odors coming out of your drains, or even worse, a septic system backup.

To understand the costs, it’s important to know what may be involved in septic tank pumping. All the wastewater from the home travels through a pipe to the septic tank. The septic tank is designed to hold the wastewater long enough for the solid materials (sludge) to settle to the bottom and for grease and oil (scum) to float to the water’s surface.

The tank construction keeps the sludge and scum from exiting the septic tank, and only wastewater is dispersed into the drain field. Newer tanks make accessing the septic tank easy because they have risers that reach ground level and are capped with lids. The openings for older tanks are on the septic tank and underground.

Typical Problems Leading to Septic Tank Pumping

Between each septic tank pumping, a septic tank usually works efficiently. However, problems can develop for a variety of reasons.

Some of the typical septic tank problems include:

  • The floating scum and sludge fill the septic tank.
  • The pipes between the inside fixtures leading to the septic tank are clogged or blocked.
  • The scum and sludge levels are so high that they leave the septic tank and enter the drain field, plugging up the drain field because water cannot leech into the ground.
  • The ground is saturated with heavy rainfall or a high water table.
  • The drainpipe cracks due to roots or something else, so too much water is released into the field area.
  • The drainpipe is crushed, so water rises too high in the septic tank and pushes sewage into the drains in the home.

Clearly, there may be more of a problem than just a full septic tank when you smell that foul odor in your home. When a technician does a septic system pumping, he or she is also an expert at spotting drain field problems or even sewage in a reverse flow from where it should be entering the tank.

What Is the Septic Tank Pump Out Going to Cost?

The factors influencing the cost of the septic tank pump out include the following:

  • Size of the septic tank
  • How full the tank is at the time of septic pumping
  • Prep work the homeowner does before the septic pumping service arrives
  • Condition of the pipes in the drain field
  • Age of the septic tank (older ones don’t have risers)
  • Geographic location (contractor prices vary by geography)
  • Contractor selected

The septic tank pumping cost can be minimal compared to what it could cost if there is a drain field problem or a septic tank needs repair. The typical costs for septic pumping are as follows:

  • National average cost for a septic tank pump out: $295-$610
  • Up to 750-gallon tank: $175-$300
  • Up to 1,000-gallon tank: $225-$400
  • 1,250- to 1,500-gallon tank: $275-$500
  • Large tanks over 1,500 gallons: $600

Typically, a homeowner will pay between $250 to $500 for a septic system pumping. Sometimes, a homeowner can save money by preparing the area for the septic tank technician. For example, the homeowner can ensure the tank access port is cleared for the technician.

What Else Does a Septic Pumping Service Do?

A typical septic tank pump out can take up to five hours. Each company determines their pricing structure. Some companies charge by the hour while others charge a flat fee with additional fees should there be more involved than just septic tank pumping.

In some cases, the septic pumping service will include repairing the septic tank. This can add up to $1,500 on top of the septic tank pumping cost. If the drain field needs work, it will probably cost a lot more. Replacing or fixing a drain field so the septic system works properly can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

It is always important to remember the money spent in septic system pumping is typically for a three-year period. The EPA recommends pumping a septic tank every three to five years to keep the septic system in good condition. By spending up to $500 every three to five years, you are more likely to avoid costly septic tank and drain field problems.

Take the Guessing Out of Septic Pumping Cost

If this sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry. If you maintain your septic tank, it is unlikely to have problems for decades. That’s because the general life expectancy of a well-maintained septic tank is up to 30 years.

Dealing with a septic tank mess is never fun. That’s why being prepared with a Plumbing Plan from HomeServe is a smart strategy. We have a variety of affordable plans that can help protect your finances up to the benefit amount for covered repairs. See what plans from HomeServe are available in your area.

The Ultimate Guide on How to Unclog a Shower Drain

Have you ever stepped into the shower and noticed a pool of water forming around your ankles? Things like loose hair, conditioner, and other gunk can easily cause clogs in your shower. If you want to get your shower draining properly again, you need to learn how to unclog a shower drain.

Fortunately, this is one of the easiest plumbing problems to fix yourself. Here are some tried-and-tested methods of getting the clog out of your shower drain.

How to Unclog the Drain Using Basic Household Ingredients

The simplest way to handle a clogged shower drain is just using a few basic household ingredients. This method works to break up clogs and can kill the nasty mildew or mold in your drain.

An easy option any homeowner will have on hand is boiling water. Approved by home repair legend Bob Vila himself, boiling water works for some drain clogs because it removes the gunk that causes some shower clogs. All you have to do is heat up water and pour it slowly down the drain.

Another option is reminiscent of elementary school science projects. You start by pouring about a cup of baking soda into the drain and giving it a few minutes to seep downward. Then, you pour a cup of vinegar in the drain. This causes a fizzy explosion that can push clogs out of your pipes and drain.

How to Unclog a Drain With Chemicals

There are chemicals specifically designed to eat away hair and other grime that can cause a shower drain clog. These methods are effective but you need to take some safety precautions. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles and pour slowly to avoid splashing. Follow all the directions carefully as instructed on the container to avoid injury.

However, keep in mind that many plumbing experts do not recommend the drain cleaning chemicals you get at your hardware store. Repeated use of these can cause damage to your pipes, resulting in an even bigger plumbing problem.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain Manually

If the basic methods for unclogging a shower drain mentioned above are not cutting it, it might be time to take things a step further and unclog the shower drain manually. Those who have a plunger can try plunging the shower drain just like they would a toilet. In some cases, this can be enough to shift the clog and get water moving through your pipes again.

