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.

What You Need to Know to Hire the Best Plumber

Hesitant 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.

plumbing

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.

No Drano®? 5 Easy Ways to Unclog a Drain Naturally

There’s never a convenient time for your drains to clog. When it happens, you want to fix it immediately.

drain

And of course, when you look under the sink, you realize that there’s no Drano® to be found. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to naturally unclog drains, many of which require things you likely already have in the house. Plus, harsh chemicals in Drano® and other store-bought products may potentially damage your pipes.

Here are five natural methods to unclog a drain:

  1. Dish soap + hot water
    This remedy is especially effective for kitchen drains clogged by grease. Pour a solid amount of dish soap down the drain, and then top it off with a pot or kettle of boiling water. Greener Ideal recommends doing this at least once a week even when there isn’t a clog to prevent future greasy blockages.
  1. Salt + hot water
    Start by pouring half a cup of salt down the clogged drain. Flush with two liters of boiling water, followed by running hot tap water. Keep repeating the process until the water drains properly again. This remedy works best for clogged kitchen and bathroom drains.
  1. Baking soda + white vinegar + hot water
    According to Whole Living, this is the recipe for chemical-free success. Start by boiling 3 to 4 cups of water. Pour 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar into the clogged drain, and then follow up with the hot water. You should see the mixture bubble, pushing its way down the drain to clear the blockage.
  1. Hydrogen peroxide + baking soda
    Measure a cup of hydrogen peroxide and a tablespoon of baking soda, and then mix the two ingredients together. Pour the mixture down the drain, and wait for it to foam, which indicates that it’s breaking up the clog.
  1. Plunger + plumbing snake
    Stubborn clogs may require the proper tools to tackle. Start with the plunger, filling it with water and then placing it over the drain. Plunge rapidly for about 30 seconds, and then watch to see how the water drains. If it starts flowing down properly again, you’re good to go. If it’s still draining slowly, use a plumbing snake to dislodge the clog.

If the clog persists, there may be a more serious issue with your plumbing or sewer line system that’s beyond the realm of these remedies. We suggest you schedule an appointment with a licensed, professional plumber.

Being prepared for home repairs 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 signs of potential plumbing pipe problems

Pipe Problems

When you can’t see your plumbing pipes, it’s hard to tell when they’re performing properly. However, your plumbing system will express symptoms of disarray to grab your attention when pipe repair is in order.

Look out for these five plumbing warning signs:

  1. Spikes in your water bill

If you receive an unusually high water bill, plumbing pipe issues could be the reason. You can wait until next month to see if the spike persists, but if your system shows other signs of turmoil in addition to the hefty bill, have a professional plumber inspect your plumbing pipes.

  1. Unpleasant odors or sounds

If there is an unfortunate sewage smell – similar to that of rotten eggs – coming from your drains, it could mean there is a damaged vent or sewer pipe. Your pipes may also try to “talk” to you. According to Realtor.com, an example of this is if you hear strange gurgling or clunking sounds when you use the toilet or run machines, such as the dishwasher and laundry units. If you do hear these noises, turn off the water supply immediately to avoid a system backup. Alternatively, you may hear liquid running through the pipes even when no one is using the water, which can be a sign of a system leak.

  1. Frequent fluctuations in water pressure

When your faucets suddenly produce a weak stream of water, remove the aerator and clear away gunk or buildup. If that doesn’t restore the normal water pressure, it could be a sign that there’s a clog, leak, broken pipe or eroded water line in your system. These complicated plumbing problems require the expert skills of a licensed professional to repair.

  1. Poor water quality

Noticeable changes in water quality, such as murky discoloration or dirty taste, can signify corroded or contaminated pipes. Try running the faucet for a few minutes, but if that doesn’t flush out the discoloration, refrain from drinking the water, and call a professional plumber.

  1. Leaks or wet spots

Water accumulation under sinks or on the ceilings, walls and floors is a clear indication of a leak. Keep in mind that wet spots along the floor or bottom of the walls are often plumbing leaks, rather than roof leaks. Recurring leaks and rust are also signs of unrest in your plumbing system.

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.

Signs of drainage problems and how to fix them

If you notice a sudden pooling of water in your garden – and a waterfall coming from the gutters – it could be a sign of a drainage problem. The key is to catch it before it becomes a major foundational issue.

Here’s how to find and fix some common drainage issues:

The problem: Overflowing gutters

The solution: Clear out debris blocking the water flow. Many times, the blockage is due to fallen leaves  and can be remedied with an easy DIY gutter cleaning. If that’s not the case, the problem may be due to undersized gutter or improperly pitched gutters. This may require a professional fix — like replacing and/or reinstalling the gutters.

The problem: Water stains in the basement

The solution: Discoloration on foundational walls is usually due to surface water from an overflowing gutter, which you can remedy by following the steps outlined above. If the stain extends around the perimeter of the basement, it may be a sign of a fluctuating water table. An interior drain system and sump pump can help. Check out these tips for drying out your basement.

The problem: Mildew in the attic

The solution: Bathroom fans sending hot air up to the attic or rising moisture from the basement or crawl space can cause mildew in the attic. You can fix this mildew issue with proper ventilation. Start by relocating the bathroom fans to vent through outside walls or the roof. If that solution doesn’t work, find the source of dampness from the basement. Work quickly; if you wait too long to find the source of moisture, it can cause enough damage to need roof sheathing and shingle replacement.

The problem: Pooling water on the front walkway

The solution: Sidewalks typically act as dams, which is why the water pools around them. To avoid water retention, remove a portion of the sidewalk, and replace it with stepping stones that allow water to flow through easily. Another option is installing a catch basin, which is a surface drain that can hold the water.

The problem: Downspout issues

The solution: If your downspouts dump out too much water, it can put dangerous pressure on the foundation of your home or even allow the water to seep into the basement. Add gutter extensions so the water falls farther away from the house, and align the downspouts for water to hit optimal areas of the yard.

The problem: Wet spots on the lawn

The solution: To prevent these soggy patches, install a rain garden or French drain system. These options allow water to flow through engineered soil or gravel instead of pooling in the natural soil and grass. Other alternatives include creating a small pond or building a dry well as effective holding tanks for the water.

The problem: Cracks in the foundation

The solution: If you notice cracks, take note of their width. Some cracks are normal as the house settles. However, if they grow to be wider than one inch, it could be a sign of a drainage problem. You can try patching cracks with hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk, but if they continue widening, you’ll need to call a structural engineer to assess the damage.

The problem: Multiple clogged or sluggish drains inside

The solution: Follow these drain repair tips to unclog the blockage. If that’s not working, or if you begin to smell stagnant sewer smells from the drains, call a plumbing professional to check out your system.

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 or replacements.

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.