Sewer Clean Out – What & Where

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HomeProPlumber 

This Article Discusses What A Sewer Clean Out Is, And Where It’s Located For DFW Homes.  

NOTE: IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE THE DALLAS / FT. WORTH, TX AREA,

ONLY THE FINAL SECTION OF THIS ARTICLE IS OF VALUE TO YOU  (SEWER LINES MAINTENANCE).

HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney Texas.  Homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties incur no additional travel-charges. HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.  

What & Where Is A Sewer Clean Out?

sewer clean out in lawn

Shown: Lawn Sewer Clean Out

Image Source: ShutterStock

A Sewer Clean Out Is Where A Home’s Sewer Main Line

Can Be Accessed For The Purpose Of Clearing Clogs. 

Additionally, Sinks On Exterior Walls Have Exterior Clean Outs.

Newer DFW homes, and home with newer replacement sewer lines, typically have a clean out in the lawn.  Lawn clean out are now required by Building Codes.  In Texas & Municipality Plumbing Codes generally match the International Plumbing Code (IPC).  From at least 2012, the International Plumbing Code (IPC) requires “two way”  sewer clean outs in the lawn (allows access under the house & in the lawn toward the city sewer main).   

  • The clean out will be located quite close to the edge of the house. 
  • It will be located on the side of the house (front or rear) based on the location of the City’s Sewer Mains.
  • Often the clean out may be covered with mulch or debris.   

Unless The Sewer Lines In The Lawn Has Been Replaced,

Many Older DFW Homes Do Not Have A Clean Out In The Lawn.   

If the home does not have a clean out in the lawn, access to the sewer is through a plumbing vent pipe on the roof.

sewer clean out on roof

Shown: Access To Sewer Lines Is Through The Sewer Vent Pipes (the white pipes near the middle of the left side of photo)

Image Source: DreamsTime

 

What A Lawn Sewer Line Clean Out Looks Like

Clean outs typically have a white, screw-off, removable cap.  From that access point, sewer line clearing machines can go both under the house and into the lawn (toward the city sewer line) to find and clear the clog.

In DFW newer homes have a sewer main clean out access located in the lawn.

SHOWN: Sewer Line Clean Out With Screw Top.

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.

 

In newer DFW homes, the Sewer Clean Out may be inside a plastic box with a removable green lid.   Due to its location, it is possible the clean out may be covered with rock or mulch — as it’s typically located within planting-beds close to the house.

SHOWN: Lawn Connection Box With Cover.

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.

 

 

Clean Outs For Smaller Drain Lines Are Often Accessed Through Smaller Clean Outs In Exterior Walls.

When kitchen or bath sinks are located on an outside wall, there is a small clean out (for only that sink’s drain line) built into the wall, and accessed from outside through a removable cap. 

 

SHOWN:  2″ Sewer Clean Out With Cap.  

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.  

 

In DFW homes, there are typically clean outs in exterior walls near sinks.    They are accessed from outside.  Only the removable plug (and connection it screws into)  are visible from outside.   Depending on the age of the home, the exterior wall clean outs may be: White Plastic, Metal, or ABS / black plastic.  

Click Here To See A Drain Clean Out In An Exterior Wall (warm weather climate homes only): Exterior Wall Drain Clean Out (warm climate homes only).  

 

Sewer Lines Maintenance

Drain Lines Accumulate Build-Up (often called sludge) On Their Interior Surfaces. 

The Most Common Build-Ups Are Due To Fats, Oils, & Grease Poured Into Drains. 

 

The Environmental Protection Agency Estimates That Nearly Half Of All Sewer Backups Are Related To Grease Poured Into Drains.  Here is what happens when grease is poured into a drain.  As it moves down the sewer line, grease starts to cool and becomes a semi-solid and sticks to the walls of the sewer pipe.  Fats, Oils, & Grease mix with chemicals & solids in the sewers and form masses that build up and eventually block sewer pipes.

Of particular problem is FOG mixing with “flushable” Baby Wipes.   These wipes do not degrade like toilet paper.  Instead, they move down the sewer line or a short distance and settle to the bottom of the pipe.  This Happens:  Under Your Home, In Your Lawn, and In The City’s Sewer lines.

