10 DIY plumbing terms you should know

under-sink-plumbingIf you’re a homeowner tackling a DIY plumbing job, be sure you’re well-versed in these plumbing terms.

Looking to flex your muscle as a DIY plumbing repair, maintenance and improvement pro? Here are 10 common plumbing terms you should know before diving into a DIY project:

  1. Auger

Use this bendable, metal rod with a curved end to clear clogged drains. Toilet augers are the most common for household DIY, but there are also larger, sometimes motorized, augers for underground drain lines.

  1. Plumbing snake

Similar to an auger, a plumbing snake can break up clogs, according to Lowe’s. Made of thin, flexible metal, this tool can reach small, confined spaces with ease.

  1. Faucet

This fixture controls the water flow from sinks, tubs and showers. Some have two handles – one for hot and another for cold water. Others have just one lever to control the flow and temperature.

  1. Drain

This opening connects to the piping system and allows wastewater to leave the area and reach the pipes. Most drains are a simple open hole, while some have protective grates covering them.

  1. O-ring

These are circular, rubber washers that serve as watertight seals between two parts of a plumbing system. O-rings are essential components and must be replaced after time or wear and tear.

  1. Overflow and backflow

Overflow occurs when there’s a blockage in the plumbing system that prevents water from draining. Backflow is when water travels back up the pipes into the main plumbing system. Both can cause damage to the sewer system, requiring immediate repair.

  1. Burst pressure

When there is excess pressure in the pipes, it can cause a pipe or tube in the plumbing system to burst. Many times, plumbing materials will specify burst pressure levels so to inform plumbers and homeowners to ensure the tubes and pipes are strong enough for the system.

  1. Septic tank

A hold-all for waste, septic tanks let solid particles settle before pumping and removing them from the closed chamber.

  1. Valve

This important mechanical device controls water flow. Plumbing systems include several types of valves, such as shutoff valves under sinks and toilets. These allow you to turn off the water supply when performing repairs. Relief valves allow you to release excess pressure or temperature.

  1. Pressure gauge

A measuring device used to determine the amount of pressure in the pipes, this gauge is important for monitoring system performance.

Even with your enhanced plumbing knowledge, there are certain issues that require the expert skills of a professional. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a licensed plumber.

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

 

3 signs your sewer line is clogged

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When the main sewer line clogs, everything will eventually force its way back up through the drains and into your house. In other words, it’s a recipe for a very messy and expensive disaster.

Be prepared to handle potentially serious clogs by looking out for these three signs of possible sewer line trouble:

  1. Multiple drain issues

If your main line clogs, it affects all the connected drains in your sinks, showers, baths and toilets. When the water reaches a blockage, it has nowhere to go but back up. Therefore, you will notice that multiple drains and plumbing fixtures clog or back up at the same time. You may also hear loud gurgling sounds coming from the drains, which is caused by wastewater hitting air pockets as it pushes its way through the clog.

  1. Strong sewer smell

If the less-than-ideal smell of sewer begins to waft into your home from the drains, it’s likely a telltale sign of a clogged line. It’s quite a strong and unpleasant scent, so this sign of sewer trouble is unmistakable.

  1. Water overflows

Look out for unusual activity coming from your plumbing fixtures. If there’s water or sewage coming up through the bathtub, shower drain or toilet, your main sewer line is likely clogged. Overflowing water tends to go to the lowest points in the home first, so watch for plumbing fixtures in those areas to show initial signs.

When you’re unsure about the issues, you can try a few tricks to double check for overflowing water. In the bathroom, flush the toilet. If water immediately comes up through the bathtub or shower drain, you probably have an overflow issue. You can also run the water in the sink and watch to see if the water rises in the toilet. Another test is to run your washing machine and check the bathtub or shower drain for signs of water coming up.

What should you do if you think your sewer line is clogged?

