Economic shock is a large, unexpected expense such as a home or car repair or sudden loss of income – something many experienced during the recent economic downturn.
COVID-19 has hit hard – but nowhere harder than with our most vulnerable populations. The widespread unemployment caused by the pandemic has taken a bite out of the savings of many, especially those with lower incomes, with 44 percent of those households with incomes of $50,000 or less saying that their savings have dropped since March.
Many Homeowners Are Unprepared
Old homes have unique charms, but they also may be hiding plumbing problems in their walls and floorboards.
One-in-four adults have reported having trouble paying their bills, with this increasing to 46 percent among those with lower incomes. Many of those most at risk, including minimum wage-earners, minorities, mothers with young children and those without secondary education, are returning to work at a slower rate. In a Federal Reserve survey, 40 percent of adults said they would have to borrow from family and friends or go into debt for an unexpected expense of only $400. More than 10 percent said such an expense would prevent them from paying all their bills in that month.
Even before the economic downturn, 71 percent of those working a minimum wage job had difficulty meeting their basic bills, according to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Financial woes are not limited to those at the bottom of the wage scale, with nearly 80 percent saying they lived paycheck-to-paycheck at least sometimes. Debt is up and savings are down across the board, with just over 50 percent saving $100 or less each month.
The Biannual State of the Home
A wide swath of Americans have been made more susceptible to a financial shock than ever, and, at the same time, many of them are spending more time at home than ever before, whether it is because they are unemployed, working from home, have children attending virtual school or are self-quarantining. That means greater stress on their home’s plumbing and electrical systems and higher bills. Unfortunately, many are at the juncture where their unusually stressed home systems and their depleted savings are leaving them at risk for the financial shock of an emergency home repair.
Unfortunately, all that time at home is taking a toll on our plumbing and electric – 62 percent of those polled in HomeServe’s Biannual State of the Home Survey reported that they had had an emergency home repair in the last 12 months. Among those needing a repair, 23 percent reported their HVAC system needed repaired, 16 percent reported leaky pipes, and 15 percent reported a blocked or overflowing toilet. Exacerbating the issue, many don’t have robust savings. Nearly one-third of Americans have $500 or less set aside for an unexpected financial demand, and nearly half have $1,000 or less set aside, according to the survey.
Many Homeowners are Uncertain
Home repairs can make a dent in your wallet, ranging anywhere from approximately $600 dollars to more than a thousand to replace a water heater, depending on where you live and what type of replacement you’re installing, to several thousand dollars for a sewer service line replacement or repair.
Fortunately, homeowners have somewhere to turn: Service Line Warranties of America. Our optional emergency home repair plans give our customers access to our U.S.-based call center with live operators available 24/7/365 and our nationwide network of thoroughly vetted, licensed and insured contractors. With a call to our call center, we will dispatch a local contractor to handle your issue and pay the associated costs up to the benefit amount. For more information on how we can protect you from financial shock, contact us.
Old homes have unique charms, but they also may be hiding plumbing problems in their walls and floorboards.
Older homes can have a host of problems with the plumbing that homeowners can’t see – it may simply be old and reaching the end of its usable lifespan, the plumbing may have been made of materials that later proved to be problematic or an amateur plumber may have made repairs.
Plumbing has a lifespan, from the water lines and fixtures to the drains and sewer lines. Copper lines will last the longest, at 60 to 80 years, followed by cast iron drains and sewer lines at 50 to 65 years. Galvanized steel, used for both water and sewer lines, lasts about 40 to 60 years, followed by polyvinyl chloride, or PVC plastic, at 40 to 50 years, then PEX at 40 years.
Fixtures need replacement more often – and they aren’t limited to faucets, although those should be replaced every 15 to 20 years. Water heaters should be replaced more often, at 10 to 20 years, and shut-off valves should be replaced every 20 years, or they may become frozen in the “on” position. Sinks, tubs and toilets are the sturdiest of home plumbing fixtures, needing replacement every 40 to 80 years.
In addition, some of the oldest homes were built before plumbing was common and were retrofitted with plumbing later. In order to update those aged pipes, plumbers may need to drill through floor joists or install drop ceilings so there is room for the appropriate slope for gravity-fed drains. It’s important that licensed plumbers do this work because they will ensure that the work is done in such a way that it doesn’t compromise the structural integrity of the floor above.
As pipes age, their joints may begin to loosen and the pipes sag, causing “bellies,” as they separate. A belly is where debris, rust or minerals can collect where a pipe sags, causing clogs and stoppages.
