Got a Clogged Sewer Line? Here’s What to Do

sewer

When you have a clogged drain in your house, your first instinct is probably to grab a plunger. Little do you know, there are some cases where standard plunging is almost useless — like when the main sewer line in your home gets clogged. When this happens, you can end up with widespread flooding and plumbing problems all over your home.

This May Also Interest You: Water Sewer Line Repair: DIY or Plumbing Pro

To prevent serious damage, you need to be able to identify clogged sewer lines and know how to handle them.

Are Your Main Sewer Lines Clogged?

Throughout your home, you have drain lines carrying wastewater away from sinks, toilets, tubs and more. All of these lines lead to the main sewer line. This huge pipe sends all the waste from your home right to your sewer or septic system. When it gets clogged, drains all over your home are unable to work — and you could even end up with water backing up out of your fixtures, leaky pipes and other problems. Yikes!

If you find yourself with a main sewer line clog, there’s not really any do-it-yourself way of fixing it. These drain lines are often buried deep under the ground far away from your home. You typically need special equipment and professional know-how to handle them. Though you usually cannot repair it yourself, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. There are still a couple things you can do to keep the problem from getting worse until a plumber can help you.sewer

Clogged Sewer Line Causes

This type of clog is fairly rare, since most sewer lines are around 4 to 6 inches wide. It usually only happens if something has gone seriously wrong in your plumbing system. One of the most common causes of a clog is damage to the sewer line itself. If a pipe collapses or bends, the damage can keep waste from moving through the line properly. There are all sorts of things that can harm a sewer line, including:

  • Shifting soil around the pipe
  • Corrosion within the pipe
  • Construction near the line
  • Heavy traffic above the sewer pipe
  • Damaged pipe joints

Another big reason sewer lines clog is that they gradually sag over time. This bend in the pipe makes it easy for debris to collect, eventually causing a clog.water service line

The most common type of debris that clogs a sewer line is fat. If you pour greases, fats or oils down a sink drain, they will eventually cool and harden. Even if you run hot water with the grease, it typically firms up by the time it reaches your main sewer line. Then, the fat sticks to your lines and causes a clog.

Other types of debris that often causes clogs includes paper towels, so-called flushable wipes, sanitary products and other bulky items flushed down the toilet. You should never send anything besides liquids and toilet paper down your drains.

A final cause of clogged sewer pipes is tree roots. Trees are surprisingly powerful. Even tiny roots can worm their way into your pipes over time. You may not notice a significant leak since the root will clog up the broken area in the line. However, as the roots keep growing inside of the pipe, they form a mass through which sewage has a hard time passing.

Signs Your Sewer Line May Be Clogged

Most clogged sewers happen gradually. Being able to identify them in the early stages will help you address problems before you end up with sewage water flooding your entire house. Here are some things to look out for if you suspect that you may need a sewer line cleaning:

Dark Water

One of the signature symptoms of a main-drain clog is water backing up in your tubs or showers. This happens when you try to drain water but there’s nowhere for it to go because the sewer line is clogged. The water then moves backward, seeking the lowest point of entry. In most homes, this will be the shower, tub or floor drain in a basement.

Unlike flooding fixtures caused by a leaky pipe, the water will not be clear. Since a lot of waste material is mixed in, it will usually be dark, stinky and gross-looking. Keep in mind that this water can have raw sewage, so you need to be cautious around it. Use proper protective gear and powerful cleaners when cleaning up after dark water flows into your drains.

Slow-Moving Drains

Take a minute to think about the drains in your home. Are they draining rapidly, or do you notice water pooling whenever you run the water? Your drains tend to slow down when there’s a clog because most sewer line clogs do not suddenly block 100% of the pipe. Instead, debris accumulates over time, making it harder and harder for waste to move through.

If all the drains in your home are starting to slow down, the problem is most likely a clogged sewer line. Typically, the first drains you will notice slowing down are the toilet drains. When you flush the toilet, the water may seem to hang there for a moment before gradually sinking down. Toilets are often the first drain affected by a mainline clog because they’re usually connected directly to your sewer line.

Gurgling Sounds

Because a mainline clog keeps your drains from working properly, you might get some weird reactions as you use your plumbing system. When you run a sink, flush a toilet or use a washing machine, water and air bubbles can form. All this stuff rumbling around in your pipes can cause noises. Since sound travels strangely through pipes, these noises can seem to come from plumbing fixtures, walls other rooms, or even the floor and ceiling.