Click Here For A Video Demonstrating That Wipes Don’t Disintegrate: YouTube “Flushable” Wipes Do Not Dissolve & Clog Sewers

In This Test, Toilet Paper Took 2-1/2 Minutes To Disintegrate.   After 20 hours, 3 different brands of wipes were the same as when flushed.  

2018 News Reports Detailed A Manufacturer Of White King Brand “Flushable” Wipes Was Fined $700,000  The wipes were advertised as “just like toilet paper” though they do not disintegrate in the sewer system.   A Federal Court found the wipes manufacturer, Pental Products, guilty of false & misleading representations.  In particular, Pental claimed that the wipes would break down in the sewerage system like toilet paper does.

Future Sewer Clogs Can Often Be Prevented

Once A Build-Up Starts Accumulating, It Will Eventually Clog Your Home’s Sewer

Sewer Lines Maintenance /Cleaning

To Avoid Build Up — Use An Enzymatic Drain Cleaner On A Regular Basis

  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not have chemicals.   
  • Enzyme drain cleaners contain bacteria cultures  & enzymes that respond to the presence of organic substances.
  • This type of drain cleaner is for maintenance of pipes, it’s not for clogs.

Enzymatic drain cleaners are a much safer alternative to chemical drain cleaners. There are many brands of Enzymatic Drain Cleaners.  Enzyme drain cleaners are used mostly for sewer pipe maintenance.  Possibly the best enzyme drain cleaner brand is BIO-CLEAN.   It is sold and recommended by Al’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning.  If the drain is already clogged, try a plunger or drain-snake.

 

SHOWN:  BIO-Clean   

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.  

Description From Manufacturer: BIO-CLEAN is a special combination of natural bacteria & enzymes that DIGESTS organic waste located in your plumbing system such as: grease, hair, soap scum, food particles & other organic wastes.  Monthly BIO-CLEAN treatments are likely keep your drain lines clean and trouble-free In nature, all organic matter is broken down and recycled by enzymes and bacteria. 

BIO-CLEAN uses this same principal to biodegrade organic waste that accumulates in your plumbing system.   The enzymes are very fast and start breaking down waste. BIO-CLEAN contains billions of bacteria, and they double in number every 30 minutes!  Unrestricted by gravity, they spread through the entire plumbing system devouring organic waste. BIO-CLEAN has no effect on inorganic materials such as sewer lines.  

BIO-CLEAN does not product heat, fumes or bubbling like many chemical drain cleaners. BIO-CLEAN is safe for plumbing and the environment. BIO-CLEAN is approved by the U.S.D.A for use in Meat and Poultry Plants. Enzymatic drain cleaners have an added advantage for homes with a septic system (where no city sewer is available).   Enzymatic drain cleaners were originally designed and used to help maintain septic tanks.   A common product sold for septic tanks is Rid-X.   The bacteria & enzymes can’t eat non-organic items such as sewer pipes and the interiors of septic tanks.

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.

SHOWN:  Rid-X Was Designed As A Septic Tank Treatment.  It Uses Enzymes & Bacterial To Help Clear Septic Tanks.  

 

If You Have Already Used Chemical Drain Cleaners (That Did Not Clear The Clog)

Don’t Use A Plunger Or Drain-Snake After A Chemical Drain Cleaner Was Used.

You Risk Getting Chemical Drain Cleaner On Your Skin Or Into Your Eyes.

 

Plunger

Before Using A Chemical Drain Cleaner

Attempt To Clear The Clog With A Plunger Or Drain Snake

 

SHOWN ABOVE: Toilet Plunger.  

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.

 

A Toilet Plunger And A Sink Plunger Are Not The Same. 

A Toilet plunger is designed to fit down into the area just below the bowl.  This maximizes its effectiveness.  

A sink plunger has a flat rubber.  It’s designed to stay in contact with the sink to maximize its effectiveness.

  

SHOWN Just Above: Sink Plunger.  

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.  

 

Drain Snake

SHOWN: A Drain-Snake Moves Into The Pipes To Clear Clogs. 

Use This Next If A Plunger Does Not Work. 

Click On The Photo To View, See Details, Or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com.  