If you notice these signs, don’t flush the toilet or run any water. Shut off the main water supply valve immediately, which should be in the garage or near your water heater. Turning off the water will prevent excess sewage from flooding the system until a professional can check out the problem. You can’t do much to clear the sewer line without expert help, so make an appointment with a professional plumber as soon as possible.

It’s always important that you spot plumbing problems early to minimize damage and expense.

Not sure if it’s a city sewer line backup? Check with neighbors – if they are experiencing the same issues then it’s likely a city sewer line. Remember that the city will only fix their line, and not the homeowner’s line.

Be prepared for potential issues with plans from Sewer Line Warranties of America as having plans can help you pay for covered water, sewer and other service line repairs.

5 Plumbing Tips You Should Know

5 Plumbing Tips You Should Know

When faced with a plumbing issue, there are many DIY plumbing fixes a homeowner can try before calling in a professional. Check out these plumbing “myths” for the best ways to deal with a clogged sink, flushable wipes and more.

  1. “Use hot water to flush down grease.”

This is a common misconception. Grease sticks to pipes, drains and hot water. Even boiling water doesn’t remove grease or help it ‘flush’ down your drain. When hot water cools over the grease, the grease hardens and it actually creates a thick coating inside of your pipes. This can cause long-term issues, including backed-up or even burst pipes. Instead, wipe the grease out of pans or pour it into a disposable jar and place in the garbage.

  1. “Clogged sink? I’ll just use the plunger.”

Not so fast. DIY blockage-unclogging is not as straightforward as you may first think. It may also prove to be hazardous. After a few unsuccessful tries with the plunger, you may think that pouring a household chemical cleaner or drain cleaner into the sink is the logical next step. After waiting and seeing that nothing has happened, you may then reach for your plunger again. Here’s where you really need to be careful! Splash-back from plunging can cause irreversible skin damage, and if contact is made with the eyes, it can cause blindness. NEVER use a plunger after using a chemical to clear a blockage. Always use a plunger in a safe way — without any chemical agent.

Consider making your own natural drain cleaner using a half cup of baking soda and vinegar, which is much less harsh than chemical cleaners.

Something to be aware of: even if you are using a plunger safely, but you have a double sink, once the blockage is dislodged, the pressure from plunging can actually cause the blockage to come up the other drain. To prevent this, be certain you’ve covered the second drain opening completely with duct tape. Unblocking one drain to simply block another will give you more than you bargained for.

  1. “It’s okay to flush if it fits down the pipe.”

Wrong. Just because the object might seem to fit down the pipe, it does not mean it’s OK to flush. Take articles, such as scraps of food or female sanitary products, for example. These objects could fit down a sink or toilet from the entry point, but in reality, most pipes are no more than 4” wide. So, flushing even small bits of food down the sink can result in a buildup of debris and risks a clog in the piping.

In a similar way, female sanitary products may disappear down the pipe but then quickly absorb water and expand. This may cause blockages, which can lead to bigger drainage problems for the whole plumbing system. It’s always best to remember that unless it’s a liquid (not grease or oil), then it’s always best to use your trash can to dispose of such items.

  1. “Flushable wipes are flushable.”

Not as obvious as it sounds. Most wipes, including ones advertised as flushable, really cannot be eliminated by the sewer or septic system. The fact is, they just do not break down fast enough to truly be flushable. Consumer Reports’ own study agrees. Mixed with other debris, they can snag on pipes and block the system, causing serious damage. Toilets are designed to remove human waste. Use your trash can for everything else.

  1. “Pipes can handle all my weekend guests.”

Think again. You might be able to handle an overflow of house guests and in-laws, but your sewer or septic line might not be. This line conducts all waste water from your home, including the kitchen, showers, AND toilets.

So, if you have extra guests staying over for an extended period of time, ensure that everyone staggers shower and bathroom time to make certain that the lines have enough time to clear (this is especially important if you have slow drains.) By asking your guests to be mindful with their water usage during their stay, you can help you save yourself a stinky, soppy backyard, or a flooded basement.

