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 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.

Common Dishwasher Problems and How To Fix Them

Common Dishwasher Problems and How To Fix Them

When you hear “dirty dishwasher,” you’re probably thinking about an appliance filled with yesterday’s dinner plates, cookware and cutlery. But a dirty dishwasher can also mean one that hasn’t been cleaned out in a while.

Wait — you actually have to clean a dishwasher? The appliance that does nothing but disinfect dishes all day? 

Yep, that’s right! Regular cleaning is important for maintaining all of your appliances, even the dishwasher. Without regular upkeep, your appliance may start to turn out gross, still-dirty plates and glasses, give off a bad odor or even start to leak all over your kitchen floor.

These are fairly common dishwasher problems, and you can typically diagnose them yourself — although some dishwasher repairs require the help of a professional. With care and attention, most dishwashers are designed to last about 10 years, according to Consumer Reports.

Below are some tips on how to tackle the most common dishwasher problems. To ensure your safety, disconnect your appliance from its power source before troubleshooting.

Still-Dirty Dishes and Foul Odors

Load Carefully

Some dishwasher problems have to do with how you’re using the appliance. If you’re left with dirty dishes after a complete wash cycle, it might be a simple loading issue. Avoid overloading or inserting bulky items that prevent any of the spray arms from spinning freely. Failing to rinse off food residue and grease can also contribute to a smelly or still-dirty end result.

Clean the Appliance

If this is a persistent problem, you will need to clean the components of your dishwasher. First, remove and scrub down each spray arm to remove any debris or mineral buildup. 

Then, clean out the filter. The removal process will vary slightly depending on whether your appliance has a manual filter or self-cleaning filter that functions like a garbage disposal, Bob Vila explains, but both types can be washed with hot, soapy water. 

Water Spots and Mineral Residue

Try Rinse Aid

For dishes that come out clean but are speckled with water spots, use rinse aid during each wash cycle. This helps combat surface tension and prevent little droplets from sticking to the surface of each glass or dish, according to Wirecutter. It can be placed in the rinse aid dispenser next to the detergent compartment.

Use Water Softener

If you’re seeing white spots or powder, it’s probably not a dishwasher problem but rather your region’s hard water. Add water softener to the appropriate container inside the door to help prevent any mineral residue.

Failure to Dry the Dishes

Check the Heating Element

If your appliance is cleaning dishes but not drying them, there may be an issue with the heating elements. Use a multimeter to check the high-limit thermostat behind the access panel at the bottom of the appliance. When working correctly, these should reach a high temperature to evaporate the moisture, but will need to be replaced if broken.

Water Leaking Out

Examine the Door

There could be water overflowing onto the floor beneath your appliance for a few reasons. The first is an issue with the door seal. 

Wipe down the dishwasher door gaskets to remove any residue that may be preventing a proper seal. If there are any worn areas, you can replace the gasket. Look to see if the door latch is holding the door closed. If this piece is broken, that will also need replacing. 

Test the Inlet Valve

If the door isn’t the problem, it may be a leak from the water inlet valve which connects the appliance to your home’s water supply. Look for puddling around the valve and use a multimeter to check the continuity of the wires. If it’s leaking or the electrical components aren’t functioning correctly, you’ll need to get this piece replaced.

Check the Float Assembly 

The float should be able to move up and down freely so it can tell the appliance when to stop filling with water. Remove any debris and make sure the float switch isn’t stuck in the down position. 

Standing Water Inside

Examine the Drain Valve

If there’s water puddling at the bottom of the appliance and your dishwasher won’t drain, Family Handyman advises examining the drain hose and drain valve. You can disconnect the hose from the drain pump and blow through it to see if it’s clear or clogged, and use a multimeter to check the continuity of the valve


In addition to troubleshooting dishwasher problems as they come up, make sure you’re prepared before a major appliance repair issue arises. Find out how plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of covered repairs.

The Pros and Cons of Stackable Washer and Dryers

My laundry room is basically my second home. The organized linens and fabric softener is my domain, but when I moved into a new home I had a big decision to make: should I get a stackable washer and dryer set or stick with my side-by-side units?