Highly acidic water, hot water, highly chlorinated water or water that has remained stationary in a pipe for a long time can leach lead from pipes or lead solder used on brass pipe fittings. It’s estimated that 10 million homes have water service lines that are at least partially lead – and homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and replacement of the service lines that connect your home to the utility’s system. In many cases, there is simply no record of whether a water service line is lead or not, although it is more prevalent in older homes, since lead water service lines were popular before 1950.
Lead lines aren’t the only plumbing homeowners should be on the lookout for – polybutylene pipe, or “poly,” was popular because it was inexpensive, from its introduction in the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s and is found in another 10 million American homes. However, poly piping fails at an abnormally high rate under normal conditions. Poly pipes react poorly to oxidants in water, flaking away from the inside out, so a poly pipe may appear in good shape during a visual inspection. It, too, is prone to faster degradation when exposed to high levels of chlorine and hot water.
In addition, use of galvanized steel piping also has been discontinued, except for repairs of existing systems. It was introduced as an alternative to lead lines, often used for water lines prior to the 1960s, until it was discovered in the early 1970s that it could corrode from the inside out and rust would build up within the pipe, narrowing the diameter of the pipe and causing water pressure issues.
Some home insurance companies will refuse to insure homes with poly or galvanized steel piping or require high deductibles before a home with known problematic plumbing can be insured. If you are purchasing a home with poly or galvanized pipes, you may be required to have a licensed plumber to certify the system before it can be insured. It also will lower your home’s resale value and make it more difficult to find a buyer.
Then there’s Orangeburg sewer lines – pipes made of pressed wood fiber and coal tar, now scorned as “coal tar-impregnated toilet paper tubes.” It was most popular in the 1950s and 1960s, because, once again, it was inexpensive. Since it was widely used, homes dating from that time are at risk – Orangeburg pipes have higher failure rates than any other sewer line material. Because they are paper based, they are more prone to chemical deterioration. Orangeburg also is vulnerable to crushing during ground settling and tree-root intrusion, because it deforms under pressure, since it isn’t as rigid as other materials.
You may be tempted to save money by having someone other than a licensed and insured plumber repair your plumbing. In doing so, you deprive yourself of a professional plumber’s expertise and training. Additionally, non-licensed plumbers often will not warranty their work and they may not carry the appropriate liability or workers compensation insurance.
Amateurs often make mistakes that professionals wouldn’t, such as using accordion pipes, which makes connecting two different pipes easy, but also is more prone to buildups of grime and debris. An amateur also may not know how to prevent corrosion when pipes made of two different types of metal are joined, a process known as dielectric coupling – they may not even know it’s a problem.
A professional plumber will be familiar with local building codes and be sure to have repairs done in compliance. It may cost more, but a failure to have repairs done to code may result in fines or having work re-done so that it meets the required standards. Plumbing repairs also may require going into walls, ceilings and floors or even require trenching. In addition, if an amateur botches a repair and there is damage to the home as a result, the homeowners insurance may not cover the now much-larger repair bill. Amateur repairs can put residents at risk for a host of disasters, from electrocution to gas leaks.
It’s simply safer and less expensive in the long run to hire a properly licensed plumber for repairs, whether a home is older or a more recent build, and having a plumbing inspection done before purchasing a new home also is advisable.
Homeowners can be prepared for leaks or failures in older pipes with the NLC Service Line Warranty Program. The Program offers optional emergency repair home plans to cover water and sewer service lines and interior plumbing emergencies and has live operators available 24/7/365 at a U.S.-based call center. With a network of fully licensed, insured and vetted local plumbing professionals, all repairs are warrantied for a full year and are compliant with your community’s building codes.
For more information on how our plans can provide you with peace of mind, contact us.
National average for softener plus installation: $1,000-$2,000
Price range for softener plus installation: $600-$2,000
Monthly maintenance and operation expenses: $10-$20
With nearly 85% of American households receiving hard water from their municipalities today, water softeners are in high demand. Whether your household gets its water from a well or your city’s water mains, water softeners are the standard method for handling hard water issues.
Let’s take a look into the benefits of water softeners and why you should consider them more of an investment than an expense.
Do I Have Hard Water In My House?