Knowledge is power. Now that you are aware of these common plumbing myths, you have the knowledge to keep your plumbing, water line and sewer/septic lines flowing as they should, and hopefully protect your home against unpleasant and costly issues.

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of an in-home plumbing emergency, visit www.slwofa.com.

6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Water Damage

home water damage

Did you know, water damage is more likely to occur in your home than fire damage? We protect our homes from catastrophes, but water damage could be just as dangerous.

Plumbing leaks are common anywhere there is running water, such as:

  • Toilets
  • Faucets/Sinks
  • Dishwashers
  • Ice makers
  • Water heaters
  • Tubs/showers
  • Washing machines
  • Internal pipes and hoses

Water damage isn’t only a problem financially; it can lead to serious health risks from chemicals, toxins and mold, such as rashes, asthma or other chronic health conditions. Additionally, recent studies have shown that children with prolonged exposure to water- damaged rooms in their home are at a higher risk of developing eczema.

Whether from a slow leak or flooded basement, there are things that a homeowner can do to mitigate or minimize the extent of water damage.

  • Check for leaks or cracks in hoses that run to the washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator at least once a year and replace these hoses every five to seven years.
  • Be sure the caulking around tubs and showers is free of cracks.
  • Know where your water main is located and how to shut it off.
  • Install floor pans under appliances to prevent damage from slow, undetected leaks.
  • Use water leak alarms, which will alert you to a leak in basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and sump pumps.
  • Buy a water flow monitoring system, which attaches to your water main and, if flow that exceeds normal use is detected, will automatically shut off the flow of water into your home.

When the problem is from your water service line, that’s when repairs can really get costly. Service Line Warranties of America offers affordable warranties to help cover those repairs. Enter your zip code to learn more.

What to do when you have a clogged pipe

Handyman on the scene

Clogged pipes are one of the most common problems in sewer lines, but do you know what to do when it happens?

When sewer pipes clog, it is a plumbing emergency because your wastewater has nowhere to go and could inevitably cause other plumbing fixtures to back up as well.

There are warning signs that will alert you to a problem – like a slow drain or a foul odor emanating from the drain. This means that something is impeding the flow in the line. When multiple drains are slow, it may be a sign of a bigger problem in the main line. Toilets are particularly prone to this problem, but other pipes could be involved. Toilets generally have the most direct path to the sewer with the biggest drain line in the house, so if you’re having a problem with the toilet, it’s likely affecting the entire household plumbing system.

If you suspect you have a clogged sewer pipe, it’s best to consult with a professional plumber rather than attempt to unclog the line yourself. It’s possible the problem could be more extensive than a simple fix and attempts at repairing the line yourself could cause more damage.

If you’re enrolled in external sewer line repair or in-home plumbing coverage with Service Line Warranties of America, this consultation would be a covered expense through the warranty program.

Can you afford a costly repair?

sad worried man in stress with piggy bank in bad financial situation

Times are tough and a recent study by the Federal Reserve discovered that more than 50% of individuals surveyed could not afford a hypothetical emergency expense of $400 without selling belongings or borrowing money.

Homeowners work hard for their money and it’s no secret that the expense of owning a home adds up over time. In fact, the study by the Federal Reserve also revealed that “more than a third of all respondents said they were worse off financially than five years ago.” With credit hard to come by and many of those eligible for retirement unprepared, expensive repairs are just not in the budget.

When evaluating monthly expenses, such as a water or sewer line warranty program, it’s important for a homeowner to consider what they have in savings and what they can honestly spend each month for protection. For those homeowners living paycheck to paycheck, a few dollars a month to provide peace of mind could outweigh the risk of “if” a failure would ever occur, considering just over half of the survey respondents were putting some portion of their income away in savings and only 39% said they had a rainy day fund.

