How to Hire a Qualified Plumber

bathroom-plumberHesitant to hire a plumber out of fear that they won’t have proper qualifications or charge you fair prices? With the right preparations, have no fear: you may discover that hiring a plumber is easier than you thought.

Simply follow these tips:

Determine the type of plumber

The extent of the plumbing repair or replacement can determine the kind of plumber you should hire. Plumbers often advertise a specialized skill set, most commonly focusing on building and remodeling projects or existing system repair. They further refine their skill level by trade credentials:

  • Apprentice plumbers are still in training, often working alongside more experienced tradesman.
  • Journeyman plumbers graduated from their apprenticeships and now have licenses. They can do most plumbing work, but typically don’t run plumbing companies.
  • Master plumbers are the most qualified option, complete with years of plumbing experience and additional vocational education certifications. These are the plumbers who run their own businesses.

For basic plumbing services, you can rely on a journeyman plumber to complete the job. For more complex issues, you may want to request the help of a master plumber.

Verify current licenses

While the specifications differ, most states require plumbers to at least obtain a license. Reference your state government website to search online databases and find plumbers listed as professional license holders. The National Contractor License Service is also a good resource for researching your state’s licensing requirements.

Lean on other opinions

When you’re in need of plumbing services, start your search by asking neighbors, friends and family members for recommendations. Online reviews and testimonials can also be helpful resources for determining a plumber’s reliability and qualifications.

Ask the right questions

While the cost of a plumber may be among your first inquiries, your search should extend well beyond “the cheapest plumber near me.” Ask plumbers about cost estimates and expected payment schedules before they perform any work. It’s also acceptable to inquire about references, plumbing experience and proof of license, registration and insurance before hiring a plumber or contractor service.

Prepare with home repair plans

Being prepared before a plumbing or home repair issue arises is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

5 Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes

As frigid temperatures settle in, your first instinct is to turn up the heat, grab a blanket and cozy up with hot drinks. Don’t forget that your pipes are vulnerable to freezing at this time of year.

When temperatures are low during winter months, your pipes may have a higher chance of freezing or bursting. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety reported that burst pipes are an especially common cause of property and water damage, costing homeowners upwards of $5,000 to repair.

The good news is that there are preventative measures you can take to help avoid hefty repair bills and keep your water running smoothly. For example:

  1. Set the thermostat

Be sure to keep your thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and night. While you may be used to turning the heat down when you sleep, this should be avoided as the outdoor temperatures decrease during these hours.

  1. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinets

This step allows the warm air from inside your home to reach the pipes under sinks and appliances, especially overnight. An important reminder from Consumer Reports: Remove harmful cleaners or chemicals from these cabinets if you have small children at home.

  1. Let cold water run

When it’s especially chilly outside, let the cold water drip from the faucets for a few minutes. Running water through pipes, especially exposed ones, is an especially effective way to prevent them from freezing.

  1. Keep garage doors closed

Blocking the garage from the chilly air is especially important if this is where your water supply lines are located.

  1. Insulate everywhere

The best long-term solution to avoid frozen pipes is to add proper insulation in your attic, basement and crawl space. It’s also important to seal doors and windows to prevent drafts of cold outdoor air sneaking inside. You can also use foam pipe insulation or heat tape to wrap exposed plumbing.

If your pipes freeze despite your best preventative efforts, you may be able to save them before they burst. Leave the faucet on – even if there isn’t any water flowing. Start heating the pipes closest to the faucet, using a hair dryer, electric heating pad, space heater or towels soaked in hot water. If the water doesn’t start flowing, leave the faucet on and call a licensed plumber for help.

Being prepared before home repair issues arise is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

What You Need to Know to Hire the Best Plumber

Hesitant to hire a plumber out of fear that they won’t have proper qualifications or charge you fair prices? With the right preparations, have no fear: you may discover that hiring a plumber is easier than you thought.

plumbing

Simply follow these tips:

Determine the type of plumber

The extent of the plumbing repair or replacement can determine the kind of plumber you should hire. Plumbers often advertise a specialized skill set, most commonly focusing on building and remodeling projects or existing system repair. They further refine their skill level by trade credentials:

  • Apprentice plumbers are still in training, often working alongside more experienced tradesman.
  • Journeyman plumbers graduated from their apprenticeships and now have licenses. They can do most plumbing work, but typically don’t run plumbing companies.
  • Master plumbers are the most qualified option, complete with years of plumbing experience and additional vocational education certifications. These are the plumbers who run their own businesses.