 

SUMMARY: This article describes what & where a drain line is for homes in the Dallas, Texas area.  This information does not apply to homes with basements or slab homes in other locations within the U.S. . Also discussed is sewer lines maintenance which notably reduces the chances of a clog in the future.  We suggested how to easily provide drain maintenance with enzymatic drain cleaners.  Monthly maintenance (bi-monthly for households of 1-2) will introduce organic-waste eating bacteria & enzymes into your drain lines.  These bacteria will eat away at the build-up in the sewer lines until it’s gone.  Once there is nothing to left eat, the bacteria will move on (into the city’s sewer main).

Will Chemical Drain Cleaners Harm Pipes?

home pro plumber logo

HomeProPlumber 

This Article Discusses The Risks Of Using Chemical Drain Cleaners.   Additionally, we provide less risky ways to clear clogs.  HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney Texas.  Homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties incur no additional travel-charges.

HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

Will Chemical Drain Cleaners Harm Pipes?

drain pipes under sink

Photo Source: ShutterStock

Many people have concerns that liquid drain cleaners may harm pipes.  If you read 10 articles on the internet, you will see 10 different answers.  One article states “Drano can reach over 200 degrees & boil while working”.   PVC (plastic) pipes have a maximum operating temperature of 140 degrees.  It stands to reason that if Drano had the ability to melt PVC pipes, when used as directed on the label,  the company would have been subject to Class-Action lawsuits.   We describe why it sometimes appears to be “boiling” + provide a video within this article.  

This Article’s Summary Answers Are Just Below.  The “why” behind these answers can be found throughout the article. This article’s goal is to set the record straight about chemical drain cleaners, and to put a spotlight on any danger they present.  We document the sources for what we say — versus you just having to accept our word.

  • It is unlikely that proper use of chemical drain cleaners will damage pipes.
  • Misuse of chemical drain cleaners might damage pipes (ABS-black & PVC-white).
  • While Using Chemical Drain Cleaners, Your Risk Of Physical Injury Is Ever-Present. Serious injury can result from something as simple as dropping an open bottle that splashes drain cleaner onto you.   Within this article is a link to a devastating story of such an injury resulting from 2 drops of chemical drain cleaner getting on a man’s hand.  After 27 surgeries, he had the hand amputated.
  • While many people want to know if a chemical drain cleaner will harm their pipes.  By far, the larger concern is the potential harm to themselves.

What Type Of Pipes Does Your Home Have?

With the exception of copper drain-lines (which are rare) when used as directed, chemical drain cleaners don’t have a history of harming any of the sewer pipes materials used in homes over the years.   Below is background about what type of pipes your home likely has (based on its age).

Over The Years, Various Materials Were Used For Residential Sewer Pipes

  • Cast Iron (typically gray or black)

Most homes built before 1960 have cast-iron (vertical) sewer pipes.  Vertical pipes are usually cast-iron, and horizontal pipes may be cast-iron too. Cast-iron is prone to rusting (from inside to outside) over time.

  • Galvanized Steel  (typically gray)

Most homes built before 1960 also have galvanized steel (horizontal) sewer pipes.  Galvanized pipes are were dipped into molten zinc to make them last longer.  Over time, the zinc wears off and the steel starts rusting.    Galvanized steel seldom lasts longer than 50 years (it rusts through).  Like cast-iron, galvanized steel pipes rust from inside to outside.

  • ABS (Black Plastic)  Also Known As “Black Pipe”. 

ABS (black) plastic pipes were installed in new homes starting around 1972. ABS was a first-generation plastic pipe, that can’t rust.  Between the years 1985 and 1998, some ABS pipe contained plastic resin that could cause the pipe to crack and ultimately leak.  A Class Action litigation involved 5 of the 6 ABS pipe manufacturer’s brands: Centaur, Phoenix, Polaris, Gable, and Apache. (Spartan was excluded).   The attorney David Birke-White indicated (paraphrased) Defective ABS piping failures are a progressive problem.  Piping that had not already failed will do so in the future.