While space was no issue, there was still plenty to consider, including my laundry needs, desired features and energy efficiency. I found that while stackable washer and dryer sets are a popular option among homeowners, they might not be best-suited to your space and expectations.

Before purchasing a new washer and dryer, consider the pros and cons of a stackable unit to decide if it’s the right choice for you.

The pros 

A front-load washer and dryer is often a convenient option for homeowners in all living situations.

Here’s why many people choose stackable washer and dryer sets for their laundry needs:

  1. Great for small spaces
  2. More efficient cleaning
  3. Easier on your clothes
  4. Easy on your back
  5. Flexibility

If you’re like me and are constantly rearranging your living spaces, stackable washer and dryer sets are a flexible option for changing up laundry rooms. Most stackable appliances also have free-standing capabilities and can operate side by side just as well, it just might require a few tools and some knowledge about washers and dryers.

SFGate Home Guides recommends consulting manufacturer directions for your particular model before unstacking. Then, unplug power cords and unhook the dryer duct. If you use a gas dryer, make sure the supply line is disconnected. 

While the instructions will usually outline the initial installation process, just reverse the directions to unstack the unit. This can entail removing bracket mounting screws and brackets. Have another pair of hands on deck to help move the dryer down and into its new position (this may require adding new feet or anti-slip pads to its bottom).

The cons 

Of course, stackable units are not ideal for every homeowner. Some drawbacks to these machines include:

  1. Smaller capacity
  2. Higher price tag
  3. Out of reach
  4. Fewer bells and whistles
  5. More maintenance

Front-loading machines are simply designed differently than top-load washers. While buildup of mold, mildew and soap scum is common in all washers, there are different nooks and crannies in a front-loading machine you’ll have to pay more attention to.

This includes the rubber gasket, where mold can build up fast. Always try to wipe it down with a clean towel and let the unit air dry after it’s used. Every few months it can also be beneficial to grab a toothbrush and do a deep clean of the rubber components to get rid of any lingering odors and buildup.

Additionally, you should check that your stackable system is still secured. Consult your manual and ensure that no screws are loose or parts from your stacking kit need to be replaced. Before buying any appliance, it’s always a good idea to brush up on common problems they experience (like a waterlogged washer) so you can be prepared to conduct maintenance or call in a professional.

Other considerations

Ultimately, the best washer and dryer for your home comes down to your laundry needs. A compact, stackable unit is best if you typically have small loads of laundry. Due to its gentle wash cycle, don’t expect a quick wash like you would from a top-loading machine. Your clothes will still be exceptionally clean, and you may be able to cut down the time on dry cycles since the laundry will not be sopping wet.

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, you might want to consider a stacked laundry center like this one from Whirlpool. You can still save on space with a high-quality top-loading washer and electric dryer that automatically senses when clothes are ready for a quick dry. While these combined units are convenient and cost-effective, repairing this unique appliance can be tricky. Make sure you’re prepared that if one part of this unit breaks or you want an upgrade, you might need to invest in an entirely new machine. 


When appliances and home systems break down, it can be inconvenient beyond belief. But being prepared before home repair issues arise is easy with us. See how plans from Services Lines Warranties from America can help with the costs of covered repairs today.

Gutter Installation Cost Guide

April showers bring something a little less lovely than May flowers. All the rainwater can wreak havoc on your home if you don’t have gutters to manage it. That’s why buying and installing a really good gutter and downspout system should be at the top of your spring home improvement checklist.

Gutter illustration

Why Your Home Needs Gutters

Without gutters, you might see smashed flower beds or a flooded basement after just one heavy storm. In time, your property could experience everything from soil erosion and stained siding to damp walls and foundation damage.

These are not just unsightly issues; they can compromise your home’s structural integrity. And it might go without saying, but repairing a rotted wall or foundation can turn into a big, expensive project. Major storm damage can also occur with old, leaky gutter systems that ought to be replaced.

Thankfully, you can easily prevent this type of damage by installing a comprehensive rain gutter system with strategically located downspouts around your home.

Average Gutter Installation Cost

Homeowners can pay anywhere from $600-$800 on the lower end of the spectrum to $2,500-$5,000 on the higher end. The average gutter installation cost is closer to $1,000 to $1,800, including labor. What you pay will depend on the material you use, how large your property is and the cost of living in your area.