The most frequent sound people report is a gurgling noise that happens while they’re using a drain. However, you may also notice strange hissing, bubbling or trickling noises. If your main sewer line is almost entirely clogged, it can take a while for stuff to drain through. Therefore, you may keep hearing weird noises long after you quit using a drain.

Clogged Plumbing Fixtures

If your clogged sewer line goes unnoticed for too long, you’ll start noticing this sign: As the clog builds up, almost no wastewater will be able to move through the pipe. When this happens, your drains quit working altogether. Instead of just slightly slow drainage, your plumbing fixtures will seem to quit draining entirely.

Remember that all the plumbing fixtures in your home are connected, so a clogged sewer pipe will keep draining from happening all over the house. If you run the kitchen sink, you may walk into the bathroom to find a shower that seems clogged. Your toilets on the upper floor might seem to work fine, but then when you go downstairs, all the sinks may be clogged.

What to Do When Your Sewer Line Is Clogged

Noticing that your sewer line is clogged is half the battle. Once you realize it’s happening, the solution is simple. You just need to keep calm and follow these two simple steps:

1. Turn Off the Water

First of all, turn off the water in your home. This step is important because it keeps the situation from getting worse. You don’t want to absentmindedly turn on a clogged sink and end up flooding one of your bathrooms with raw sewage. It also keeps leaking pipes or automatic processes — like a dishwasher on a timer — from trying to drain more water into your clogged line.

To turn off your water, you need to identify your water main, which is the line that supplies your home with water. Often, you can find it near your home’s water meter, or sometimes it’s outside the home near a corner of your house. It typically has a large wheel, handle or lever. Turn it until it’s entirely closed off.

2. Call a Plumber

It’s technically possible to clear out some small sewer line clogs yourself, but this is rarely advisable. The problem with DIY repair is that the majority of sewer line clogs are caused by broken pipes, tree roots and other issues deep within your plumbing system. Most people who know how to handle a basic drain clog don’t have the tools for sewer drain clogs.

Professionals have heavy-duty main sewer line cleaners and other equipment that lets them clear away all sorts of clogs. They also have the knowledge and experience to diagnose the primary issue. Just dumping some main drain cleaner down a toilet yourself won’t help you identify and repair tree root growth or other serious plumbing problems.

Getting a professional to examine your whole plumbing system will help ensure the real problem is addressed. Depending on your situation, you may need to replace sewer pipes entirely, which can involve digging up the yard and doing some major plumbing.

How Do You Unclog a Sewer Line?

Ultimately, you do need a professional who knows how to unclog a sewer line. However, there are a few things you can do to at least try mitigating the clog before your contractor arrives.

Many homes have a sewer line cleanout, which is a large pipe with a cap on the end, found in your basement or on the side of your home. You can remove this cap to access your main sewer line. If you get very lucky, the clog might have been forced against your cleanout, in which case, you can just pull it out manually.

You can also try running a plumbing auger through the sewer line. This may break up the clog or enable you to pull out some of the debris. However, sewer line clogs are often big enough that the standard drain auger can’t fix the clog.

Most of the time, snaking your sewer line yourself will just get things moving a little, making it easier to clean up backflow and get your home in livable condition. Keep in mind that clogs will probably keep happening until you get a thorough sewer line cleaning. You’ll still need to call in a licensed plumber to handle the main clog.

When you have coverage from HomeServe, even big plumbing problems don’t have to be a hassle. We help cover the cost of repairs up to your benefit amount, so your finances are protected from unexpected issues. With our 24/7 repair hotline, you can always speak to someone about scheduling a visit from a plumber. Get access to these benefits and more by signing up for a plumbing plan from Service Line Warranties of America today.

Why are my Water Pipes so noisy?

Water Pipes making loud noises

BANG. Rattle. BANG. Last night I had to spend two hours convincing my kids there wasn’t a scary ghost haunting our house. They were obviously skeptical (who wouldn’t be at constant rattling and banging seeming to come from behind the wall?), but I was finally able to put them to bed and investigate the noises myself.

After grabbing a flashlight, I made my way to the basement and discovered the strange noises were coming from my water pipes. Knowing my plumbing could need a repair, I called a professional for help.

