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Where Does your Responsibility End, and the Local Water Authority’s Begin?  Your Plumber Must Determine

Maintenance of your sewer main is shared by you and your local water authority.  If a back up occurs on your part of the sewer main, or “on-property,” it is your responsibility to fix it and to pay for it.  If it happens on your local water authority’s part of the system, or “off-property,” it is their responsibility to fix it and to pay for it.

It is up to the homeowner’s plumber to make the determination on whose part of the sewer main the back up is located, and to let the local water authority know if there is a problem with their part of the sewer system.  So it is important to make sure you hire a plumber who specializes in diagnosing sewer back ups.

How Can You Tell if Your Back Up is “On-Property” or “Off-Property?”

The place where your responsibility ends and the local water authority’s begins is in your lateral sewer main.  The lateral is the sewer main that runs from your house and connects to the local water authority’s sewer main.  Every home on your block has a lateral sewer main that connects to the sewer main of the local water authority, which is also called a sewer main, so differentiating between the two in conversation can be confusing.

So at what spot in your lateral sewer main does your responsibility ends and the local authority’s responsibility begin?  It is different in every home, and it is up to your plumber to determine whose portion of the lateral main the back up resides on, yours or the local water authority’s.  That is why it is important to choose a plumber who specializes in diagnosing sewer back ups.

A Sewer Back Up is an Expensive Problem, Unless it is Not Your Problem…

Your plumber should be able to tell you which main is affected, your lateral main or the local authority’s sewer main.  And if the back up is in the lateral main, your plumber needs to be able to tell you if the back up is in the “on-property” portion of the lateral, or in the “off-property” portion.  Your local water authority relies on the plumbers hired by homeowners to let them know when there are off-property back ups so they can send the proper teams out to correct the problems.

Camera and Diagnostic Equipment are Critical to Determine where the Back Up is Located

Luckily Anthony’s plumbers have cameras to make the job of diagnosing and repairing sewer back ups easier.  If your plumber finds that your back up is off-property, they will be able to take pictures to prove where the blockage is.  These cameras also have receivers and digital location systems which identify the location and depth of pipes.

In some cases it may cost extra for a plumber to use this diagnostic equipment, but it is well worth the money for homeowners if it can determine that back ups are off-property.  Cameras allow plumbers to make better and faster repairs to your pipes which can also save you money in labor.  They can quickly tell you where the blockage is, and determine if there are sewer pipe repairs are needed as well, and where, to minimize digging.

The Benefits of Opening vs. Cleaning

There is a difference between opening a sewer main to temporarily resolve a back up, and cleaning a sewer main completely, especially in price.  Many plumbers will advise homeowners to opt for opening a pipe, which involves punching a hole in the back up with a snake, leaving only a partial opening, rather than completely cleaning the pipe.  It is much easier and more affordable to open a pipe than clean it out completely, and homeowners appreciate the cost savings.  To avoid the need for repeated drain openings and to provide a more permanent fix, a sewer main needs to be thoroughly cleaned, not just opened.

When Your Plumber Fixes Off-Property Back Ups, They Need to Tell the Local Water Authority

If your plumber determines that your back up is “off-property,” they will still fix the back up for you and have the local water authority reimburse you for the work.  Even if your plumber is able to correct a back up that is off-property, the local water authority still wants to be informed by your plumber so they can keep an eye on it and make further repairs if necessary.  A sewer main back up can cause devastating damage to multiple homeowners if left unchecked, even so as to require a house to be condemned if waste backs up and ruins electrical and HVAC equipment.  Water levels can rise quickly during a sewer main break, before there is time to intercede.  So the role of the plumber in diagnosing and reporting sewer main problems is a critical one.

How Do I Know if My Back Up is in the Sewer Main Lateral or Just the Floor Drain?

Sewer main back ups require much heavier snakes to open your 3 to 4 inch lateral than snakes that can negotiate a 2 inch branch line to your floor drain, so it is important to know where your back up resides, so you can call the right plumber.  The easiest test is to check to see if toilet paper or human waste is present in the standing water.  If no waste is present, have a spotter watch the floor drain while you run cold water into a bathtub somewhere else in the house for several minutes.  If the spotter never sees any water rise, then the back up is in the floor drain.  If water does rise, then the back up is in the sewer main lateral or local authority’s sewer main.  Sometimes sewer main back ups can cause water to back up in your toilet or bathtub instead of your floor drain, even though the floor drain is lower.

How Do You Clear a Back Up in the Lateral Sewer Main?

You can never clear a lateral sewer main back up through the floor drain, so if the plumber you call attempts to do so you have not chosen the right plumber.  Lateral back ups can only be cleared through your home’s main inside clean out which is located on the lower level and capped by a screw on plug.  Occasionally homeowners make the mistake covering up access to clean outs during remodeling; if that is the case, laterals back ups must be cleared by removing a toilet and snaking from there.  If worst comes to worst a lateral back up can also be cleared from the stack which extends above the roof where the sewer gases escape, but the cost of hoisting equipment to the roof can be great.

Choose Wisely, and Seek Professional Advice

Sewer back ups put your life on hold, but don’t get in a hurry and hire the first plumber available or the cheapest one you can find.  Be patient and qualify plumbers carefully; you will save a lot of money and time and aggravation.  Call us at A-N-T-H-O-N-Y (268-4669) KS or MO and we will help you through this process.  For more information on fixing and preventing different drain issues, click here to read our blog on “Easing Drain Pain.

 

frozen pipe burstingPipes freezing and bursting during the winter is a fairly common occurrence.

Most of the time if there’s no water in your home after a deep freeze, it’s due to a frozen pipe. But when a water pipe breaks inside a home it can be devastating, especially if the pipe bursts in an upper story and causes a waterfall to form all the way down to the basement.

No house is exempt from the risk of frozen and bursting water pipes, but fortunately there are things you can do to prevent them.

Preparation is Key to Preventing Pipes from Bursting

“Preparation is key,” says Steve Burbridge, at Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling. “Learn the location of your main water shutoff valve in case a pipe breaks.”

A plumbing safety inspection  is a good way to identify, and protect against, potential pipe freezing points. Have a highly-trained plumber come out and give your plumbing a fitness check.  They will also check for potential leaks and other looming problems while they are at your home, such as pipe-damaging hard water and carbon monoxide leaks from your water heater vent.

It is important to know the hours your plumber is available, especially if they work evenings.  If yours does not, find one that does, in case your pipes burst at night when air temperatures are at their coldest.  Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has plumbers in the field until midnight every night, and have experts to assist homeowners over the phone 24 hours a day.

Protecting Garage Pipes from Freezing

Water pipes in rooms that are not heated are especially vulnerable to freezing and bursting.  Because most garages are not heated, water pipes running through the garage are vulnerable to freezing and bursting this time of year.  Keeping your garage door closed is one way to keep out the cold.  Placing a UL-listed electric space heater near pipes will also keep them from freezing.

An Auto-Ray infrared garage heater, installed by Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, is the ideal way to protect the pipes from freezing and bursting in your garage, and in the rooms next to your garage.  And, ice and snow brought in on the car the night before will be GONE the next morning and the floor will be dry! The Auto-Ray infrared garage heater heats a 2-3 car garage using inexpensive natural gas for about $10 a month.  And no more getting into a cold car!

Prevent Your Kitchen Sink from Freezing

It’s not unusual for plumbing running to a kitchen sink on an exterior wall to be extremely vulnerable. Open the cabinet doors along that wall to allow heat into the space. Place an electric heater in front of the cabinets for an extra measure of cold protection, or leave the faucet dripping water if extremely cold and windy outside.