Reliable rain gutters are an investment in your home that will not only keep your yard looking great but will help ensure the health of your home. Luckily, you have a lot of choices about how to protect your property and re-route the rainwater.

Gutter Installation Cost Factors to Consider

If you want to figure out the total cost of a gutter installation project, you’ll need to factor a few points into your calculations.

Home Size

Gutter illustration

For each square foot of your home, you will need a minimum of 10 feet of gutters. So, an average 1,500 square foot home would require at least 150 linear feet of gutters. Moreover, an upper story installation will cost between $1.00-$1.50 more per linear foot than a single-story installation.

Labor Costs

Gutter installation can certainly be a DIY home maintenance project, but only with sectional gutters. You might prefer to have a professional install your gutters for you. While more expensive, this can be safer and more reliable — and it means you can get seamless gutters installed. Typically, labor costs are factored into the pricing. This is because, in the case of seamless gutters, the contractor will actually create gutter pieces in the right sizes onsite.

Installation or Replacement

A gutter replacement project is actually more expensive than installing a system to a home that never had gutters. Having old gutters removed will require additional labor. You can expect to pay around $100-$150 to have old gutters removed and disposed of. Just be mindful that if you discover a rotting or damaged roofline, you’ll need to address that project first before getting to the gutter installation.

Climate  

Regions that see a lot of rainfall may need different types of gutters. For instance, the U.S. Department of Energy advises that homeowners in marine climates should choose high-capacity gutters with flashing. Most gutters come in widths from 4-6 inches, but can be made larger at a greater expense. Homeowners in regions that experience forest fires should choose metal gutters rather than vinyl.

Drainage Plan

Correctly placed downspouts will help you avoid a drainage problem, but you can choose where your system sends the water. You can simply set down splash blocks or use downspout extensions to carry it farther from your foundation. If you want to set up a rainwater harvesting system, you will need to budget for additional piping, filtration systems, storage tanks and more.

Gutter illustration

Gutter Type, Materials and Accessories

The total gutter installation cost will depend on the type of gutter you want, the materials you select and any add-ons and accessories you choose. The material is the biggest factor in determining the overall gutter installation cost. The two possible types are seamless gutters (including aluminum, galvanized steel and copper) and sectional gutters (including vinyl).

Seamless Gutters

Seamless gutter pieces are custom made to fit your roofline. The metal is molded to shape using an extrusion machine onsite at your property. Seamless gutters are less likely to leak and can result in a perfect fit.

Aluminum

Seamless aluminum gutters are the most popular choice among homeowners. They cost roughly $5 to $14 per linear foot, on average. They are lightweight, corrosion-resistant and can last between 20 and 30 years, meaning they offer good value for money. They’re typically available in a variety of colors and certain aluminum gutters can even be painted to match your home’s trim, which can help minimize their appearance.

Galvanized Steel

Seamless galvanized steel gutters are highly durable. They don’t dent as easily as aluminum and won’t crack in the cold. Because of this, they may be well-suited to windy or wooded areas. However, they are heavier and can start to rust if their protective coating gets damaged.  They’ll typically last for about 10 to 20 years. Galvanized steel gutters can cost anywhere from $6-$16 or more per linear foot, but $9 is an average price.

Copper

Seamless copper gutters are the most durable and offer the most aesthetic value. They can offer a warm glow if kept polished or will develop a rich patina over time. However, they are also the most expensive choice and average about $20 to $40 per linear foot. Copper gutters are great for finishing off a high-end home, but as the metal is a valuable material, it can expose some properties to theft. They will last between 50 to 100 years, so the higher upfront costs will eventually pay off.

Sectional Gutters

Sectional gutters consist of shorter connected pieces. Typically, they come in 10-foot lengths and need to be cut down to size. More joins are required and will need to be monitored for leaks over time. The most common type of sectional gutter is vinyl. Wood is another, less-popular option as it’s prone to rotting and can be pricey, averaging $12 to $20 per linear foot.

Vinyl

Sectional vinyl gutters are the least expensive option, averaging $3 to $7 per linear foot. They are very lightweight and DIY installation can be relatively straightforward, although professionals can install them as well. They are sealed with urethane to protect leaks, but may crack in cold climates.