Luckily, they knew what the problem could be just from the noise! And now I get to share this information with you.

Name that noise

Banging

A loud banging noise coming from your pipes may sound frightening, but it’s a relatively common household problem that’s easy to fix. According to The Spruce, these booming sounds are most likely the result of a water hammer – A.K.A. hydraulic shock.

A water hammer occurs when a faucet or valve quickly shuts off the flow of water into the fixture or appliance. This sudden stop means the moving water already in the pipe comes to an abrupt stop when it meets the closed valve. The startling noise you hear reverberating around your pipes is usually amplified when the pipe fittings become loose due to the sudden change in water flow.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

Most water supply systems have pipe fittings called air chambers that act as a shock absorber for water flowing at high speed under pressure. The shock wave from the sudden stop will hit the compressible air, minimizing the banging noise.

If you think the chambers just need a reboot, turn the water off to drain the pipes and allow the air to refill the chambers. But, if a noisy pipe is persistent, it’s best to call in a plumber to see if you might need a water hammer arrestor. They will know how to fix the problem and how to properly handle all kinds of materials, including copper pipes.

Gurgling

Clogged drains are one of the most common plumbing problems. If you hear your drains gurgling or notice water is draining slowly, something is probably obstructing the pipes. There are a lot of DIY tricks for unclogging your drain – especially if you’re dealing with soap scum and food waste. But if the problem persists, it’s time to bring in a plumber.

Most professionals will charge a flat fee of around $150 to come out and unclog a drain with a snaking tool, reports Thumbtack. This is perfect if you can’t reach or locate the obstruction yourself, or it’s not budging with your home remedies. If it’s a larger blockage in your main sewer line, you may pay upwards of $800 for a plumber to hydro-jet the debris out.

Rattling

No, there’s not an earthquake. Rattling pipes may make it seem like your home is constantly shaking, but that’s probably not the case. This can be another sign of a water hammer echoing throughout your plumbing. Even more likely, though, is that your suspended pipes are not securely fastened.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

When the fasteners are loose or fall away all together, your pipes may rattle when water runs through them. If the pipes are easily accessible, like in a basement, it may be easy to tighten up the fasteners yourself. It can become more complicated when they’re located behind a wall – you’ll probably need to call a professional to help.

Humming

I don’t know about you, but a constant humming coming from my pipes is usually hard to detect until my house is quiet (which is a rarity with kids running around 24/7.) If your water line is constantly buzzing, Realtor.com says high water pressure is most likely to blame.

Overly high pressure can seriously damage your water heater and appliances. With a little bit of DIY knowledge, you can probably handle installing a new water pressure regulator yourself to help keep the system operating at peak efficiency. If you’re not comfortable working with the system, a plumber can easily install a new regulator, or check your current water pressure situation to make adjustments.

Squeaking

The final common noise is whistling or squeaking. Hunker.com explains this is usually a result of a bad or faulty shut-off valve. Common culprits are your washing machine or faucets. Once you’ve identified where the noise is coming from, you can replace deteriorated valve parts or call in a plumber for more help.

You never know when your home systems might need repair. Be prepared with a plan. See how plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help you be prepared for the costs associated with covered plumbing repairs.

Economic Shock is Hidden Threat to One-Third of Americans

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.

While some Americans save, others either don’t or are unable to, leaving them vulnerable to economic shock.

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

Nearly 70 percent of Americans would like their utility to provide an optional emergency home repair plan to help them avoid financial shock

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.

Older Homes Are Prone To Plumbing Problems

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.

Old Pipes

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.

Problematic Pipes

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.

Amateur Plumbers

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.

How Much Does a Water Softener Cost?

soft water filter

Water Softener Costs at a Glance

  • 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.

This May Also Interest You: How to Know If Your Bathtub Has Hard Water

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
  • Bad-tasting water

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:

  • System size
  • Local labor rates
  • System brand
  • System features
  • 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.

Benefits include:

  • Longer-lasting appliances
  • Fewer plumbing repairs
  • Improved quality of life (better skin, hair, clothes, drinking water)
  • Less cleaning of bathrooms and sinks
  • Greater home equity

You can stay prepared with a home protection policy from Service Line Warranties of America that could help you avoid pricey home repairs and being overcharged for things your home insurance does not cover. Service Line Warranties of America is here to send a local technician to you 24/7.