Sec. C-109. – The International Plumbing Code (IPC) Says: “ABS pipe and fittings are not approved materials for use.” *9  Most local municipality codes match the IPC.  Even if a local municipality allows ABS, the IPC says it should not be used. *9 Source: https://westutx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/200/InternationalPlumbingCode-PDF

  • PVC (White Plastic)

PVC (white) plastic pipes started being used by the mid 1970’s.  By the late 1980’s PVC became the only sewer pipe used in most new homes. According to the Charlotte Pipe Company, PVC is the most widely used pipe in the world today.   PVC is a white or light-colored, highly durable plastic that has shown a history of outlasting all other pipe materials.

Sewer Lines Maintenance

drain pipe clogged with hair

Drain Pipe Clogged With Hair

Image Source:  ShutterStock

Drain lines slowly accumulate build-up on their interior surfaces.  Sewer sludge, as it relates to your home’s pipes, is a build up of any or all of the individual sources below: 

  1. Hair is particularly good at collecting other sewer sludge, such as shampoo & soaps residue.  
  2. Shampoo & Soap leave behind residue.  The same residue you can see accumulating on your bathtub or shower also accumulates on the sewer lines
  3. Food Waste particularly; grease, egg shells, coffee grounds, expandable foods (like pasta & rice), flour, 
  4. Objects small enough to flush down a toilet. They can settle at the bottom of the sewer lines and provide something to catch other items flushed over time.
  5. Baby Wipes & all “flushable” paper products, other than toilet paper.  Wipes & other paper products do not degrade like toilet paper.  This causes them to settle at the bottom of main sewer pipes and create clogs.  
  6. Tree Roots.  This is a problem with homes that have clay sewer pipes near trees.  Clay pipes leak a little at their connections, and this attracts tree roots.  Over time, the root will grow into the pipes at the connections, and continue to grow until it clogs and / or damage the pipes.   Today’s PVC sewer pipes do not leak at their connections and won’t attract tree roots.

If The Build-Up In Your Home’s Sewer Pipes Is Routinely Cleaned Away, Clogs Are Less Likely To Occur.

As the build-up increases, the drain slows.  In time, the build up can clog the drain completely.  The drain-trap (shown in the photo at the top of this article) is designed to always have liquid it it, to stop sewer-gas from coming into the home.  This makes the drain-trap highly susceptible to clogs, as waste particles settle in the trap.

Sewer Lines Require Maintenance.  An Enzyme Drain Cleaner Is the Best Solution. 

What Is An Enzyme Drain Cleaner?

Enzyme  of drain cleaners does not have chemicals.  They are designed for maintenance of the sewer lines, not to clear clogged lines.   Enzymatic drain cleaners are a safer alternative to chemical drain cleaners. 

Enzymatic drain cleaners contain bacteria-cultures + concentrated enzymes that break down the organic substances that cling to pipes (discussed above). These tiny living organisms digest the broken-down organic waste.  They bacteria reproduce and increase in numbers as they work. In ideal conditions, they will double in number every 25-30 minutes.  Once the first area of the pipe has been cleaned, the bacteria & enzymes moves further down the pipes in search of additional food.   They break down the waste and run it out of your system.  

Because an enzymatic drain cleaner isn’t restricted by gravity (like chemical drain openers) the bacteria can clean the entire inside of the pipe.   Enzymatic drain cleaners were originally used for septic tanks (where city sewer is not available).  The bacteria & enzymes won’t eat non-organic items like sewer pipes.

 Rid-X

Shown: RID-X Septic-Tank Treatment.  It can also be used to maintain your home’s sewer pipes. 

Click On Image To; View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

 

THE BUBBLING YOU MAY SEE WHILE USING CHEMICAL DRAIN CLEANERS

Chemical drain cleaners consist of variations of lye and bleach, sodium nitrate, sodium chloride (salt) and aluminum. **  When a lye-based cleaner is used, the Lye decomposes most organic matter. The lye is often mixed with small shards of aluminum, creating a reaction that generates heat to speed up the decomposition process.  Aluminum reacts with lye in water to produce hydrogen gas. *4  The bubbles of hydrogen gas agitate the mixture to help dislodge the clog.  It is easy to think the water is “boiling”.  Water boils at 212 degrees — PVC sewer pipes melt at 176 degrees.

