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.

Reasons to call a professional plumber

plumbing.pngNot 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. External plumbing, like your water sewer line, may also be contributing to the problems in your home.

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. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of covered repairs. See what plans are available in your area.

5 quick tips for lawn irrigation system maintenance

sprinkler

The grass is greener on the other side – but what if your lawn could be lush and green all over? With proper upkeep and maintaining your lawn irrigation system, it can be.

Keep your sprinkler and lawn irrigation systems in tip-top shape with these five maintenance tips:

  1. Practice routine upkeep

Ideally, check in on your lawn irrigation system once a month. At the very least, aim for twice a year, particularly at the beginning of spring and fall. Routine maintenance promotes proper water flow and yard safety.

  1. Examine the sprinkler heads

Clean out clogged nozzles, tighten loose screws and look for sunken, tilted or missing heads. Common signs of faulty sprinkler heads include cracked or broken casing, inconsistent spraying, or inability to pop up. Clean and reset the heads, or replace them if necessary. Adjust the sprinkler heads to make sure they spray the lawn, as opposed to giving the sidewalk or sides of your house an unnecessary shower.

  1. Look for dry spots

If there are areas of your lawn that aren’t getting enough attention, adjust the sprinkler heads to spray the dry spots with additional water. Alternatively, you may need to increase the coverage of your sprinkler system or adjust the valves to increase water pressure.

  1. Check for signs of leakage

Extreme weather, tree roots, or damage from sharp gardening tools may cause leaks in the valves and pipes of a lawn irrigation system. Repair or replace damaged valves and pipes at the first sign of leaking.

  1. Install a rain sensor

These water-conserving tools prevent your system from running when the ground is already wet and doesn’t require additional watering. Most new systems will automatically include rain sensors, but if you don’t have one, it’s a good idea to install one, as it will waste less water.

There are other potential causes of a breakdown, such as a blown fuse, a coil that needs to be replaced, or voltage issues. The five listed above are the most common and easiest to diagnose and fix.

Very Important: Call 811 before performing any repair work on your own. An operator will connect you with a local professional to identify and mark the approximate locations of your underground utility lines. That way, you can avoid hitting the lines and causing serious damage. Even simple fixes like replacing spray heads require digging, so always make the call before getting started.

If you find signs of damage during your maintenance efforts, call a professional to inspect your lawn irrigation system.

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

Water sewer line repair: DIY or plumbing pro?

sewer-pipe-closeupSlow draining, poor water pressure, leaks, wet spots, unusual noises: what is wrong with your plumbing system? The heart and soul of your plumbing system is your sewer line. What homeowners may be unaware of is that tree root intrusion, disruptive debris, worn materials or cracking pipes, can affect a home’s sewer line.

If you think you can perform a DIY plumbing sewer line repair, you might want to reconsider, as there are plenty of reasons to avoid do-it-yourself sewer line repair. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Lack of plumbing expertise

While sewer line repair is a relatively straightforward job, it requires the necessary knowledge, experience and equipment to perform the task properly. Along with understanding the process, a licensed professional knows how to choose the best materials and has the right tools and equipment to complete the job.

Additionally, plumbing pros have experience with public code requirements, which means they not only know which permits and approvals are necessary but also understand how to obtain them. If you complete a DIY project without a permit, you may risk penalties from your city or town, which may lead to hiring a professional to redo the work.

Potential for additional damage

When you don’t have the proper expertise and equipment, there’s a higher chance for issues along the way. Before you know it, a simple issue can become a more complex one that you’re unsure how to fix. Additionally, patch jobs, temporary fixes or poor-quality work may eventually lead to more serious problems and potentially higher costs. For most homeowners, it’s better to pay for the professional service upfront and avoid surprise costs.

Safety hazards

There are also health and safety risks to consider when performing sewer line repair or replacement. You risk exposure to methane gas, salmonella and E. coli, as well as accidentally hitting a natural gas line during the digging process, when working with pipes, according to Pipe Spy. These issues can cause damage and health risks to not only your property but also your neighbors’ sewer line.

Our answer to the DIY plumbing pro question is that unless you’re a plumber, don’t attempt to repair or replace your sewer line.

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.

 

Common dishwasher problems and how to fix them

DishwasherProblems

When’s the last time you thought to clean your dishwasher? It may seem counterintuitive to clean an appliance that does nothing but wash and disinfect dishes all day, but regular cleaning is important for maintaining all of your appliances.

Here’s how to tackle common dishwasher problems:

Dishes come out dirty

If your dishwasher isn’t cleaning properly, it might be a simple issue that you can easily repair yourself. For starters, avoid overloading the dishwasher, as doing so can prevent it from cleaning properly. In addition, many times dirty dishes are the result of dirty spray arms. Clean clogs from detergent or mineral buildup, and remove small items that may be restricting spray arm movement. Inspect for the same buildup on the strainer screen or door gaskets. Finally, run a cleaning cycle without dishes.

If you still notice water spots or white residue on your dishes even after cleaning and inspecting your dishwasher, use a water softener or specialized detergent with rinse aid.

Dishwasher smells bad

Trapped food and grease can cause your dishwasher to smell even after a cleaning cycle. This problem has an easy DIY repair: Simply clean the filter, strainer screen and sprayer arms to get rid of the old and wet food. (It can be a dirty job, so consider wearing rubber gloves.) Run a cycle without dishes, using a dishwasher cleaner or disinfectant. To avoid future issues, pre-rinse your dishes to remove grease and large food particles before putting them in the dishwasher.

Dishes won’t dry

If your dishwasher isn’t drying properly, it’s likely an issue with the heating element. The easiest fix is using a liquid rinse aid in each cycle. If that doesn’t work, use a multimeter to check the high-limit thermostat, usually at the bottom of the dishwasher tub. If it’s malfunctioning, it can cause the heater to turn off before your dishes are fully dry. If this is the case, you’ll need to call in a professional to install a new heating element.

Dishwasher is cracked

If you find a crack on the inside of your dishwasher, your unit is likely at the end of its life. Cracks leave the mechanical parts vulnerable to water and soap, which can be a serious safety hazard. Unfortunately, there aren’t any DIY solutions to repair this issue. You’ll need to replace the dishwasher.

Dishwasher is old

Once your dishwasher reaches a certain age, repeat repairs and poor performance will eventually cost more than purchasing a new one. According to Sears, seven years is usually the cut off. At that point, it’s a better decision to invest in a new dishwasher, especially if the repairs will cost at least half of the unit’s original price. If you decide it’s time to replace, consider an energy-saving model. Energy efficient appliances are better for the environment and can help lower your monthly bills.

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