Au Revoir, Standing Water! How to Install a French Drain in 8 Steps

A long and deep trench dug up in a yard to lay in a drainage pipe for a trench drain

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.

This May Also Interest You: Signs of Drainage Problems and How to Fix Them

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.

8. Backfill

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.

Does a home warranty cover water and sewer lines?

Does a Home Warranty cover Water and Sewer Lines?

My grandmother used to say, “You never know how good things are ‘til they are gone.” When it comes to your appliances and home systems working properly, this is so true. We all rely upon our water running, our dishwasher washing and our heat warming.

And while we all take our essential home infrastructure for granted, a homeowner can be unsure how to proceed when things go wrong. Fortunately, you can be prepared with a home repair plan that includes provisions for covered repairs of your water line or clogged sewer line.

Water and sewer coverage 101

Before you decide on a home repair plan or home warranty, it’s always important to know exactly what a given plan will offer you in terms of repair coverage for different systems and appliances.

According to Consumer Reports.org, it is fairly common for a home repair or home warranty plan that addresses household infrastructure to include provisions for repairs to the internal plumbing, as it’s one of any home’s critical systems along with the electrical wiring and water heater. But coverage for indoor plumbing does not always mean that the water and sewer lines – which run underground from the outskirts of your house’s foundation to the municipal pipes underneath all of the nearby streets – are necessarily covered.

Along similar lines, if you have a septic tank to handle your home’s wastewater instead of being connected to your city’s sewer-line network, be sure to check if the tank and the pipes that connect it to your internal plumbing are covered. Some plans that might cover exterior water and sewer lines won’t be adaptable to homes that use septic systems.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

Additionally, keep in mind that homeowner’s insurance will often only be of help if your plumbing, water or sewer lines suffered sudden and catastrophic damage, according to Policygenius.

Line-specific plans from SLWA

By turning to Service Line Warranties of America, you can find yourself a number of different home repair plan options to protect your water and sewer lines. First off, there are plans that cover individual aspects of the exterior plumbing:

  • Sewer/septic line coverage: With this plan, the essential steps for finding and repairing a problematic sewer or septic line are covered – replacement or repair of pipes, seals and joints, unblocking, fusing, welding, pipe-cutting, valve-fitting and restoration of any exterior home areas disturbed by the repair process.
  • Water line coverage: Everything described above, but for the water line instead.

Being prepared for plumbing, water line, sewer line and other household breakdowns is always a smart choice. Learn more on how  a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America can help you with the costs of covered repairs.

How much does it cost to install or replace a garbage disposal

by Meghan Stiltner

garbage disposal installed under sink

You don’t realize how frequently you use your garbage disposal until it stops working. And when it happens, all you want to know is the quickest, least-costly way to get back to grinding.

This May Also Interest You: How to Install a Garbage Disposal on Your Own

If your garbage disposal isn’t working, it’s important to get it fixed to prevent a clogged sink — or maybe you don’t have a garbage disposal and are looking to have one installed. Read on to learn about the cost to do the work yourself versus calling in a pro.

How much does a garbage disposal cost?

There are many options that you can choose from at varying price ranges. You’ll have to first determine what your budget is and choose the best option within that sum. Garbage disposals can cost as little as $50 and range all the way up to $250 or more depending on the size and brand you choose.

On average, the cost of installation will run from around $120 up to $600. Where you live plays a role in how much service-call charges are.

How long do garbage disposals last?

Your garbage disposal’s useful lifespan will depend on how often you use it. If it’s something you use just here and there, you’ll likely get the maximum life out of it, which on average is 10 years out — though there still may be some repairs needed from time to time. As with any home appliance, proper maintenance and use according to manufacturer instructions are important.

How much does a garbage disposal replacement cost?

When your garbage disposal is in need of replacement, you’ll want to call around to the local plumbing companies to get quotes so you can choose the best offer. After all, does the need for home repairs ever arrive when we’re financially prepared for it? The good news is that you shouldn’t need to have this done very often as long so you don’t put things down the drain that don’t belong there.

How much does garbage disposal repair cost?

On average, most repairs will cost you around $250, including labor. Plumbers generally charge around $80 an hour.