For basic plumbing services, you can rely on a journeyman plumber to complete the job. For more complex issues, you may want to request the help of a master plumber.

Verify current licenses

While the specifications differ, most states require plumbers to at least obtain a license. Reference your state government website to search online databases and find plumbers listed as professional license holders. The National Contractor License Service is also a good resource for researching your state’s licensing requirements.

Lean on other opinions

When you’re in need of plumbing services, start your search by asking neighbors, friends and family members for recommendations. Online reviews and testimonials can also be helpful resources for determining a plumber’s reliability and qualifications.

Ask the right questions

While the cost of a plumber may be among your first inquiries, your search should extend well beyond “the cheapest plumber near me.” Ask plumbers about cost estimates and expected payment schedules before they perform any work. It’s also acceptable to inquire about references, plumbing experience and proof of license, registration and insurance before hiring a plumber or contractor service.

Prepare with home repair plans

Being prepared before a plumbing or home repair issue arises is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

No Drano®? 5 Easy Ways to Unclog a Drain Naturally

There’s never a convenient time for your drains to clog. When it happens, you want to fix it immediately.

drain

And of course, when you look under the sink, you realize that there’s no Drano® to be found. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to naturally unclog drains, many of which require things you likely already have in the house. Plus, harsh chemicals in Drano® and other store-bought products may potentially damage your pipes.

Here are five natural methods to unclog a drain:

  1. Dish soap + hot water
    This remedy is especially effective for kitchen drains clogged by grease. Pour a solid amount of dish soap down the drain, and then top it off with a pot or kettle of boiling water. Greener Ideal recommends doing this at least once a week even when there isn’t a clog to prevent future greasy blockages.
  1. Salt + hot water
    Start by pouring half a cup of salt down the clogged drain. Flush with two liters of boiling water, followed by running hot tap water. Keep repeating the process until the water drains properly again. This remedy works best for clogged kitchen and bathroom drains.
  1. Baking soda + white vinegar + hot water
    According to Whole Living, this is the recipe for chemical-free success. Start by boiling 3 to 4 cups of water. Pour 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar into the clogged drain, and then follow up with the hot water. You should see the mixture bubble, pushing its way down the drain to clear the blockage.
  1. Hydrogen peroxide + baking soda
    Measure a cup of hydrogen peroxide and a tablespoon of baking soda, and then mix the two ingredients together. Pour the mixture down the drain, and wait for it to foam, which indicates that it’s breaking up the clog.
  1. Plunger + plumbing snake
    Stubborn clogs may require the proper tools to tackle. Start with the plunger, filling it with water and then placing it over the drain. Plunge rapidly for about 30 seconds, and then watch to see how the water drains. If it starts flowing down properly again, you’re good to go. If it’s still draining slowly, use a plumbing snake to dislodge the clog.

If the clog persists, there may be a more serious issue with your plumbing or sewer line system that’s beyond the realm of these remedies. We suggest you schedule an appointment with a licensed, professional plumber.

Being prepared for home repairs is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

5 signs of potential plumbing pipe problems

Pipe Problems

When you can’t see your plumbing pipes, it’s hard to tell when they’re performing properly. However, your plumbing system will express symptoms of disarray to grab your attention when pipe repair is in order.

Look out for these five plumbing warning signs:

  1. Spikes in your water bill

If you receive an unusually high water bill, plumbing pipe issues could be the reason. You can wait until next month to see if the spike persists, but if your system shows other signs of turmoil in addition to the hefty bill, have a professional plumber inspect your plumbing pipes.

  1. Unpleasant odors or sounds

If there is an unfortunate sewage smell – similar to that of rotten eggs – coming from your drains, it could mean there is a damaged vent or sewer pipe. Your pipes may also try to “talk” to you. According to Realtor.com, an example of this is if you hear strange gurgling or clunking sounds when you use the toilet or run machines, such as the dishwasher and laundry units. If you do hear these noises, turn off the water supply immediately to avoid a system backup. Alternatively, you may hear liquid running through the pipes even when no one is using the water, which can be a sign of a system leak.

  1. Frequent fluctuations in water pressure

When your faucets suddenly produce a weak stream of water, remove the aerator and clear away gunk or buildup. If that doesn’t restore the normal water pressure, it could be a sign that there’s a clog, leak, broken pipe or eroded water line in your system. These complicated plumbing problems require the expert skills of a licensed professional to repair.