If the clog is close to the top of the shower drain, which happens a lot with bathtub-style plugs, you can go ahead and pull it straight out. Check out your shower drain and see how easy it is to remove it. Some styles can be popped right out of your shower while others may need to be unscrewed. (Be prepared for a lot of slime and a nasty smell.) It is definitely not fun to handle, but the good news is that you can get your drain functioning again in just a few minutes.

If the clog is farther down the drain, then it might be time to start snaking. A basic snake tool can reach into the pipe, hook on the clog, and pull it straight out. Another option is picking a snake with an auger attached. This can break up a clog into tiny pieces that you can then flush through the drain.

Don’t have the right tools for the job or just feel too grossed out to do it yourself? Let a professional help. Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy.

How to Unclog a Toilet With 4 Easy Methods

Have you ever stepped into the shower and noticed a pool of water forming around your ankles? Things like loose hair, conditioner, and other gunk can easily cause clogs in your shower. If you want to get your shower draining properly again, you need to learn how to unclog a shower drain.

Get a plan and peace of mind

Fortunately, this is one of the easiest plumbing problems to fix yourself. Here are some tried-and-tested methods of getting the clog out of your shower drain.

How to Unclog the Drain Using Basic Household Ingredients

The simplest way to handle a clogged shower drain is just using a few basic household ingredients. This method works to break up clogs and can kill the nasty mildew or mold in your drain.

An easy option any homeowner will have on hand is boiling water. Approved by home repair legend Bob Vila himself, boiling water works for some drain clogs because it removes the gunk that causes some shower clogs. All you have to do is heat up water and pour it slowly down the drain.

Another option is reminiscent of elementary school science projects. You start by pouring about a cup of baking soda into the drain and giving it a few minutes to seep downward. Then, you pour a cup of vinegar in the drain. This causes a fizzy explosion that can push clogs out of your pipes and drain.

How to Unclog a Drain With Chemicals

There are chemicals specifically designed to eat away hair and other grime that can cause a shower drain clog. These methods are effective but you need to take some safety precautions. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles and pour slowly to avoid splashing. Follow all the directions carefully as instructed on the container to avoid injury.

However, keep in mind that many plumbing experts do not recommend the drain cleaning chemicals you get at your hardware store. Repeated use of these can cause damage to your pipes, resulting in an even bigger plumbing problem.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain Manually

If the basic methods for unclogging a shower drain mentioned above are not cutting it, it might be time to take things a step further and unclog the shower drain manually. Those who have a plunger can try plunging the shower drain just like they would a toilet. In some cases, this can be enough to shift the clog and get water moving through your pipes again.

If the clog is close to the top of the shower drain, which happens a lot with bathtub-style plugs, you can go ahead and pull it straight out. Check out your shower drain and see how easy it is to remove it. Some styles can be popped right out of your shower while others may need to be unscrewed. (Be prepared for a lot of slime and a nasty smell.) It is definitely not fun to handle, but the good news is that you can get your drain functioning again in just a few minutes.

If the clog is farther down the drain, then it might be time to start snaking. A basic snake tool can reach into the pipe, hook on the clog, and pull it straight out. Another option is picking a snake with an auger attached. This can break up a clog into tiny pieces that you can then flush through the drain.

Don’t have the right tools for the job or just feel too grossed out to do it yourself? Let a professional help. Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy.

How To Fix a Running Toilet

My son flushed the toilet an hour ago and yet it’s been running constantly ever since. Not only is it annoying, but I know it’s putting a major damper on my energy efficient and water-saving efforts. The issue isn’t a clog, so at least I don’t have to go anywhere near the plunger today. (Unlike the time he flushed his PAW Patrol figure down the bowl. UGH!) 

The good news is that it’s a relatively easy plumbing repair that usually doesn’t require professional help. Just keep plumbing DIY do’s and don’ts in mind, one of the most important do’s being safety precautions like wearing gloves and goggles. (Thanks Google.)

My Google searches also led me to these tips on how to fix a running toilet:

Step One: Identify the culprit

A running toilet is generally caused by a faulty or deteriorated flapper, but there could also be a broken float or fill valve. We’ll take you through how to fix each problem.

Fixing a faulty flapper

The flapper is the rubber stopper in the tank, connected to a chain that lifts the flap every time you flush. Bob Vila.com advises pushing down on the flapper to test it. If the toilet stops running, you’ve identified the source of the problem and your next step will be to replace the flapper.

Here’s how:

1. Turn the water to the toilet off. The valves should be behind or below the tank.

2. Flush the toilet. This will drain most of the water.

3. Unhook the old flapper.

4. Buy a replacement. Take your current flapper to the hardware store so you can buy an identical replacement.

5. Attach the new flapper. Follow the instructions on the packaging for specifics.

6. Turn the water back on. Do a flush test to see if the running has stopped.

Adjusting the float

You should see either a ball or cup float in the tank. If it’s set too high, it forces the water level to rise to the point where the tank never stops draining. To fix the problem, simply adjust the float to sit at the same height as the water level.

Replacing the fill valve

If fixing the flapper and float doesn’t work, consider replacing the valve. Fill valves control water flow in the tank and broken ones cause constant refill cycles – hence the running toilet.

Follow these steps to replace it:

1. Turn off the water and drain the tank.

2. Remove the fill valve. Unscrew the lock nut at the bottom of the water supply line to free the valve.

3. Purchase a matching replacement.

4. Install the new valve. Insert the threaded end into the base of the tank and tighten the locking nut. The Spruce advises adjusting the valve height to be one inch below the tank’s edge.

5. Turn the water back on. Flush to test.

Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy.