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 people at risk.

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.

Don’t send your money down the drain: Water conservation tips for the yard

iStock_000001738485XSmall MS muncipal benefits

Many people are familiar with water conservation efforts for the home. Did you know there are effective ways to conserve water in your yard and garden as well?

  • Planting a new lawn, tree or shrubs this summer? Consider drought-resistant plants, which require far less watering. The following sites offer great suggestions:
    Garden Guides, HouseLogic, Houzz, and Lifehacker.
  • Group plants together according to their watering needs and the slope descent of your yard, which will help retain water and reduce runoff.
  • Collect rain water in barrels to water your plants.
  • Don’t forget the mulch! Mulch slows evaporation and helps retain moisture while preventing weed growth.
  • Position sprinklers so the water lands in the lawn or garden – not on the sidewalk or road.
  • Only water when necessary. Step on the grass – if it springs up, you don’t need to water, but if it stays flat, the grass is thirsty.
  • Letting grass grow to three inches or taller promotes water retention in the soil.
  • Know how much water you need. Most lawns require a deep soak. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn when watering; when water reaches the top of the can, the lawn has been adequately watered.
  • Water early in the morning or later in the day to prevent fungus and to keep insects like slugs and other garden pests at bay.
  • Use a bucket of soapy water to wash your car and only rinse with the hose. This can save up to 150 gallons of water!
  • Don’t forget to check your outdoor hoses, pipes and faucets for leaks – just like inside.

For more information on water conservation, check out Environment Canada and Canadian Living.

Call before you dig

Shovel in Dirt

Have you ever started to shovel in your yard and hit something hard? While you might think it’s just a rock or clay – it could be your water, sewer or gas line and accidentally puncturing it could be costly and potentially dangerous. While most utility and service lines are buried several feet beneath the ground’s surface, some areas have very shallow lines, which increase the chances of hitting a utility line located on your property. According to “The Top 5 Home Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself,” homeowners often get into trouble when they attempt to modify a plumbing system, like rerouting, repairing or replacing sewer pipes. Should a homeowner choose to repair or replace a utility line, a utility line location service is available to help determine the location of the lines.

Programs like Click Before You Dig provide homeowners a utility line location service. The service will provide a locator who will help a homeowner locate the utility lines on their property to keep them from inadvertently hitting an underground line while digging. Even repairing a failed water or sewer line caused by root infiltration could disrupt service to neighbors if a homeowner is unaware that the underground lines on their property are connected to a shared line, which could result in a hefty repair bill and city-imposed fines.

Homeowners can have the utility lines on their property marked for reference – what a great idea! Knowing where the water and sewer lines outside the home are located will enable homeowners to monitor ground conditions for potential leaks or breaks via soft spots, pooling water or foul odors.

Calling programs like Click Before You Dig is simple from anywhere in the country. The number routes the call to a local call center that works with your local utility companies. Simply tell the agent your address and describe the intended project. Within a few days a locator will mark the approximate position of the pipes, lines and cables at your residence so digging can be done safely or noted for future reference.

 

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.

 

 

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 Canada 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.

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.

Don’t let the spring thaw wash away homeowner budgets

hand-squeezing-dollar-mainThe winter season has been exceptionally hard on homeowners this year as we faced heavy rains, extreme cold, drastic temperature changes and record-breaking snowfalls. As a result, our water and sewer lines were subject to hazardous conditions that could drastically affect their life expectancy.

Homeowners around the nation have felt the pain of what these extreme weather conditions have done to our infrastructure. In the United States, the state of Georgia saw record-breaking cold weather rupture water, gas and sewer pipes around the state in early January. Crews worked around the clock to service customers who were left without functional water, sewer or heat. In the northern states, several storms dumped foot after foot of snow, closing schools and causing flooding problems.

As we look towards spring and the ground thaws, for most homeowners, danger is still present. Heavy rains and ground shifts can damage pipes on your property. In addition, long periods of drought can also be problematic for infrastructure because of the hard ground. Protect yourself by knowing how to identify a problem before it becomes a catastrophe.