  1. Poor water quality

Noticeable changes in water quality, such as murky discoloration or dirty taste, can signify corroded or contaminated pipes. Try running the faucet for a few minutes, but if that doesn’t flush out the discoloration, refrain from drinking the water, and call a professional plumber.

  1. Leaks or wet spots

Water accumulation under sinks or on the ceilings, walls and floors is a clear indication of a leak. Keep in mind that wet spots along the floor or bottom of the walls are often plumbing leaks, rather than roof leaks. Recurring leaks and rust are also signs of unrest in your plumbing system.

Being prepared before home repair issues arise is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

Signs of drainage problems and how to fix them

If you notice a sudden pooling of water in your garden – and a waterfall coming from the gutters – it could be a sign of a drainage problem. The key is to catch it before it becomes a major foundational issue.

Here’s how to find and fix some common drainage issues:

The problem: Overflowing gutters

The solution: Clear out debris blocking the water flow. Many times, the blockage is due to fallen leaves  and can be remedied with an easy DIY gutter cleaning. If that’s not the case, the problem may be due to undersized gutter or improperly pitched gutters. This may require a professional fix — like replacing and/or reinstalling the gutters.

The problem: Water stains in the basement

The solution: Discoloration on foundational walls is usually due to surface water from an overflowing gutter, which you can remedy by following the steps outlined above. If the stain extends around the perimeter of the basement, it may be a sign of a fluctuating water table. An interior drain system and sump pump can help. Check out these tips for drying out your basement.

The problem: Mildew in the attic

The solution: Bathroom fans sending hot air up to the attic or rising moisture from the basement or crawl space can cause mildew in the attic. You can fix this mildew issue with proper ventilation. Start by relocating the bathroom fans to vent through outside walls or the roof. If that solution doesn’t work, find the source of dampness from the basement. Work quickly; if you wait too long to find the source of moisture, it can cause enough damage to need roof sheathing and shingle replacement.

The problem: Pooling water on the front walkway

The solution: Sidewalks typically act as dams, which is why the water pools around them. To avoid water retention, remove a portion of the sidewalk, and replace it with stepping stones that allow water to flow through easily. Another option is installing a catch basin, which is a surface drain that can hold the water.

The problem: Downspout issues

The solution: If your downspouts dump out too much water, it can put dangerous pressure on the foundation of your home or even allow the water to seep into the basement. Add gutter extensions so the water falls farther away from the house, and align the downspouts for water to hit optimal areas of the yard.

The problem: Wet spots on the lawn

The solution: To prevent these soggy patches, install a rain garden or French drain system. These options allow water to flow through engineered soil or gravel instead of pooling in the natural soil and grass. Other alternatives include creating a small pond or building a dry well as effective holding tanks for the water.

The problem: Cracks in the foundation

The solution: If you notice cracks, take note of their width. Some cracks are normal as the house settles. However, if they grow to be wider than one inch, it could be a sign of a drainage problem. You can try patching cracks with hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk, but if they continue widening, you’ll need to call a structural engineer to assess the damage.

The problem: Multiple clogged or sluggish drains inside

The solution: Follow these drain repair tips to unclog the blockage. If that’s not working, or if you begin to smell stagnant sewer smells from the drains, call a plumbing professional to check out your system.

Being prepared before home repair issues arise is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of covered repairs or replacements.

10 DIY plumbing terms you should know

under-sink-plumbingIf you’re a homeowner tackling a DIY plumbing job, be sure you’re well-versed in these plumbing terms.

Looking to flex your muscle as a DIY plumbing repair, maintenance and improvement pro? Here are 10 common plumbing terms you should know before diving into a DIY project:

  1. Auger

Use this bendable, metal rod with a curved end to clear clogged drains. Toilet augers are the most common for household DIY, but there are also larger, sometimes motorized, augers for underground drain lines.

  1. Plumbing snake

Similar to an auger, a plumbing snake can break up clogs, according to Lowe’s. Made of thin, flexible metal, this tool can reach small, confined spaces with ease.

  1. Faucet

This fixture controls the water flow from sinks, tubs and showers. Some have two handles – one for hot and another for cold water. Others have just one lever to control the flow and temperature.

  1. Drain

This opening connects to the piping system and allows wastewater to leave the area and reach the pipes. Most drains are a simple open hole, while some have protective grates covering them.