Place A Space Heater in Any Non-Heated Rooms

Keep unprotected pipes above freezing by simply placing a UL-listed electric heater near them. Remember, the goal is not to make the space toasty warm and comfortable. It’s to keep the water in the pipe above freezing.

Drip a Faucet Furthest from Your Water Main Valve

Turning on a faucet furthest from your water main valve overnight keeps water running through your pipes while you sleep, and running water is less likely to freeze.

Make Sure the Hoses are Removed from Your Outdoor Faucets

Leaving the hose on your outdoor faucet during the winter can cause water from the hose to back up into the faucet plumbing.  This water will expand inside and split the piping during freezing weather.  Remove and drain hoses used outside, and store them away until spring.

A newer innovation is the one quarter turn valve frost-free faucet, which allow for hoses to be left on all year round.  Not sure if you have a one quarter turn valve frost-free faucet installed? If you’re not sure if your faucet is frost free, call a plumbing expert to make that determination.

Turn Off the Water Main Valve

In the most frigid temps, turn off the main water valve while the house is unoccupied or while you sleep. If a pipe freezes and breaks, the spillage is limited only to the water in the pipe.  Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling can install an electric main water shut off valve that you can activate with your smart phone.

Prevent Pipes from Bursting while Away Long Periods of Time

When you are away from home for extended periods of time, cold temperatures inside your home during power outages are a real concern.  The best way to be notified of a power outage is to equip your home with smart home automation technology that will 1) alert you when your power is out or the temperature drops inside your home, 2) notify you if a pipe does break, and 3) allow you to shut off the main valve remotely from any location.

But even without smart home automation technology you can still take steps to prevent frozen and burst pipes while you are away for the winter.

How to Winterize Your Plumbing While You Are Away

If you plan to be away from your home during the winter months, you need to take steps to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting while you are away.  It is best to call a highly-trained plumber to assist you in these steps, especially if it is your first time taking them.  Considering the massive damage a broken pipe can cause, it’s worth it to take a little extra precaution.

  1. Invest in smart home automation technology systems like Anthony MyHome
  2. Turn off the main water service valve.
  3. Turn off the gas valve on the water heater, or if you have an electric water heater, turn off the breaker that supplies power to it.
  4. Open all indoor faucets, both hot and cold sides. This includes sinks, lavatories, showers, and bathtubs. Unhook the washing machine hoses and open these two valves. NOTE: If you have water filters or a water softener, these will also need to be drained.
  5. Flush all toilets to drain most of the water out of the tanks. Pour some propylene glycol (antifreeze — not ethylene glycol which is toxic and used in cars) in the tanks to mix with the remaining water and pour one pint of non-diluted antifreeze into each toilet bowl.
  6. Pour propylene glycol into each drain trap in the home. These include sinks, lavatories, tubs, showers, and the washing machine discharge pipe.
  7. If you have a sump pump, have a battery back-up sump pump which will activate, even if there is no power.

What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze, but Don’t Burst

If your pipes won’t deliver water and you suspect they might be frozen, take these steps immediately:

  1. Try all the faucets – is there only one or two that are frozen?
  2. Shut off your main water, to prevent further damage.
  3. Thaw the frozen pipes – use gentle heat from a hair dryer.
  4. Carefully restore water; once the pipe is thawed turn your main water valve back on and SLOWLY turn your faucet back on.

What to Do if Your Pipes Burst

If the worst happens and your pipes burst, turn off your water main and call a highly-trained plumber immediately.  Plumbers at Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling are in the field until midnight every night, and we have experts answering the phones 24/7 that can help you.  Call us at A-N-T-H-O-N-Y, KS (913) or MO (816), 913-268-4669 or 816-268-4669.

 

 

Here at Anthony Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling, we take great pride in our plumbing knowledge. We believe that this knowledge should be shared with our customers – because sharing is caring. Today, we wanted to share some of our drain cleaning tips to keep your pipes working like new.

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