Shown: Chemical Drain Cleaner Creating Hydrogen Gas Bubbles 

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

*1 https://www.pvcfittingsonline.com/resource-center/can-i-use-pvc-for-hot-water

*2 https://www.hunker.com/12597145/what-chemicals-cause-pvc-sink-drain-pipes-to-melt-or-soften

*3 http://www.heritageplastics.com/technical-bulletins/effects-temperature-pvc-pipe/

*4 Source: http://science.jrank.org/pages/6242/Sodium-Hydroxide.html  

 

USE CHEMICAL DRAIN CLEANERS EXACTLY AS DIRECTED ON THEIR LABEL

If you choose to use a chemical drain cleaner, use it with the correct concentration & timing as described on its label.  Larger concentrations and / or longer times violate “When Used As Directed”.  That message is always part of all literature for chemical drain cleaners.  If not used as directed, there may be increased risk of damaged pipes. 

Drano’s Website Says: 

ARE DRANO® PRODUCTS SAFE FOR PLASTIC PIPES?

“All Drano® products are safe and can be used with plastic pipes or metal pipes. Just follow the label directions so you can clear that clog safely.”
 

Drano’s Website Shows These Directions:

  • For use on clogged or slow-running drains, pour half of the bottle (32 oz. size) slowly over drain. For extremely slow-running drains or complete clogs, pour in entire contents of 32 oz. bottle.
  • Allow to work for 15 minutes. For tough problems, allow 30 minutes. 
  • Flush with hot water. Repeat steps two, three, and four if necessary.
The temptation to leave a chemical drain cleaner in longer certainly exists.  Never Do It! 
There is a reason why Drano states “Allow to work for 15 Minutes. For tough problems, allow 30 minutes.”
Chemical drain cleaners generate heat and are made of corrosive chemicals. 

CAN LYE DRAIN CLEANERS HARM SOME METALS?

Yes.  Below is a list of metals lye will damage or destroy. Lye Will Attack & Can Dissolve These Metals:

  • zinc
  • Note: Glavanized Steel or Cast-Iron Pipe has a thin layer of zinc to keep it from rusting.  The zinc eventually wears off and rust begins.
  • Existing cast-iron or galvanized-steel metal pipes in older homes likely no longer have any zinc coating remaining.
  • copper

Though copper water supply-lines are common in homes, copper drain lines ares rare.  Copper is too expensive for large sewer-main lines, and only rarely does a home may have copper drain lines.  This is likely to be a very old home and / or a very expensive home. You can tell if your home has copper drain lines by looking at the pipes.  You can easily identify copper drain lines or water-supply pipes.  Copper exposed to high humidity often turns green. Note: The 2018 International Plumbing Code does not allow copper drain lines.

Metals That Lye Won’t Affect

  • Lye will not react with steel.
  • There are articles on the internet discussing cleaning stainless-steel using lye.
  • We do not offer directions nor links about how to do this due to the dangers of being exposed to lye.
  • Lye will not react with cast-iron.
  • There are DIY cast-iron skillet cleaning methods using lye on the intenet.
  • We do not offer directions nor links about how to do this due to the dangers of being exposed to lye.
  • chrome plating

What Incorrect Use Of Chemical Drain Cleaners Might Do

  • PVC is a thermoplastic, and can begin to degrade and break down if it gets too hot. *4   A maximum temperature restriction of 140 F means that any temperature above 140 degrees may compromise the integrity of the pipe.   
  • PVC expands with increasing temperatures & contracts with decreasing temperatures.  This expansion / contraction movement has the capacity to break the glue used at the joints where the plastic pipes are attached to each other. *1
  • Broken glue-bonds are possible with frequent misuse of chemical drain cleaners.
  • High temperatures have important effects on glued PVC pipe joints.  *7
  • High temperatures can possibly increase the softening effects of the solvents used to connect PVC piping.
  • This can also possibly soften or damage the piping.