Since most of the United States water supply is hard water, odds are you’re seeing signs like:
Scale buildup on showers and sinks
Scale buildup on faucet diffusers and shower heads
Dry skin and hair
Water marks and residue on clean dishes
Difficulty getting soap to lather up
Hard water comes with a large percentage of minerals like calcium and magnesium in solution. While not harmful to humans, the minerals are harmful to plumbing, fixtures and appliances, as well as being high-maintenance on your skin, hair and clothes.
On the surface of your faucets and water fixtures, a cleaner like CLR works specifically to remove the stains and scale buildup of calcium, limestone, and rust from iron.
But, our plumbing, water heater, well works and other such systems are hidden from sight. So when you see the mineral scale buildup on your faucet and showerhead, just imagine the amount that’s collected in your plumbing and water heater.
What Size Water Softening System Do I Need?
You need to match the size of the system to the task at hand. To do this accurately, you need to know what your household water usage is per day and what the hardness of the water is. If you’re using city water, you can typically find your water hardness level online. If you’re using well water you’ll need to test it or have it tested. Water hardness is measured in grains per gallon.
The simple way to find your daily water usage is to take an average from your water bill. Look at a high-use day that may include showers, dishes and laundry. An alternative is to take the number of people in your household and multiply it by 75. For example, 4 people x 75 gallons = 300 gallons per day of water usage.
Moreover, if you have a water hardness of 10 grains per gallon, your daily water softening requirement could go like this: 10 grains per gallon x 300 gallons per day = 3,000 gallons of water treatment per day.
Regeneration is the homeowner’s responsibility in maintaining the softening system, and requires adding salt regularly. Each water softening system is geared for regenerating every week, and that’s where you start to match the system size to your needs.
Using the example from above, you need 21,000 grains per week of capacity if you’re going to recharge your system weekly (3,000 gallons a day x 7 days = 21,000 grains). Therefore, to match the capacity of the system for your house and average one regeneration per week, you’re in the market for a water softening system that can handle more than 21,000 grains per week.
Match the System Capacity to Your House
It’s easy to see how a system that’s too small for your house will come up short or fail. Likewise, if you choose a system that’s too large, it won’t need to regenerate often enough and can grow bacteria in the tanks. Here’s where the expertise of a professional plumber or water technician can give you peace of mind in making the right decision regarding a system to match your needs.
How Expensive Are Water Softeners?
The prices for water softener systems are economical when you consider the average lifespan is around 15 years. The national average for a new water softener system installed in a house is $1,000 to $2,000.
Your mileage may vary according to:
Local labor rates
Existing plumbing issues
Water softening system prices range from around $600 to $2,000 without installation. If you have the tools and expertise, you can save the cost of labor by installing the system yourself.
What Are the Monthly Costs of Water Softeners?
The monthly expense of water softeners includes salt, water and, in many cases, a nominal amount of electricity for the monitoring and regeneration system. These expenses can range from $10 to $20 per month.
Is a Water Softener Worth It?
For those homeowners who might otherwise be able to get by without one, there are some positives to consider that can make a water softener something to consider.
Fewer plumbing repairs
Improved quality of life (better skin, hair, clothes, drinking water)
Standing water in the yard — it’s a wet blanket for homeowners. Besides just being an eyesore, standing water can wipe out your grass, leaving your lawn soft and muddy. During the summer months, it can be the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies. If it’s close to the house, standing water can also weaken your home’s foundation. In the simplest terms: Standing water bad.
Low spots and poor drainage are the two major culprits behind standing water. One of the most efficient ways to prevent water from collecting in your yard is to install a French drain.
What Is a French Drain?
While the name may sound exotic — and, therefore, expensive or complicated — French drains can actually be quite simple and cost effective. Done thoughtfully, they can even be a nice aesthetic addition to your outdoor space.
A French drain is essentially a gravel-filled trench containing a slotted or perforated pipe. Surface water seeps into the gravel and into the pipe, which then carries it away, distributing it to a more desirable area. Remember that water always seeks the path of least resistance, and that’s the secret behind a French drain. It creates an easy path to direct water away from low spots in your yard.
French Drain Installation
Is standing water a problem on your property? Your best course of action might be to install a French drain. Luckily, doing so is a reasonably simple task that can be completed by most anyone.
To install a French drain, follow these eight steps and standing water won’t stand a chance:
1. Get the Go-Ahead
Before you begin any construction or landscaping project on your property, it’s always important to confirm your plans with your local zoning department or homeowner’s association, as they may have rules that restrict drainage projects. Either way, it’s prudent to make sure any water you divert stays on your property — even if it’s just to keep your neighbors happy.