  1. O-ring

These are circular, rubber washers that serve as watertight seals between two parts of a plumbing system. O-rings are essential components and must be replaced after time or wear and tear.

  1. Overflow and backflow

Overflow occurs when there’s a blockage in the plumbing system that prevents water from draining. Backflow is when water travels back up the pipes into the main plumbing system. Both can cause damage to the sewer system, requiring immediate repair.

  1. Burst pressure

When there is excess pressure in the pipes, it can cause a pipe or tube in the plumbing system to burst. Many times, plumbing materials will specify burst pressure levels so to inform plumbers and homeowners to ensure the tubes and pipes are strong enough for the system.

  1. Septic tank

A hold-all for waste, septic tanks let solid particles settle before pumping and removing them from the closed chamber.

  1. Valve

This important mechanical device controls water flow. Plumbing systems include several types of valves, such as shutoff valves under sinks and toilets. These allow you to turn off the water supply when performing repairs. Relief valves allow you to release excess pressure or temperature.

  1. Pressure gauge

A measuring device used to determine the amount of pressure in the pipes, this gauge is important for monitoring system performance.

Even with your enhanced plumbing knowledge, there are certain issues that require the expert skills of a professional. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a licensed plumber.

Being prepared before home repair issues arise is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

 

Preventative HVAC maintenance to extend the life of your system

SLWA HVAC maintenance to extend the life of your system (1)

With a little extra maintenance, you can help improve your HVAC system’s efficiency and delay the time for a replacement. Simply keep these HVAC maintenance steps in mind to get more time of quality heating and cooling out of your system:

Ongoing HVAC maintenance

Make sure your cooling and heating units are always free of debris, such as dust, pollen, leaves, grass and tree branches. Check your thermostat daily, setting the system to your desired temperature and taking note of whether your home reflects the temperature on your thermostat. If they don’t seem to align, schedule an appointment with an HVAC professional to determine if there’s an issue with the thermostat or the system.

While you should certainly cool and heat your home to comfortable temperatures, avoid overworking your HVAC system. You can support it with easy ways to improve air circulation, such as ceiling and window fans, clean and clear vents and properly sealed doors and windows. Utilize blinds and other window treatments to further regulate indoor temperatures and make sure your home is properly insulated.

Seasonal and monthly HVAC maintenance

Conduct a visual inspection of your HVAC system to catch potential issues as early as possible. This is also a good time to clean the ducts and vents with a vacuum or cloth, clearing them of dust and debris buildup.

Remember that your filters need to be changed every 3 months. Clogged filters lead to poor air flow, which makes the unit work harder to achieve desired temperatures. Before starting, don’t forget to turn off the system before touching anything. If you have reusable filters, rinse them out with water, let dry and replace. Otherwise, buy the correct replacement filters. Follow these steps to replace your furnace filter, and check out these tips to make your air conditioning unit more efficient.

Annual HVAC maintenance

If you do anything for your HVAC system, let it be scheduling a professional tune-up once a year. Much like getting oil service for your car, these check-ins are critical for HVAC system upkeep. During annual services, HVAC professionals conduct thorough cleanings, flush drain lines and check for potential problems to make sure the system runs as efficiently as possible.

After scheduling your annual service, inspect all of your windows and doors to make sure they’re properly sealed. If you catch holes or cracking, take the time to reseal them with caulk or weather-stripping.

One-time HVAC maintenance

Consider upgrading to energy-efficient heating and cooling units to optimize your home’s energy consumption. Not only can this switch delay wear and tear on your system, but it can also save you money on utility bills each month.

When it’s time to purchase and install new units, conduct an HVAC load calculation to make sure they’re the proper size for your home. Oversized units are prone to malfunctioning, as well as reducing the indoor comfort level and energy efficiency of your home. A professional HVAC technician can help you collect the necessary data for the calculation, including room sizes, duct condition, home orientation to the sun, window types, insulation and regional weather conditions. From there, a computer program can determine the appropriate size for your home.

Being prepared before home repair issues arise is always a good strategy. Interior plumbing and water sewer line plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of covered repairs. See what plans are available in your area.

3 signs your sewer line is clogged

Homeserve - Feature Image

When the main sewer line clogs, everything will eventually force its way back up through the drains and into your house. In other words, it’s a recipe for a very messy and expensive disaster.