*7 https://inspectapedia.com/plumbing/PVC_Pipe_Cement_Set_Cure_Tables.php  

Health Risks While Using Chemical Drain Cleaners

THE U.S. DEPT. OF HEATH & HUMAN SERVICES’ WEBSITE

SAYS THIS ABOUT LIQUID DRANO:

Warnings: May be corrosive to metals. Causes severe skin burns and eye damage.Precautionary statements: Call for medical advice if needed.  Have product container close by when calling. Keep out of reach of children. Immediately call 911 if you suspect someone has ingested a chemical drain cleaner.  IF SWALLOWED: Rinse mouth. Do NOT induce vomiting. IF INHALED: Get fresh air and stay in a position comfortable for breathing. IF ON SKIN (or hair): Remove product immediately.  Remove any contaminated clothing. Rinse skin with water/ shower. IF IN EYES: Call 911.  Remove & discard contact lenses. Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes.

Source: https://hpd.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=19001557&query=drano+&searchas=TblBrands

A Simple Mistake While Handling A Chemical Drain Cleaner

Can Cause Catastrophic Effects

The link below is to an article (written by his wife) about a man who ended up having 27 surgeries in attempt to remedy the on-going issues of his injury from 2 drops of chemical drain cleaner.  He eventually had the hand amputated.  Even that did not solve the problem… Click Here To Read An Article About A First-Hand Experience Of An Injury A Man Suffered As A Result Of 2 Drops Of Chemical Drain Cleaner.  Severe Injury From 2 Drops Of Chemical Drain Cleaner.

The Final Answers

Will Chemical Drain Cleaners Harm Pipes:

  • Not Likely — when used as directed.
  • Possibly — if not used as directed.  Typical examples would be using too much, or leaving it in the drain too long.

What About Glued Joints?

  • PVC expands & contracts with changing temperature.
  • Since chemical drain cleaners typically create heat, the misuse of chemical drain cleaners may create the risk of breaking the glue bonds.

Can Chemical Drain Cleaners Harm You?

  • Absolutely!  There is no disagreement about this.
  • Making a simple mistake while using chemical drain cleaners and you could severely injury yourself.
  • If a chemical drain cleaner does not clear the clog — the standing water is now highly toxic.
  • If you have used a chemical drain cleaner, don’t attempt to clear the drain with a plunger, drain-snake or any other method that could splash or expose you to the standing water.
  • At this point, call for drain cleaning.  ADVISE the technician that you have used chemical drain cleaners. 

Safer Ways To Remove Clogs

CAUTION:  Use the products listed below only before A Chemical Drain Cleaner Only.  If You Have Already Used A Chemical Drain CleanerDo Not Use Any Of These products. You can flip drain cleaner onto your skin or into your eyes.

  • Use a plunger first.  It often clears clogs quickly and safely.
  • Use a drain-snake.  Professionals who clear clogs use large, motorized versions of drain-snakes.
  • Often a plunger doesn’t work on a hair clog
  • Use a Zip-It for hair removal.
  • Zip-It is designed to remove hair.  It has “teeth” along its sides to snag hair.

zip it drain cleaning tool for removing hair

Shown: Photo Shows “Teeth” Along Sides Of A Zip-It

SUMMARY:  One of the world’s greatest mystery’s seems to be if chemical drain cleaners will harm sewer pipes.  There are assorted views on this subject, and ours is: Will Chemical Drain Cleaners Harm Pipes

  • It is not likely — when used as directed.
  • It is possible — if not used as directed.

There are much safer alternatives of plungers, drain-snakes, and  Zip-It hair removers.  We also gave information on how to prevent clogs with regular maintenance-cleaning of pipes with Enzyme & Bacteria natural drain cleaners (that do not contain chemicals).

Dropping an open bottle of chemical drain cleaner, or other accidents, can result in catastrophic injury from splashed chemical drain cleaners.  This alone should be a viable reason to avoid them.

home pro plumber logo

HomeProPlumber 

HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Murphy, Rowlette, and Wylie, Texas.  Homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties incur no additional travel-charges.

HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Home Pro Plumber sells and installs new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

Water Heater Timer Savings

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HomeProPlumber 

This Article Discusses The Savings A Water Heater Timer Presents For An Electric Water Heater In DFW.    Additionally, we provide less expensive and more effective ways to lower water heating costs.

HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney Texas.  Homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties incur no additional travel-charges. HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

Electric Water Heater Timer — How Much Money Will It Save?