If you’re evaluating whether or not to purchase warranty protection, consider the following factors:

  • Do you have savings to adequately cover a repair of potentially $2000 dollars?
  • Could you sell belongings to help cover the cost of an expensive repair quickly?
  • Could you apply for a loan in an emergency and know you would get approved? As more homeowners struggle to make payments, credit has become more difficult to obtain.
  • Could you refinance your home and use the excess for repairs?

What’s that smell?

Bad Smell!!Have you ever walked past a sewer pipe that smelled like rotten eggs? While there probably isn’t a rotting egg in the pipe, hydrogen sulfide could be present, which can be very corrosive for sewer lines. In addition to a rotten egg smell, high levels of hydrogen sulfide could also smell musty or swampy.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable and highly toxic gas known for its pungent rotten egg odor. Many might recall the scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when grandpa lights a cigar and drops the match by the storm sewer.

According to the United States Department of Labor, hydrogen sulfide is used or produced in a number of industries – such as oil and gas refining, mining, tanning, pulp and paper processing and rayon manufacturing. Additionally, it occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, well water and volcanoes, as well as oil and gas wells. Because of their density, low-lying and enclosed spaces are attractive to hydrogen sulfide, which makes confined spaces (such as pipes) very dangerous. Prolonged exposure to hydrogen sulfide poses dangerous health risks, even at low levels – ranging from headaches, eye irritation, loss of consciousness, and the inability to smell to death.

A simple chemical test can help determine the levels of hydrogen sulfide to which you are exposed and can be obtained at most home improvement stores, from a local plumber or the health department. If water lines contain excessive hydrogen sulfide, a homeowner has three options for rectifying the situation:

  • Find an alternative water supply, such as drilling a new well or contacting your local water authority.
  • Purchase bottled water to use for food preparation and drinking; however, this is not a cost-effective measure.
  • Remove the impurity. There are numerous treatment options available, which will be determined by the levels of chemical impurities in the water, the possibility of bacterial contamination and the volume of water.

The best advice is to let a professional handle any kind of chemical contamination because they have the tools, knowledge and experience to do the job properly

Can I trust a warranty company?

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When you receive a warranty protection offer, you might wonder if it’s right for you. Can you trust a warranty company since many have a bad reputation for high denials and limited coverage options?

The answer lies in research – with a little bit of know-how, you can evaluate any program offer and determine if it’s the right fit for you.

Review the company

  • How long has the company been in business and have they had multiple changes to their brand name?
  • Are they partnered with any notable companies or industry organizations?
  • Read customer reviews.
  • Review their Better Business Bureau profile for accreditation and complaints.
  • Have complaints been resolved in a timely manner and to the customer’s satisfaction?
  • Have they been recognized by the BBB or industry associations for their customer service or contributions to the industry?

Review the Terms and Conditions for each offer and note the following:

  • What are the warranty coverage inclusions and exclusions?
  • Are there hidden service fees or deductibles?
  • Are there coverage caps on the amount paid per repair or per year?
  • Are there coverage restrictions?

What are people saying online?
Google the company name with the word “Complaints” and see what appears. Also note the kind and number of complaints a company has had with the Better Business Bureau or the State Attorney General.

Contact Customer Service
Call the company’s customer service number with questions. Were your questions answered to your satisfaction? Did you have a long wait time before you spoke with a representative? Does their company website have a “frequently asked questions” section that addressed some of your questions? How well the customer service team responded to your questions is usually indicative as to the level of service provided to customers.

Are they accredited with the Better Business Bureau?
All companies are rated with the Better Business Bureau, but some companies choose to be accredited, meaning they abide by a code of ethics set forth by the Better Business Bureau and communicate with the organization regularly by responding to all inquiries and complaints in a timely fashion.

Once you’ve completed an evaluation of the company, only you as a homeowner can determine which warranty is most beneficial for you.

Sewer backups could lead to health problems

 

Ill man with a feverRaw sewage left untreated contains a variety of pathogens, chemicals and nutrients – many of which pose a serious health risk. Additionally, research shows billions of gallons of raw sewage flow into waterways every day, putting the health of millions of Americans at risk. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 3.5 million people fall ill from swimming in water contaminated by sewage overflows each year.

