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.

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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 Deep Clean Your Bathroom

How to Deep Clean Your Bathroom

You use your bathroom multiple times a day, so it’s only fair that you should give it some frequent cleaning attention. A quick wipe down is one thing, but it’s the deep clean that really gets into all the nooks and crannies.

Grab your gloves and safe cleaning products, play some upbeat tunes and get cleaning.

The sink

Start by wiping down the sink with a dry cloth or paper towel to remove dust, hair and other debris. Spray an all-purpose bathroom cleaner or homemade solution on the sink and wipe it down with a cloth or disinfecting wipe. Real Simple advises pouring white vinegar or baking soda down the drain and then flushing it with hot water to eliminate buildup.

The tub and shower

DIY Network advises spraying cleaner on the tub and shower before you do any other cleaning, letting it sit while you work elsewhere. After ample standing time, simply scrub the surfaces and rinse with water. Real Simple offered a trick for the shower head: Pour white vinegar into a plastic grocery bag and tie it so the nozzle is fully submerged. Leave it to soak overnight and then wipe the shower head down with a wet cloth after you remove the bag in the morning.

The toilet

Pour baking soda or toilet bowl cleaner into the toilet and let it sit for at least five minutes. Use a toilet brush to scrub the bowl before flushing. If a stubborn ring remains around the bowl, you can use a pumice stone to remove the deposit. Wipe down the toilet seat and tank area with a paper towel before using a cleaner on the surface.

The tiles

Don’t forget to clean bathroom walls and floors, using a brush to scrub tile grout. Bleach can clean bathroom mold that’s stuck in the grout, but if it persists, schedule a professional inspection in case it requires a more intense mold removal method.

How often should you clean your bathroom?

Your cleaning schedule will depend on how frequently you use your bathroom but aim to deep clean it every month or two. CNET recommends the more frequent cleaning tasks that will prevent your bathroom from getting too grimy in between deep cleans, including:

  • Wipe down the sink daily with an antibacterial cleaner or cleansing wipe.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the mirror when you get out of the shower.
  • Clean the toilet once a week.
  • Launder the bathroom rug weekly.

Regular cleaning is a great way to keep your bathroom in tip-top shape. And keeping your home in tip-top shape is important too. That’s why 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 repairs and replacements.

What Usually Causes a Sewer Backup

What Usually Causes a Sewer Backup

Tech inserting pipe into the ground.

It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: smelly water and chunks of grimy debris making their way up rather than down the pipes. A sewer backup is never a good situation, which is why it’s important to understand the causes and prevention methods.

Here’s what homeowners should know about sewer backups:

Common causes of sewer backups

1. Clogs

Water going down a drain

Residential sewer lines are roughly 6 inches or more in diameter, which means a significant amount of solid waste and debris has to accumulate for the pipes to clog, as noted by SF Gate Home Guides. Items such as hair, cooking grease and other solid materials can create the clog. The result is that waste enters the pipes and can’t pass through the clog, so it travels back up the pipes and into your home through overflowing toilets and drains.

2. Blockages

Among the most typical reasons for a sewer backup are tree roots and shrubs that grow into the pipes, creating cracks and holes. Once inside, the roots can catch debris and form a blockage that prevents proper water flow. If the trees causing the issue are owned by the city, you shouldn’t be responsible for the cleanup and repair costs. However, if private trees caused the issue, the homeowner will likely have to cover the payments.

3. Old or damaged pipes

While pipe materials are durable, they aren’t made to last forever. Over time, sewer pipes begin to crack and deteriorate, which can often cause them to collapse. In the event of this kind of damage, you’ll need to repair or replace the pipes as soon as possible.

4. Main municipal line problems

When clogs, blockages, punctures, cracks or other issues occur to the main city lines, the sewage backup can begin to affect residential homes in nearby areas. According to Plumbing Supply Group, municipalities that have combined sewage and storm water systems are also more vulnerable to backups caused by severe rainfall and other extreme weather. In these cases, you’ll want to contact a city operator to investigate the problem.

You’ll know your sewer line is compromised when your drains are running slowly despite your best efforts to clear them. Additionally, gurgling sounds and foul smells coming from drains can indicate that clogs, blockages, cracks or other problems are affecting your system’s performance.

Ways to tackle and prevent sewer backup problems

If you notice the signs of these common sewer backup problems, don’t hesitate to schedule a professional inspection to troubleshoot the issue. A licensed professional can better identify the problem, clean out your pipes to clear away clogs and blockages as well as spearhead necessary pipe repairs. Many experts also recommend replacing your line with plastic pipes to prevent tree-root blockages and other damages.

