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.

 

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.

 

Common dishwasher problems and how to fix them

DishwasherProblems

When’s the last time you thought to clean your dishwasher? It may seem counterintuitive to clean an appliance that does nothing but wash and disinfect dishes all day, but regular cleaning is important for maintaining all of your appliances.

Here’s how to tackle common dishwasher problems:

Dishes come out dirty

If your dishwasher isn’t cleaning properly, it might be a simple issue that you can easily repair yourself. For starters, avoid overloading the dishwasher, as doing so can prevent it from cleaning properly. In addition, many times dirty dishes are the result of dirty spray arms. Clean clogs from detergent or mineral buildup, and remove small items that may be restricting spray arm movement. Inspect for the same buildup on the strainer screen or door gaskets. Finally, run a cleaning cycle without dishes.

If you still notice water spots or white residue on your dishes even after cleaning and inspecting your dishwasher, use a water softener or specialized detergent with rinse aid.

Dishwasher smells bad

Trapped food and grease can cause your dishwasher to smell even after a cleaning cycle. This problem has an easy DIY repair: Simply clean the filter, strainer screen and sprayer arms to get rid of the old and wet food. (It can be a dirty job, so consider wearing rubber gloves.) Run a cycle without dishes, using a dishwasher cleaner or disinfectant. To avoid future issues, pre-rinse your dishes to remove grease and large food particles before putting them in the dishwasher.

Dishes won’t dry

If your dishwasher isn’t drying properly, it’s likely an issue with the heating element. The easiest fix is using a liquid rinse aid in each cycle. If that doesn’t work, use a multimeter to check the high-limit thermostat, usually at the bottom of the dishwasher tub. If it’s malfunctioning, it can cause the heater to turn off before your dishes are fully dry. If this is the case, you’ll need to call in a professional to install a new heating element.

Dishwasher is cracked

If you find a crack on the inside of your dishwasher, your unit is likely at the end of its life. Cracks leave the mechanical parts vulnerable to water and soap, which can be a serious safety hazard. Unfortunately, there aren’t any DIY solutions to repair this issue. You’ll need to replace the dishwasher.

Dishwasher is old

Once your dishwasher reaches a certain age, repeat repairs and poor performance will eventually cost more than purchasing a new one. According to Sears, seven years is usually the cut off. At that point, it’s a better decision to invest in a new dishwasher, especially if the repairs will cost at least half of the unit’s original price. If you decide it’s time to replace, consider an energy-saving model. Energy efficient appliances are better for the environment and can help lower your monthly bills.

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

Tips to keep drain odors away

water-kitchen-black-design.jpgThere’s no question: household drains do a lot of dirty work in your home. They flush away cooking scraps you put in the garbage disposal, they move water away from your foundation, and handle everything your laundry room and bathroom can spout at them. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to keep odors at bay.

Check your pipes for obstructions – If your drain pipes are stopped up with food and other debris, they may smell bad. This is because the clogged matter begins to decay in the pipe while it stays lodged somewhere along the plumbing. A plunger or plumbing snake can help resolve the clog.

Kitchen drains are not the only ones prone to nasty odors—bathroom drains can smell, too. These odors are most often caused when hair gets washed down and trapped in your pipes, which slows draining and subsequently allows odors to take hold. You can get shower and bathtub strainers at any home improvement, hardware, or plumbing supply store—these work pretty well in keeping hair and other debris out of your bathroom plumbing.

Schedule routine maintenance – As mentioned above, it is natural for a drain pipe to smell bad. But merely resolving the issue once won’t keep the stench away forever. Once a week (make it a regular part of your weekly cleaning schedule), pour boiling hot water down your drains. For a long-term solution, make sure to have a professional check your pipes on a regular basis to ensure that they perform their duties at optimum effectiveness, and keep nasty debris from accumulating and stinking up your plumbing.

Pick your style of deodorizing – Every household seems to have its own remedy for stinky drains and many of them are quite effective. Some use the simple method of dousing drains with white vinegar, boiling water, or essential oils with boiling water, while others favor a mix of soap or baking soda with lime, or even ice and rock salt. You can truly take your pick.