A Water Heater Timer on an Electric Water Heater likely won’t save much money.  Water heaters built after 1997 only run about 3 hours per day and High-E  water heaters run only 1.3 hours.  The only way a water heater timer will save money is if it prevents the water heater from reheating water during standby periods (when no hot water being used).

Cost To Run An Electric Water Heater:

  • Per Day:  5500 Watts x 3 hours = 16,500 watts or 16.5 KwH per day.   At 10 cents per KwH * = $1.65 per Day.
  • Per Month: $1.65 / day  x 31 days = $51 per Month.

Standby Heat Loss

If A Timer Shuts The Water Heater Off, The Only Savings That Would Occur Is IF

The Water Heater Would Have Cycled (heated) During The Standby Period. 

Standby Heat Loss (heat lost while water heat is idle) is low for electric water heaters built since 1997.  If your electric water heater is in the garage or attic, standby losses are minimal during summer months, and a little higher during winter.    

A Water Heater Jacket Minimizes Standby Heat Loss 24 / 7

R-10 Water Heater Jacket With Foil Exterior

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase This From Amazon.com

 

Water Heater Jackets Have Different Insulating Values

Water Heater Jackets provide different amounts of insulating ability.   Opt for the one with the highest R-Value if your water heater is in the garage or attic.   If the water heater is inside the living space, a water heater jacket provides little benefit.

The Foil-Face Water Heater Blanket provides a Radiant-Heat Barrier.  A Radiant-Heat Barrier reduces heat radiating outward from the water heater.  The foil is worth the money if your water heater is in the garage or attic.  The Water Heater Blanket shown above had the highest R-Value (R-10) Plus It Has The Foil Wrap, of all water heater blankets offered on Amazon at the time this article was written.

To Lower Water Heating Costs,  Lower The Thermostat To 120 Degrees

Most water heaters are preset at 140 degrees when new.  For every 10 degrees lower, you can save 3-5% on your bill.   

In DFW Daily Cost (electric) = $1.65.  A 10% daily savings = 16.5 cents per day, or $60 per year.

The U.S. DOE (Department of Energy) recommends most households lower their water heater to 120 degrees.  If you have a large family which all bathe at the same time of day, a higher setting my be required.

Click On The White Arrow In The Center Of Image Below For A Video Showing How To Adjust The Thermostats (there are 2) On An Electric Water Heater. 

 

SUMMARY:  This article advises that a Water Heater Timer for an electric water heater has little capacity to save money on an Electric Water Heater built since 1997.  Today’s electric water heaters run only 3 hours each day, and Hi-Efficiency water heaters run about 1.5 hours per day.  The article gives two suggestions which can save on water heating costs for electric or gas water heaters.

  • Add a Water Heater Blanket
  • Lower Thermostat To 120 Degrees

Both of these task require little time and minimal cost for a water heater blanket.  These two recommendations are also endorsed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).   home pro plumber logo

HomeProPlumber 

This article discusses Water Heater Timer effects on water heating costs.  We also provide less expensive and more effective ways to lower water heating costs.

HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Murphy, Wylie, and Rowlette,  Texas.  Homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties incur no additional travel-charges. HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

Water Heater Installation Codes For Texas Part-2

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HomeProPlumber 

This article details the Plumbing Codes for a new water heater installation in Texas.  HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney Texas.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel-charges. HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

Texas Water Heater Installation Codes — Part 2 of 2

water heater being serviced

Image Source: ShutterStock

Click Here to see the 2015 Texas Plumbing Codes: IBC Codes 2018 Chapter 5 – Water Heaters

Note: Texas Code Is Based On The 2018 International Building Codes (IBC).

 

GAS WATER HEATER INSTALLATION CODE

(continued from Part 1)

Air-Intake Ducts:

Water Heater Code requires a water heater installation inside a closet (inside living space) must include two outside-air intake ducts installed inside the water heater equipment closet:

  • one duct near the ceiling — this duct mostly provides air for the exhaust gases to vent out safely.
  • one duct near the floor — this duct provides air for gas combustion while the water heater is heating.
  • Building Codes allow combustion air to be provided from the attic, so vents can be installed in the water heater closet’s ceiling.  These vents are pipes that drop down from the attic into the closet. One pipe is near the ceiling and one pipe drops low into the closet.  **
  • The last step is weather stripping the door.
  • The weather stripping keeps venting devices (such as bath vents, & dryer) from taking air from the closet.
  • The weather stripping also keeps heated or cooled air from escaping through the air-intake vents that serve the water heater.
  • Once the water heater closet door has a tight seal (when latched closed) the gas-combustion appliance is considered outside of the building-envelope.
  • building envelope is the physical separator between conditioned (heated & cooled) air and the outdoor environment.