Gutter Accessories

Gutter illustration

While some components like downspouts and gutter elbows are essential, you can choose to add on other accessories to your gutter system. Many of these will come in the same material as the gutters themselves, and prices vary accordingly, with copper being the most expensive choice.

Gutter Hangers

Gutter illustration

Gutter hangers, also known as gutter brackets, help keep your gutters elevated. They’re especially useful in windy or rainy climates, and can cost as low as $2 to $5 for vinyl or aluminum.

Downspouts and Extensions

You’ll typically need to install one downspout every 35 feet along your roofline. Vinyl or aluminum downspouts and above-ground downspout extensions are usually priced from $2 to $8 per linear foot, while steel can cost up to $10 per foot and copper may cost between $10-$25 per linear foot.

Gutter Elbows

If your roof is not flush with the exterior walls, you’ll need gutter elbows to make the turn so that your downspout hugs the wall. With an overhanging roof, it often takes two in an “S” shape to span the distance. These can cost around $5 to $9 for the less expensive materials, but copper pieces can run from $20-$50.

Gutter Guards

Installing gutter guards, also called leaf guards, is a great way to keep your gutter system clear of debris. You may spend under $200 to purchase and install more affordable materials yourself, but could spend $1,500 to have a custom system professionally installed. Basic wire mesh screens can cost as low as $1 per linear foot, whereas perforated metal gutter guards can cost $4-$12 per linear foot.

Flashing

Flashing prevents roof runoff from seeping behind your gutters. It can cost about $2-$5 for vinyl or aluminum, or $5-$10 for galvanized steel, but copper flashing may cost up to $30.

Heat Tape

Gutter heaters or heat tape are electrical cords that warm up your gutters to prevent them, and the water in them, from freezing. This helps prevent ice dams in cold climates and can cost around $50 to $75 per 100 linear feet.

Splash Blocks

Splash blocks, also called splash guards or splash drains are plastic trays that cost about $5-$10 each. They sit below the downspout and help divert water away from your foundation and spread it evenly across the earth below.

Protecting Your Gutter Investment

Standing water and damp leaves in a gutter can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the summer and can cause ice dams to form in the winter. To avoid clogged gutters, clean out your system on a regular basis. You can do this yourself, or enlist a professional for about $100 to $150 per visit.

In addition to getting your gutters cleaned out regularly, you may also want to prepare for home repairs before they happen. Plans from Service Line Warranties of America can offset the costs of covered repairs. Find out about plans available in your area and connect with our team to learn more.

How to Clean a Shower Head

How to Clean a Shower Head

Now that I am staying at home each day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my morning commute entails going from my bed to my shower to my home office. Unfortunately, this extra time in the shower has allowed me to notice that my shower head is in need of some definite TLC. Should I order a new one from Home Depot? Or maybe just clean the one I have?
 
If your shower head is like mine and has seen better days, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade to a new fixture right away. A little elbow grease can go a long way when it comes to eliminating soap scum and mineral buildup.

The following method by far the best way to clean your shower head. It just takes some good scrubbing, a descaling soak and a quick polish. And, it’s a great way to beat the grime with materials you already have lying around at home.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you should have on hand before getting started:

  • Soft-bristled cleaning brush or sponge.
  • Plastic gallon bag.
  • Rubber band or twist-tie.
  • Vinegar.
  • Water.
  • Toothpick (optional).
  • Baking soda (optional).
  • Microfiber cloth (optional).

Side note: Since this green cleaning method doesn’t use harsh chemicals, you won’t need to wear cleaning gloves. But, by all means, if your shower head looks as gross as some of the ones I’ve seen (in whose bathroom? I’ll never say!) … well, you might just want a pair anyway.

Step 1: Scrub

First, you’ll need to scrub the shower head. Use a soft-bristled cleaning brush or rough sponge to knock the crusty mineral deposits out of the sprayer holes. Real Simple recommends using a trusty old toothbrush.

Be careful: Wire wool and hard-bristled brushes may scratch or damage fine metal finishes. Be sure to use soft bristles and gentle scrubbing pressure to avoid this. If your shower head holes are surrounded by flexible plastic rings, you can even poke the buildup out with your finger or a toothpick.