One of the most effective solutions we’ve found makes use of vinegar and lime. Here are a couple tips on how to use this method to clean your drains:

  • Fill an ice tray halfway with vinegar, then drop a wedge of lime in the center of each cube. Once frozen, dump these vinegar-lime ice cubes into your garbage disposal system to clean your unit’s blades and the drain pipes while replacing foul odors with a citrus-fresh scent.
  • If your sink doesn’t have a disposal system, you can mix vinegar and lime juice together and pour down the drain to flush the bad smells out of your pipes. Be sure to rinse afterwards with hot water.

Use a drain screen – If you do not use an in-sink garbage disposal system, you should consider using a screen over the sink drain and other drain holes. This will prevent any solid matter from entering your drain pipes, keeping it free of gunk and grime.

Go easy on your drains – Be mindful of what you dispose of in your drains. Do not pour grease, chemicals, paints, or adhesives down the sink. Try not to dispose of food in the sink that could get clogged in the pipes. Remember, any decaying matter in your plumbing line may cause your drains to smell bad. Often times a dishwasher can be a culprit – if your dishwasher isn’t draining please read this!

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

 

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.

Average Cost of a Service Line Repair or Replacement

iStock_000000798259Large - BackhoeAs a property owner, you are responsible for maintenance of the water and sewer lines that run from the exterior of your home to the public utility connection. Should a line for which you are responsible break, spring a leak or clog, the repair can cost an average of $2,600 or more. If a sewer line breaks under the street before the tap (which is still the homeowner’s responsibility), the repair could be $10,000 or more. That’s an out-of-pocket expense that is both unanticipated and can wreak havoc on a family budget.  Usually repairs to the service lines on your property are not covered by a homeowner’s policy and the city in which you live is only responsible for public service lines. 

As a homeowner, you are responsible for the portion of line beneath your property that runs from the main connection to your home and like most repairs – if this line breaks it can be a very expensive repair. But just how expensive?

While actual costs may vary, HomeAdvisor.com shows that the national repair average of a sewer line repair is approximately $2,600 and approximately $1,030 for a water main. Keep in mind these are national averages for repairs and a variety of factors contribute to these costs such as the length of the line, depth and location of the problem.

Let’s take a look at what kind of factors contribute to a line replacement.

  • Problem Identified – Maybe you smelled raw sewage or noticed extreme damp spots in your lawn. The bottom line – you know there’s a problem and now you need a plumber.
  • Locating a Plumber – If you’ve never had the need for a plumber before and aren’t currently enrolled with a repair service, the process begins with combing through local plumbers to find an affordable and trustworthy plumber in the area. Your research might include whether they are licensed to do business in your area, whether they are knowledgeable to obtain permits to dig and verifying their accreditation status with the Better Business Bureau.”
  • Evaluation – Once you locate a plumber (or two), you’ll need to assess the situation. The plumber will come out and inspect the line and determine the problem. They’ll likely give you a quote and you may want to get a second opinion depending on the cost.
  • Factors Affecting the Cost –  There are a number of factors that contribute to the cost of a repair – such as the length of the line, location of the problem, and general plumber fees. Much like going to a mechanic or lawyer, you will have to pay people for their time and depending on how long the repair takes, the costs could add up quickly. The type of pipe you have may also affect the cost. It’s possible in some older homes you are using outdated pipe that is difficult to repair, resulting in a replacement need. The location of the problem can also cause headaches during a repair. It could be in a difficult-to-reach location, buried deeply under the earth or possibly the result of root intrusion from poorly placed landscaping.
  • After-the-fact Costs – Once the repair is made, it may not be the end of costs. If you had an unknown water leak you could be responsible for a hefty water bill if the leak went unnoticed for quite some time. Additionally, if the leak was significant enough, there may be landscape damage needing to be repaired. 

Replacing lines often requires digging, which involves a long, deep trench or trenches to remove the old pipes and install new ones at a cost of approximately $50-$250 or more per foot, depending on the length of the line, depth of the pipes, ease of access, local rates and code and permitting requirements. An average sewer replacement from the house to the public sewer system can cost upwards of $3,000; however, if the repair is complicated or the pipe is in the street it could be upwards of $7,000 to as much as $25,000 or more. CostHelper readers report paying $4,500-$13,000, or $50-$100 for per foot traditional replacement of 50′-100′ of sewer line, for an average cost of $7,493, or $106 per foot.