In deciding whether to repair it or replace it, be sure to consider the cost of the disposal itself: It may make more sense to simply replace it. That likely comes with additional costs, so be prepared.

Are garbage disposals worth the money?

Everyone has to make up their own mind on what is valuable to them — but if you use your kitchen a lot for cooking, odds are you’ll be happy you have this particular appliance. It can cut down on the amount of smelly food waste you forget about in the garbage until it’s already stunk up the place. That said, you have to maintain your disposal, or it’ll get odorific as well.

Can I replace or repair my own garbage disposal?

Households often opt to have an expert do this particular dirty work for them, but the answer is yes: If you’re confident in your ability to do it yourself, you can. You’ll almost certainly save money versus making a service call.

For most such repairs, you can expect to pay around $75; a replacement will cost more. Although, if you do it yourself, you’ll save a substantial chunk of change on labor.

Tools needed to repair a garbage disposal

You’ll need the right tools and supplies to work on your garbage disposal. Many of the items you may already have around your home but, if not, any local hardware store should have them.

Here’s a checklist of things you may need:

  • A bucket
  • Safety glasses
  • Plumber’s putty
  • A putty knife
  • A new garbage disposal
  • A screwdriver
  • Screws
  • A hammer

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from Service Line Warranties of America is important. Having a plan in place gives you the peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

How to clear a clogged drain

Have you ever glanced down at a drain and realized it’s moving slowly or even stopped draining altogether? Clogged drains can definitely look gross, but you don’t have to let them be a major hassle. With a few easy steps, you can handle most drain clogs at home.

Safety first: Always follow the directions on any chemicals carefully, and be sure to wear protective gear when handling chemicals or hot liquids. Also, turn off the water before snaking the drain, just in case a leak develops.

Step 1: Try removing the clog manually

If you have long hair that’s causing a clog right at the top of the drain, you’re in luck! As unpleasant as it might seem to remove a clog manually, it’s actually easier to deal with than a clogged drain that occurs farther down in your pipes. All you have to do is carefully detach the drain stopper, pull out the drain, and clean the hair, grime, and other gunk from it. This lets you unclog your drain without chemicals. For the typical bathroom drain clogged with hair, this is the simplest method of removing the drain clog.

Step 2: Create a DIY clogged drain remover

Have a clog that’s a bit too deep in the pipe to pull out by hand? You may want to try to unclog it by using a drain clog remover, like Drano®. There are some ready-made chemical solutions that can be effective, but before you take a trip to the store, try using one of these homemade solutions instead.

  • Pour boiling hot water down the drain. This can dissolve mildew, slime, soap scum, and other similar clogs.
  • Put half a cup of baking soda in the drain, then pour half a cup of vinegar down after it. Let this mixture sit for an hour, and then check the drain. The bubbles that form can break up some clogs.
  • Mix together half a cup of table salt and half a cup of baking soda. Pour this mixture down the drain and let it sit for half an hour. Then, pour a few cups of boiling water down the drain.
  • Put one-fourth cup of salt in the drain, then pour in one-fourth cup of borax. Follow it up with half a cup of vinegar. Let this mixture sit for an hour before running water down the drain.

Step 3: Use a plunger on the drain

You might be surprised to learn that a plunger can work just as well for a clogged sink as it can for a clogged toilet. Get a drain plunger that has a larger bell and a sturdier handle. Seal any other connected drain openings and clamp off the line that goes to the dishwasher. Then, fill the sink with a few inches of water and place the plunger over the drain. Firmly pump the handle up and down for about 20 seconds, forcing water through the drain. This can bust up the obstruction and get things moving again.

Step 4: Try a commercial clogged drain remover

Commercial drain clog removers are made of powerful chemicals, so they can be a helpful solution for stubborn clogs. Just keep in mind that these are meant to literally dissolve hair and grease, so if they splash on you, they can be dangerous. Repeated use of chemical clogged drain products can be problematic. The cleaners tend to generate heat as they work, which can soften PVC pipes or put pressure on pipe fittings. Be aware that repeatedly using them can cause a leak to develop.