Run the shower to see if the water flows out in a straight jet with consistent water pressure. If it doesn’t, pay a little extra scrubbing attention to the clogged-up holes.

Step 2: Soak

Soaking is a great way to descale the fixture and get rid of both the residue and hard water spots you can’t clear off with just a brush.

Fill a plastic bag — preferably of the sturdy zip-top gallon variety — with your own DIY cleaning solution. Good Housekeeping suggests using one part hot water and one part white vinegar. Half a cup of each should do.

Lift the bag with vinegar and water onto the shower head so that the sprayer holes are totally submerged in your cleaning solution. Use a rubber band or twist tie to secure the bag in place at the top or along the neck of the shower head.

Leave it there to soak for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the finish of your showerhead and how caked-on the buildup is.

For fixtures coated with brass, nickel, or gold, keep the bag in place for just 15 to 30 minutes. Any longer and the acid might eat away at the finish. With other fixtures, feel free to leave the solution on overnight. This will give the vinegar solution a chance to loosen up the limescale around the shower head.

If it still looks a little clogged, repeat the process — this time, Better Homes and Gardens suggests adding a few tablespoons of baking soda in the solution and leaving it on for about 30 minutes.

Step 3: Rinse

After the soaking time is up, remove the bag and discard the cleaning solution down the shower drain. Gently scrub the shower head with a damp sponge or cleaning brush to wipe off any remaining residue.

Finally, run water through the shower head for a minute or so to flush out the system.

Step 4: Polish

Although this step is optional and just for show, you can buff the metal fixture with a soft microfiber cloth to restore its gleam. Make sure to soak up any moisture to prevent those pesky white water droplets from forming.

Bonus Step: Plumbing Protection

The shower head tends to be one of those things you use and see all the time, but very rarely think to maintain.

Many of us have the same attitude toward our home plumbing systems. All the elements are right there in front of us, we use them daily, but how often do we show them the care and attention they need?

After polishing off your bathroom fixtures and giving the tub a good old scrub, you may find yourself thinking about having a home repair plan in place to protect your budget from the costs of covered plumbing repairs.

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

How to Know if Your Bathtub has Hard Water

How to Know if Your Bathtub has Hard Water

The first time I cleaned the shower in my new home, I couldn’t get the soap scum off the bathtub. No matter how much I scrubbed, no matter which cleaning products I used, it wouldn’t budge. When my neighbor mentioned it might be caused by “hard” water, I thought “what is she talking about.” To me the concept of “hard” or “soft” doesn’t apply to something like water. To me, water is just simply wet. Upon further research, I quickly realized there really is such a thing and there’s a big difference between having hard or soft water.

So, I am saving you some time and energy by sharing my knowledge. Here’s what you should know about hard water:

What is hard water?

High in minerals like calcium and magnesium, hard water is common across the United States. In fact, maps from Marmon Water reveal that 85 percent of Americans have hard water in their homes. The severity depends on location, with Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Antonio and Tampa among the metro areas with the highest levels of minerals in hard water. By contrast, New England, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest tend to have the softest water.

What are the signs of hard water?

While hard water is safe to drink, bathe or for washing, it can easily stain sinks, tubs, dishes and clothes. It can also lead to higher water bills by making appliances work double time, according to Whirlpool.

After bathing in hard water, you may experience dry skin and flat hair caused by the harsh mineral deposits. Over time, soap scum and mineral deposits will build up around the tub and fixtures, and you may notice water heater problems. Beyond the bathtub, the most common indicators of hot water include white spots on dishes, laundered clothes that are dull in color and rough to the touch, clogged pipes and struggling appliances.

If you notice these signs, you can confirm your hunch by contacting your municipality if you have city water. Alternatively, you can purchase a water hardness test kit.

Is there hard water remedies?

Installing a water softener is the best way to combat the problems associated with hard water. As far as quick fixes go, you can choose cleaning and bathing products designed for homes with hard water. To remove hard water stains, Family Handyman suggests using cleaners that work against soap scum. Spray the cleaner on the tub and shower walls, letting it sit for at least five minutes before scrubbing. There are also several DIY hard water treatments you can try.

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