Also, be sure you know where any underground cables and other utility lines are in your yard before you start digging. You can call 811, the “call before you dig” hotline, to have a technician come to your home to mark these areas for free. Don’t skip this step, as disturbing a utility line could be both costly and dangerous.
2. Gather Your Tools and Materials
As with any project, you should make sure you have all the proper tools and materials before you begin. Not having all the correct implements during a project can be pretty frustrating and can result in significant delays.
To dig a French drain properly, you’ll need both a spade shovel and a digging shovel, as well as a line level and a tape measure. You’ll also need a perforated plastic drain pipe; the diameter of the pipe should be relative to how much water you need to divert, but keep in mind your pipe will pick up water along the way, so you may need a pipe with a larger diameter than you think. You’ll also need a roll of landscape filter fabric that will work to prevent clogs by filtering out silt and rocks from entering the drain. Finally, you’ll need gravel with which to cover your drain.
3. Plan Your Route
As you determine the best route for your French drain system, it’s important that the path is at least a meter away from any fences or walls and steer clear of any trees or shrubs, as large roots can impede water flow and keep your drain from functioning to its full potential.
While determining your best route, find any downhill slope near where water collects. If you can’t find one, you need to create one by digging progressively deeper as you work. Your best bet is to have at least a 1-foot drop for every hundred feet in length for the drain to work most effectively. Finding the right pitch for your drain can seem complicated, but keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be perfect. Ultimately, you just want to make sure there are no spots along your route where water can collect and pool.
4. Start Digging
At the beginning of the drain, or the spot where water is collecting, you’ll need to dig a mouth that will be slightly larger than the rest of the drain. Of course, the size of your trench will depend how much water you’re draining. However, the standard-size French drain is 6 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Although you may be tempted to dig as deep and wide as possible, it’s far more efficient to dig a so-called V-notch: a triangular trench that’s created by digging two 45-degree angles, which makes a point that’s the deepest part of your trench. Digging a V-notch creates a deep trench without the need to expend too much energy.
5. Line Your Trench With Fabric
After digging the trench, you’ll need to cover it with landscape fabric. Use a continuous swath, if possible, and make sure you leave at least 10 inches of extra fabric on either side of the trench, because the fabric will get pulled down as you add the gravel on top of it.
6. Fill the Trench
Once the fabric is in place, it’s time to fill in the drain with crushed stone, or gravel. This will serve primarily as bedding for your perforated pipe, but it can also act as an additional filter for silt, dirt and other types of small debris that can prevent water flow. You’ll want to make sure you pack at least 3 inches of gravel, here. Take a rake and run it up and down your drain to ensure the gravel is smooth and even. This all helps prevent water to from collecting along the route of the drain.
7. Lay the Pipe
After ensuring that the crushed stone is evenly distributed along the length of the trench, the next step is to simply place the pipe on top of the stone. Although using perforated plastic drain pipe is most common, you also have the option of using a rigid PVC pipe. Although more difficult to work with, PVC will outlive the perforated pipe and can even perform better in the long run. If you choose to work with PVC, make sure you pre-drill holes through the length of the pipe. One important note to remember: French drains work by allowing water to flow up through them from the ground, so keep your drill holes oriented downward.
After you lay your pipe, cover it with additional gravel, but leave at least 5 inches between the top of the gravel and ground level. Then, fold over any excess landscape fabric, which will keep dirt or other debris from disturbing the system.
Once you’ve laid your pipe, the last step is to backfill the drain with soil. Alternatively, you can cover your pipe with gravel. This keeps the potential for clogs at a minimum by increasing the water filtration of your drainage system.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Although building a French drain can be relatively simple, they aren’t always the only solution to your water drainage issues. If your drain system brings water near your home’s foundation or into a neighbor’s yard, alternative drainage systems like dry wells may better suit your needs. Poorly designed drainage systems can often cause more problems than meet the eye and can negatively impact natural runoff areas.
If you’re still seeing significant standing water after installing your French drain, you may need a large-scale drainage solution that could require re-grading the landscape. Do-it-yourself projects can be rewarding, but it’s always good to know when you need to call a professional.
You may also want to have professionals on-hand to deal with any other issues that may arise with your home systems. That’s why being prepared with a plan from Service Line Warranties of America is something to consider. Once you have a plan in place and a covered issue arises, you can simply call the 24/7 repair hotline. A local, licensed and highly trained contractor will be sent out to you to get the job done to your satisfaction. Learn more about plans from SLWA today.