Predicting the Future: Spotting Plumbing Issues Before They Become Major Problems

A key to preventing the major financial burden of a full-scale plumbing replacement is recognizing when there is a problem. Fortunately, our pipes often provide early warning signs that help identify a water or sewer line problem. Paying attention to those signs could save you thousands of dollars and the hassle of a large-scale repair. Here are three common signs of a plumbing problem and what they mean:

The pipes that are visible in your home have frost on the outside

Making sure that pipes inside of your home are properly insulated is key to preventing a leak. During cold weather months, visible frost on the outside of your interior pipes may provide a warning that your pipes are frozen, even before turning on a faucet. Pipes that are most susceptible to freezing are located on outside walls, under sinks that are on outside walls, and in unheated crawl spaces. If your pipes become frozen, you may try to turn up the heat in your home and wait or to thaw the pipes yourself; however, we recommend that you contact a local licensed plumber to do this for you to prevent a rupture. Using a local plumber also prevents accidents like the ones seen in Hamilton, Ontario, recently.

All of your drains are running very slowly or are not draining at all

When more than one drain in your home has started to work improperly, this is likely a sign there is a problem with the external line that connects to the street. There are many possible causes for a backup or blockage. Tree roots may have found their way into the line or a foreign object has blocked the line or, the worst-case scenario, your sewer line has broken completely and is no longer flowing as it should. No matter which of these issues is occurring, you should contact a plumber immediately. If it is something as simple as a root intrusion or a foreign object, the plumber may be able to remove them or complete a small spot repair before the problem gets worse. This could potentially save you the thousands of dollars it will cost to have the line replaced completely.

Higher-than-normal water bill

Most people use about the same amount of water every month. If you notice a sizable increase in your bill and you haven’t modified your usage – filling a pool or increasing your outdoor watering – this could signal you have a problem. One of the first things to do is examine all of your fixtures. Dripping faucets and leaking toilets can waste a lot of water over the period of a month. Though you can visibly see a faucet dripping, the leaking toilet may be a little harder to detect. Dye testing your toilet is an effective way of checking for leaks. Once you locate the source of your problem, you can address it directly and avoid any further increased water bills.

If all of your fixtures seem to be in good working order after the visual and dye testing, and there are no other visible signs of water leakage in your house, such as mold spots, water dripping down walls or between floors, or warped drywall/ceilings, then it is time to contact your water company. You may be experiencing a leak on your external water line. The water company will typically send someone out to test your line and verify if there is a leak.

Are you interested in learning how we can help you avoid costly expenses if these problems arise? Please visit www.slwofc.ca to find out more!

Don’t Burn the House Down!

It’s been a rough winter in Canada with frigid temperatures causing many water lines to freeze.

When water lines freeze, many homeowners think they can just fix the problem themselves, but as two Hamilton homeowners found out – it’s not that easy and you could potentially cause a lot of damage.

Just a few weeks ago, two homeowners set their houses on fire while trying to thaw frozen water pipes after the temperature dipped to minus 23 degrees Celsius. Thankfully no one was injured, but the blazes caused more than $160,000 in damages and left homeowners out in the cold seeking temporary shelter.

If you suspect you have frozen water pipes and have the Water Line Warranty or In-Home Plumbing and Drainage Protection with Service Line Warranties of Canada, contact our claims center immediately to file a claim.

If you do not have protection with Service Line Warranties of Canada and your situation doesn’t improve by allowing heat to access the pipes, contact a certified local plumber to perform a repair. Never, under any circumstances, use an open flame to attempt to thaw frozen pipes.

According to Dan Milovanovic, platoon chief for the City of Hamilton Fire Department in the Hamilton Spectator, using any sort of open flame to thaw frozen pipes is “incredibly risky” — but also not uncommon. “We see it from time to time … The message here is it’s not worth it,” he said.

Additionally, the use of space heaters isn’t advised to do the job. If you don’t want to hire a contractor, the Fire Department recommends attempting to use a hair dryer, small heater, hot water bottles or towels to slowly thaw the pipe, but this is also very risky. When the frozen water expands, you run the risk of cracking or breaking the pipe.

The best course of action is to prevent pipes from freezing by insulating walls or running a trickle of water through pipes during extremely cold weather.

If you currently do not have the Water Line Warranty or In-Home Plumbing and Drainage Protection, visit www.slwofc.ca to learn more.

Why are water costs rising?

iStock_000003907033MediumUS water sewer service provider

Rising water costs have been affecting homeowners across North America. According to a 2013 article on CBC News, “in June 2012, the average home used 192 cubic metres of water.” While that number is quite an improvement over the average usage in 2005, which was 256 cubic metres, that decrease has not translated to a reduced cost for the homeowner. Instead, average rates have increased by more than $150 annually.

Water rate increases are nothing new. Many utilities are finding the increases are necessary to make repairs to aging infrastructure, such as Halifax Water, who faced a $2.6 billion bill for upgrades to the outdated water and sewer system in 2013. Their proposed increase would bring the average water bill to $842.87 per year for homeowners.

As water rates continue to rise, protecting private infrastructure becomes more important each day. Repairing a break or leak may seem simple, but if left unattended, could cost you thousands of dollars in not only repair costs, but also lost water. With any kind of water leak, your money is just dripping away and contributing to the overall rise in rates.

Water rates are driven by a variety of factors such as:

  • Upgrades to aging water systems to ensure you are receiving safe drinking water
  • Increased operation costs, including staff, electric, chemical treatment, infrastructure upgrades and fuel
  • Government rules and regulations, including water protection systems
  • Unique geographic conditions and circumstances that could limit availability, such as drought, areas prone to natural disasters, etc.