When sewage backs up into the home, the overflow leaves behind germs on the surfaces with which it’s been in contact. The degree of danger depends on how long the sewage was in contact with a surface, the type of materials contaminated by sewage and how long the occupant was exposed to the sewage. Left untreated, exposure to sewage could leave you with gastrointestinal (GI) distress, hepatitis, skin rashes or infections. In extreme cases, sewage can also contain rat urine, which could lead to Weil Disease – which can result in liver and kidney damage if not treated and can be fatal.

While sewage germs are rarely airborne, in an emergency it’s important to seal off any backups until a professional can rectify the situation. If you must handle raw sewage to clean, always use protection, including rubber gloves, eyewear, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. If available, a breathing apparatus is highly recommended.

If you discover a backup, remember:

  • Contact your warranty service provider and/or a local professional about the situation.
  • If there is standing water near electrical appliances or outlets, turn off the power to that location.
  • Do not flush toilets or drain sinks. If you must continue using sinks, plug the drain or use a bucket until the drains have been cleared.
  • Keep children and pets away from the sewage.
  • Wash your hands immediately after coming into contact with raw sewage and never touch it without gloved hands.
  • If your home has a septic system, contact the local health department for advice on how to properly dispose of the water/sewage.
  • Contact a professional to clean up large jobs to ensure you eliminate the possibility of health risks.

Do I need a water or sewer line warranty?

Newspaper Headlines

It’s not uncommon to have homeowners tell us they don’t need a water or sewer line warranty because their lines haven’t broken and will never break. While we’ve uncovered this is far from the truth – many homeowners are unsure if they need a water or sewer line warranty. When evaluating whether or not to purchase a water or sewer line warranty, homeowners must first understand the coverage details. Warranties are not the same as insurance. While insurance typically covers damage to personal property as a result of service line failures, disasters and extreme circumstances (such as fire, flood, etc.), warranties focus on normal wear and tear – such as aging, ground shifting and tree root intrusion. Problems due to normal wear and tear with the sewer and water lines located outside the home are usually not covered under traditional homeowner’s insurance policies and could be very costly to replace or repair.

When considering whether or not to invest in a water or sewer line warranty, consider the following:

Age of the home
It’s common knowledge as products age, the failure rate increases. While newer homes with PVC pipes may be at lower risk than a 50-year-old home with clay pipes, the age of your home can help determine your need. As homes age, so does the infrastructure supplying water to and removing waste from them.

Types of pipes and length of lines
Do you know of what materials the water and sewer lines inside and outside of your home are made? Some materials are more prone to problems and have shorter life expectancies than others. Knowing what the lines are made of can help determine the level of risk. In addition, the longer the line, the greater the risk of failure and the higher the cost to replace them.

Weather
Weather conditions can affect a pipe’s life expectancy and conditions as they swell with changes in temperature and ground shifting. If the area in which you live is prone to heavy rainfall, droughts or extreme temperature changes – your infrastructure could be at risk.

Plants
The closer your water and sewer lines are to the ground’s surface and  plants and trees, the greater the chance of roots permeating the pipes. It only takes a small pinhole for a root to begin to infiltrate the line, which may result in a leak, clog or break.

 Cost
What is the cost-benefit ratio? Should you pay a small monthly fee for the warranty or do you have enough in your emergency fund to pay for a repair that could cost from $1,300 to $3,500 or more?

Fine Print
Check out the Terms and Conditions of the warranty. Do they adequately cover your particular situation?

Company
Before buying any product, do your homework; research financial stability, outstanding consumer complaints, etc.

Time
One of the many benefits of participating in a maintenance or warranty program is the ability to make one call to solve the problem. If your service line breaks, consider the time invested in locating a qualified, local plumber and scheduling the visit, which may require taking time off from work and is disruptive to your daily routine.