However, not all repairs require digging. Many plumbers offer trenchless sewer replacement, which uses a machine to push the old pipe out while installing a new pipe at the same time. Though less invasive on your yard, the cost can still run between $60 and $200 per foot, or an average of $3,500 to $20,00 per household. CostHelper readers paid an average of $232 per foot.

The bottom line – a water or sewer line replacement isn’t as simple as one phone call to a plumber on your own. There’s research, quotes, phone calls and hassles, which could be eliminated with warranty repair services.

 

 

Myth Busted: I Can Pour Anything Down the Drain

iStock_000007110284XSmall US marketplace benefitsDrains are found in sinks, showers, garbage disposal, toilets and stationary tubs. What most frequently goes into your drain? The correct answer is water. Water leaves your home via the sewer or waste water line and fresh, clean water is supplied to your home via the water line. What many people don’t realize is that, besides water, what goes into your drain impacts the condition of your service lines.

Before pouring hot bacon grease down the drain, you might want to think twice. As grease cools it begins to solidify, which will accumulate along drain walls and start to trap food, hair and debris. Eventually, flow will be impacted because the lines become clogged.

Things you should not pour into a drain, grind in a garbage disposal or flush down the commode include:

  • Solid foods such as fruit rinds or peels, cereal, etc.
  • Paper products such as paper towels, disposable diapers and feminine products
  • Hair (human or otherwise) or lint
  • Dirt
  • Cigarette butts
  • Medications
  • Chemicals such as antifreeze; insecticides; pesticides; cleaners and solvents; fertilizers; paint; batteries and more

Cooking oil, grease or greasy foods can be frozen or mixed with cat litter or coffee grounds in an empty can and put in the trash. Certain household chemicals can contaminate septic tanks and wastewater treatment systems, as well as harm sanitation workers if poured down drains or commodes. All medications should follow proper Federal Drug Administration disposal requirements, which can be found here. Many communities have “take back” programs that enable residents to drop off unused medication and special collection days for chemicals to ensure their proper disposal. Learn about the Environmental Protection Agency standards for chemical disposal here.

Do I Have a Water Leak?

iStock_000006953014XSmall WP PlumbingWater leaks are often difficult to detect. Even a small crack could leak thousands of gallons of water over time – potentially costing the homeowner thousands in repair costs and high water bills. With a little detective work a homeowner can determine if there is a problem and be prepared to inform the plumber about the issues. How can you detect a water leak?

Symptoms of a Leak

  • An inexplicable rumbling or gurgling sound (usually heard at night when it’s most quiet)
  • Water is bubbling up or pooling in your yard or in the street bordering your property
  • Poor or low water pressure
  • A commode that continues to run even though it hasn’t been used
  • Water bill has increased substantially and your household has not used more water than usual
  • Starting to see cracks in your home’s foundation or concrete / pavement in the basement floor
  • A foul odor near water drains or sewer line
  • Walls or floors feel moist or are discolored where no water has spilled

Is the Leak Inside or Outside my Home?

The best way to determine if the leak is inside or outside your home is through the water meter, which the public utility reads every month to prepare your water bill. Most water meters in single-family dwellings are located in the front yard. If you lift the meter face, you will find a dial, much like a car’s odometer. The numbers on the dial provide the water reading, which is measured in units of “thousands of gallons.”

Before checking the meter, turn off all water-consuming appliances inside and outside. Wait a few minutes and if the numbers on the meter dial are turning, water is flowing. Next, find the turn-on valve usually attached to the spigot in the front yard. Turn the valve counterclockwise. If the numbers on the dial continue moving, there is probably a leak in the front yard between the house and meter. If you have a Service Line Warranties of America water line warranty and believe the leak to be in the yard, please call us to report the leak.

Ignoring a leak could result in a breeding ground for mold, which can have an impact on your family’s health. An undetected leak could cause property damage and will increase your water bill costs. A slow drip leak can increase water usage by as much as 5,000 extra gallons a month and a steady, slow stream by as much as 21,000.