With many areas experiencing record-breaking drought conditions, water conservation has become extremely important, dictating extensive infrastructure improvements to fix failing pipelines to protect this precious resource.

Ultimately, when repairs need to be made to infrastructure, the cost is passed down to the consumer by raising rates in an effort to ensure adequate infrastructure repairs and upgrades are not left undone, costing consumers more in the long run.

As far as protection from the high cost of rising water bills, homeowners who conserve water can decrease their water bill. (Check out our previous blog articles about water conservation in the home and yard.) However, water conservation provides only some protection. While consumption may drop, increases in the cost of production, supply and operations may still result in an increased cost for the consumer. Additionally, some water companies in drought-stricken areas in the United States have imposed additional fees on customers who use more than an identified amount of water per month. In California, fines have even been imposed on those wasting water.

As a homeowner, your infrastructure is subject to the same failure potential as that of municipal infrastructure. When private water and sewer lines fail, the repair cost could be thousands of dollars, depending on the length of the line, the location of the line and the problem – costs the homeowner would be responsible for. For many homeowners, it’s not “if these private lines fail” – it’s “when these private lines fail, how will I handle the repair?” Homeowners who want to be prepared have options. They can add funds for service line repairs to their rainy day fund, or they can choose to enroll in warranty programs such as those offered by Service Line Warranties of Canada. For more information about Service Line Warranties of Canada’s programs, visit www.slwofc.ca.

Myths Busted! Water and sewer lines never break

Repair water pipe

A common myth is that water and sewer lines never break. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind – because the service lines usually lie underground and buried beneath our homes, we don’t think about them. Yet, more than 850 water main breaks occur in North America every day according to www.watermainbreakclock.com!  It is only when the water or sewer line fails (clogs, leaks or breaks) that we give them any thought. Often the pipes or lines for which homeowners are responsible are generally believed to last for 40, 50 or even 60 years.  Many factors contribute to the useful lifetime of a homeowner’s water and sewer pipes or service lines, some of which include the material from which the lines are made, the weather and soil conditions.

What causes water and sewer lines to fail?
Root Intrusion
Do you often admire the saplings the former property owner planted some 40 years ago? The roots of those now full-grown trees stretch deep into the ground and could very well be permeating the small cracks in your service lines that are as old or older. The roots grow in the direction of the water source to thrive and, once a small opening in the service line is found, will begin to penetrate the line. Roots invading sewer lines could cause clogs and result in raw sewage seeping into the yard, not to mention an unpleasant odor and soil contamination.

Ground Shifting
As a result of ground movement or shifting, water and sewer line joints may become loosened or dislodged, often causing the pipes to crack, misalign or collapse. Once this happens, it becomes an easy entry point for clay and debris, which will eventually cause the line to clog.

Especially susceptible to shifting are the areas where earthquakes occurs. The shifts can be of such magnitude that damages to the public water and sewer lines could hamper the delivery of fresh, clean water to communities for several days.

Weather
We’ve experienced some extreme fluctuations in temperature, drought conditions and record amounts of rain and snowfall during the past few years. These extremes can cause water and sewer line corrosion and accelerated soil erosion, which affects the quality of the lines. A slight change of only a few degrees in air or water temperatures can cause significant stress on service lines. For example, water temperatures below 4 degrees can cause the pipes to become brittle and air temperatures at or below 0 degrees cause the ground above it to freeze, thereby increasing stress on the line.

The bottom line – water and sewer lines can and will break.

 

21st Century Television Discusses Service Line Warranty

Trump Video Screen ShotService Line Warranties of Canada’s parent company, Utility Service Partners, Inc. (USP), was delighted to be featured August 17 on Bloomberg Television (as paid programming) when USP Chief Executive Officer Philip E. Riley, Jr. discussed the Service Line Warranty Program available in the United States and Canada with special guest host Donald Trump, Jr.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to discuss the importance of protecting homeowner infrastructure and providing an affordable solution for protection,” said Riley. “Every day water and sewer lines are failing and we can help.”

Water and sewer lines are part of an aging infrastructure issue that is being addressed in many cities. Private lines, subjected to the same elements that cause public lines to fail, are the responsibility of homeowners. While cities and utilities are repairing and replacing the water and sewer lines that comprise the public infrastructure, costs for maintenance of the lines on a homeowner’s property come out of the homeowner’s pocket. USP works with cities to offer homeowners affordable utility line repair protection that covers the high cost of line repair and replacement while also protecting the environment.Homeowners will recognize the program under the brand name, Service Line Warranties of Canada, USP’s consumer division.

As 21st Century Television Vice President of Programming J.L. Haber expresses, “For cities, critical utility systems can end up being a major expense. When we heard about how Utility Service Partners works to provide low cost warranties to cover repairs to these utility lines when something goes wrong, we had to get them on the show to spread the information.”

Those interested in learning more about how Utility Service Partners helps cities and homeowners can watch the entire interview online.

About 21st Century Television – 21st Century Television is an award-winning business and health program that is independently produced by MMP (USA), Inc. The show provides its viewers an in-depth opportunity to find solutions to industry problems from some of the top business leaders from across the world. With more than 5,000 companies participating on more than 500 shows, 21st Century Television continues to be the premier and targeted outlet for the latest business and health stories. 21st Century Television airs on cable networks available to more than 100 million television households.

 

About Utility Service Partners – Founded in 2003, Utility Service Partners, Inc. strives to be the leading provider of solutions to North American municipal and utility clients by delivering quality programs that bring value to both the client and their residents. Operating under the consumer brand Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), USP and SLWA are committed to addressing aging infrastructure across the nation through public-private partnerships.

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  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 Environment Canada standards for chemical disposal here.