Be prepared to handle potentially serious clogs by looking out for these three signs of possible sewer line trouble:

  1. Multiple drain issues

If your main line clogs, it affects all the connected drains in your sinks, showers, baths and toilets. When the water reaches a blockage, it has nowhere to go but back up. Therefore, you will notice that multiple drains and plumbing fixtures clog or back up at the same time. You may also hear loud gurgling sounds coming from the drains, which is caused by wastewater hitting air pockets as it pushes its way through the clog.

  1. Strong sewer smell

If the less-than-ideal smell of sewer begins to waft into your home from the drains, it’s likely a telltale sign of a clogged line. It’s quite a strong and unpleasant scent, so this sign of sewer trouble is unmistakable.

  1. Water overflows

Look out for unusual activity coming from your plumbing fixtures. If there’s water or sewage coming up through the bathtub, shower drain or toilet, your main sewer line is likely clogged. Overflowing water tends to go to the lowest points in the home first, so watch for plumbing fixtures in those areas to show initial signs.

When you’re unsure about the issues, you can try a few tricks to double check for overflowing water. In the bathroom, flush the toilet. If water immediately comes up through the bathtub or shower drain, you probably have an overflow issue. You can also run the water in the sink and watch to see if the water rises in the toilet. Another test is to run your washing machine and check the bathtub or shower drain for signs of water coming up.

What should you do if you think your sewer line is clogged?

If you notice these signs, don’t flush the toilet or run any water. Shut off the main water supply valve immediately, which should be in the garage or near your water heater. Turning off the water will prevent excess sewage from flooding the system until a professional can check out the problem. You can’t do much to clear the sewer line without expert help, so make an appointment with a professional plumber as soon as possible.

It’s always important that you spot plumbing problems early to minimize damage and expense.

Not sure if it’s a city sewer line backup? Check with neighbors – if they are experiencing the same issues then it’s likely a city sewer line. Remember that the city will only fix their line, and not the homeowner’s line.

Be prepared for potential issues with plans from Sewer Line Warranties of America as having plans can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

Cooling systems: A homeowner’s buying guide

HVAC unitSummer is in full swing, which means for many of us, thoughts are turning to air conditioning and home cooling systems. Let’s be honest —central air conditioning is a game changer. No more sweaty nights tossing and turning in front of a box fan or toughing it out because you haven’t installed the window units yet. But, you have options when you’re ready to install a home cooling system.

Here are a few types to consider:

Central air conditioning

Designed to cool the entire house, this cooling system feeds into your home’s ductwork and distributes cool air throughout each room. A large compressor unit lives outside, combining the evaporator, condenser and compressor in one place. Proper sizing and efficiency are important for choosing the right air conditioning unit for your home. Look for a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating of at least 13 if you live in a northern state and 14 if your home is in a southern climate, according to SmarterHouse. Plus, consider buying an energy-efficient model approved by ENERGY STAR for the best performance.

Once you’re the proud owner of an air conditioning unit, you’ll need to keep maintenance in mind, prepping it for seasonal changes and enhancing its efficiency. With a little love and care, your unit will continue to keep your home at lovely, cool temperatures when the heat rises outside.

Ductless system

These mini-split systems are popular for room additions or homes without ductwork. Similar to central air cooling systems, there is an outdoor unit. However, a ductless system requires each room or zone to have its own air handler, which is connected to the outdoor unit via a conduit. You can mount these indoor units on walls or ceilings. As such, you can choose to cool specific areas of your home, rather than the entire house. However, this option can be much less cost effective than a central cooling system.

Evaporator system

Ideal for dry climates, evaporator systems use a fan to push fresh air through moist pads and circulate cool air throughout the house. They can be cost-effective because the fan is the only electrical component, but they lose efficiency when the humidity rises. If you live in the right environment for this system, you’ll need to be careful about choosing the size of the evaporator. To give you an idea, homes around 1,500 square feet require an evaporator fan that runs at 6,000 cubic feet per minute, according to SmarterHouse.

Portable units

Self-contained cooling units are an ideal temporary solution, and common in homes up North where the temperatures don’t stay high for long. Window air conditioners or portable stand-alone units are among the most popular. They’re great for immediate relief from the heat when you need it, but can be noisy and only cool a limited area.

Remember that while your choice may depend on budget, location and regional climate, if you’re looking to cool your home consistently and frequently, installing a central air conditioning system is a more long-term, effective solution than the portable cooling units.

Being prepared before home repair issues arise is always a good strategy. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of covered repairs. See what plans are available in your area.