Step 5: Snake the drain

When all else fails, turn to the reliable old drain auger. Also called a snake, this is a tool that travels through the pipe until it runs into the clog and busts it up. Most experts agree it’s one of the best ways to unclog a drain pipe. If you don’t already own this tool, they’re widely available at home improvement stores and fairly affordable. To use it, all you need to do is put it against the drain opening and turn the handle to feed the snake into the pipe. Once it hits the clog, you’ll feel resistance. Keep turning it to spin the head of the snake into the clog and break it into smaller pieces. You can also try pulling the auger backward, which can sometimes yank out an attached clog.

Step 6: Get professional assistance

If you have tried to unclog a drain with DIY methods and aren’t getting anywhere, don’t force it. It’s possible to damage your plumbing by banging around in there without any clue of what you’re doing. In some cases, it might be wiser to get professional assistance. Some drain clogs are deep in the main drain line of your home where DIY methods can’t reach them. Sometimes, the clog is just too stubborn to remove with basic tools. In these cases, you may need an expert plumber who can scope out the drain, identify the problem, and address it properly.

Don’t let a clogged drain stop you from using your sink, shower, or tub. Having a plan from Service Line Warranties of America in place can help make it easy to clear drain clogs. When you have an issue, call our 24/7 helpline, we’ll assist you with setting up an appointment with a licensed plumber. Our plans cover the cost of repairs up to the benefit amount, so you have peace of mind. Find out more about plumbing plans from Service Line Warranties of America today.

How to thaw frozen pipes

How to thaw frozen pipes

Even with the best laid plans to winterize your home plumbing system, sometimes pipes still freeze over. And sometimes, they burst. And then the panic builds and causes the emotions to burst. (Sound familiar?)

As my science-loving daughter explained to me, it has to do with changing states of matter. (Yep, she’s a smarty pants.) As the frozen water expands, the pressure can build from 40 PSI to 40,000 PSI. Ordinary pipes are no match for this explosive stress and they’ll rupture.

The worst-case scenario

You may not notice you have a burst pipe until it starts thawing. Then, water will start flooding straight into your home at a rate of hundreds of gallons per hour, according to The Spruce. A wintertime flood can only ever lead to extensive water damage, costly home repairs and buckets of bitter tears.

Identifying a frozen pipe

The most vulnerable pipes are those in an unheated crawl space, basement or garage, and those within external walls. This includes pipes in closets and cabinets and those near outdoor hose hookups. Exposed pipes are also susceptible. Basically, any pipe with some proximity to the great frozen tundra of the outside world is at risk of freezing.

If you can successfully thaw out your frozen pipe before it bursts, you’ll save yourself endless trouble and strife. When the temperatures drop, here are some signs to look for:

  • Nothing comes out of the tap when you turn it on.
  • The water pressure is significantly reduced.
  • Your toilet bowl doesn’t refill after you flush it.
  • Frost appears on the outside of the pipe.
  • There’s a bulge in the pipe.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

If you notice one or more of these things, chances are your pipes are frozen and you need to take action — immediately.

What to do

Upon spotting a frozen pipe, keep the surrounding area as warm as possible. Turn up the thermostat to about 70 degrees. To help the heat circulate and stay in, leave cabinet doors open so the warmth reaches the plumbing system and keep your windows and garage door closed.

Direct a space heater (though always use safety precautions) or infrared lamp towards exposed pipes and those behind walls. You can also blow a hot hair dryer towards the pipes to speed up the thawing process. (But never, ever use an exposed flame.) If the situation is really dire, consider slicing out a section of drywall to expose the pipe.

Focus your efforts on the part of the pipe closest to the faucet so that the melting water has somewhere to go. Keep a stream of cold water flowing out of the faucet. If the pipes are frozen, the water flow will be noticeably reduced. As they thaw out, you’ll notice the flow pick up.

If you expect the cold snap to pass, you may be able to resolve the problem on your own. However, if the weather forecast shows that Jack Frost is going to stick around like an unwanted guest, you’d be best served by enlisting the help of an experienced plumber.

Long-term solutions

The crisis may be averted, but you should still take preventative measures with these habits and home improvements to make sure your pipes don’t freeze again:

  • Cover the pipes with pipe insulation.
  • Insulate vulnerable rooms like the basement and crawl spaces.
  • Keep your thermostat at 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the colder months.
  • Consider having electric heat cables installed.

Being prepared for pipe and plumbing emergencies is always a good idea. Get help with the costs and services associated with these types of repairs with a variety of affordable repair plans from Service Lines Warranties of America.