As far as the day-to-day goes, you can prevent sewer backups by being mindful of what you’re flushing down toilets and putting down sink drains. For instance, so-called flushable wipes are actually a common clogged sewer line culprit, so trash them instead of flushing. Paper towels and feminine products can also cause issues, as they don’t break down as quickly as toilet paper. Cooking oil, grease, coffee grounds and eggshells should also never make their way down your drains.

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 Hire a Qualified Plumber

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

Simply follow these tips:

Determine the type of plumber

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

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

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

Verify current licenses

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

Lean on other opinions

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

Ask the right questions

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

Prepare with home repair plans

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

5 Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes

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

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

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

  1. Set the thermostat

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

  1. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinets

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

  1. Let cold water run

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

  1. Keep garage doors closed

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

  1. Insulate everywhere

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

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

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

Preventative HVAC maintenance to extend the life of your system

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

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

Ongoing HVAC maintenance

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

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

Seasonal and monthly HVAC maintenance

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

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

Annual HVAC maintenance

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

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

One-time HVAC maintenance

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

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

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

Reasons to call a professional plumber

plumbing.pngNot sure if you need the help of a professional plumber? If the issue falls under one of these scenarios, you should definitely call a professional for expert help.

When the water pressure is low

If the water in your home isn’t flowing at its normal pressure, there could be a blockage or leak in the system, fractured pipe or eroded waterline. It can be difficult for the typical homeowner to pinpoint an issue like this. A plumbing professional can identify the source of low water pressure and advise on appropriate solutions.

When there’s no hot water

If your water isn’t heating up efficiently, it’s likely a water heater problem. As these units run on electric or gas systems, it can be dangerous to do repair work on your own. Similarly, if there is no water at all, call a professional to determine the cause. External plumbing, like your water sewer line, may also be contributing to the problems in your home.

When you notice severe pipe issues

If you think you have blocked, burst or frozen pipes, call a plumber immediately. Look out for signs, such as strange noises when the tap runs, sewage smells coming from faucets, lack of water or frost on exposed pipes.

Blockages are typically caused by sediment buildup or large debris in the sewer line. DIY attempts to fix these issues can cause more damage, resulting in a much larger repair bill. Even worse, a failed repair to a broken sewer line can cause issues for an entire neighborhood.

When you hear concerning noises

If you hear an extremely loud noise coming from the pipes, it may be a sign that something in the system is broken or about to break. If you hear a gurgling sound coming from the drains or pipes, it can be a sign of a clogged or compromised plumbing system. The sounds will likely appear when you’re using the toilet, shower, washing machine or dishwasher. If you hear these sounds, turn off the water immediately. This step will prevent the system from backing up into the house until the plumber arrives to inspect the issue.

When you’re doing a home renovation project

If you’re renovating the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or other areas of the house that involve plumbing, make sure you get professional advice before starting the project. Relocating or installing plumbing-related items, such as sinks or dishwashers, requires the correct placement of supply lines and drains. A plumber can tell you if your renovation plans are feasible and ensure you have the proper permits. With that advice, you could save money on a potential repair or re-installation.

When you notice water damage

Look out for signs of water damage, such as leaks, water stains and mold growth. It’s ideal to catch water damage before the mold growth gets too severe, as the fungus is a health and safety hazard. A plumber can determine the source of the moisture and perform appropriate repairs to prevent further mold growth.

When DIY solutions aren’t enough

There are easy DIY fixes to many common plumbing issues, such as leaky faucets or clogged drains. Keep these plumbing do’s and don’ts in mind if you are attempting to repair the issue on your own. However, if the problem persists even after you’ve tried to fix it, a more serious problem may require expert plumbing knowledge to repair.

If you’re uncomfortable performing DIY plumbing, never hesitate to call a professional – even if it’s for a simple fix. A mistake could lead to a more severe issue, so it’s better to save yourself the hassle and get it fixed properly the first time around.

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

5 quick tips for lawn irrigation system maintenance

sprinkler

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

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

  1. Practice routine upkeep

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

  1. Examine the sprinkler heads

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

  1. Look for dry spots

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

  1. Check for signs of leakage

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

  1. Install a rain sensor

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

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

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

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

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

Water sewer line repair: DIY or plumbing pro?

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

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

Lack of plumbing expertise

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

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

Potential for additional damage

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

Safety hazards

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

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

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