** Source: https://www.squarehouse.net/blog/2012/6/24/water-heaterfurnace-closet.html *** Souce: https://www.drenergysaver.com/about-dr-energy-saver/news-and-events/27082-my-attic-and-upstairs-are-too-coldtoo-hot.html  

Why 2 Ducts? Carbon Monoxide Risk.  If sufficient combustion-air & exhaust-air supply is not available, the exhaust won’t rise up the flue and out of the house.  Without sufficient air, the gas combustion will draw air down the flue — that air has carbon monoxide in it.

Click Here To See A Photo Of Code-Compliant Gas Water Heater Installation: Gas Water Heater Installation – Texas Code Compliant

 

Gas Water Heater Installation Location:

Texas Plumbing Code regulates where a water heater installation can be located.  Gas water heaters cannot be installed in bedrooms or converted garages.  If installed in a closet, the closet must have a weatherstripped door.  The water heater cannot be installed in any room with a furnace.  In a newly built home in DFW, there are only 3 places for a gas water heater: garage, attic or a sealed water heater closet inside the living space.   This plumbing code prevents human contact with trace amounts of Carbon Monoxide (CO) released from a gas water heater.  

 

Flue Exhaust-Pipe:  Double-Wall Metal Vent Pipe

A gas water heater installation must be equipped with a double-wall vent pipe that is located at least 1″ from combustibles.  The vent must slant upward at all points, with no more than 1 offset (change in pipes direction) of more than 60 degrees.  All other offsets must be 45 degrees or less. The vent must be at least five feet long and terminate in an approved vent cap. Why? The exhaust gases must always be moving upward toward the roof.  If the vent pipe is level, the gases won’t rise.  This is why there are limits on how much of an angle the vent pipe must always be.

  • Double-Wall (Type B) Metal Vent Pipe For Exhaust. The rise-length of the metal pipe (above the roof) may vary by municipality.  It’s often 5 feet between the water heater’s vent hood (attached to top of water heater) and vent cap (on the roof outside the home).

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SHOWN: Double-Wall Vent Pipe

 

Water Pipe Insulation:

Water Pipe Insulation: Code requires the first 5 feet of hot & cold water pipes be insulated when the water heater is in unconditioned (not cooled or heated) space.  In Texas, water heaters installed to code are always in unconditioned space.

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, Or Order From Amazon.com

SHOWN: Foam Water Pipe Insulation

 

ELECTRIC WATER HEATER INSTALLATION CODE

Electricity Disconnect:

Building Code requires a Means Of Disconnecting Electrical Appliances (Rated Up to 300 Amps) When They Are Permanently Connected.  photo of circuit breaker panel

Image Source: CanStockPhoto

Residential water heaters are typically 4,500 – 5,500 watts.  AMPS = WATTS divided by VOLTS.       4,500 / 240 = 18.75 AMPS

 

When Electric Water Heaters Can Be Disconnected Using Their Circuit Breaker  

Water Heater Code Requires An Electric Water Heater H

A Separate Disconnect (quite near the water heater) unless:

  • The water heater’s circuit breaker is within view from the water heater (within 50 feet & with an unobstructed view)

          OR

  • There is a proper locking device present present on its circuit breaker (if circuit breaker panel is not within view of the water heater)

WHY?  If electricity were turned on during water heater service, an electrical shock or electrocution could occur. 

 

LockOut Devices That Can Be Used On A Water Heater’s Circuit Breaker If Required By Code

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Shown: Circuit Breaker Lock-Out Device

  Note:  The lockout device will not interfere with the operation of the circuit breaker.  If the circuit breaker trips, the power is shut off regardless of whether the breaker’s handle is allowed to move or not.

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Note:  A padlock is required, but code does not require the label as shown above.  The label is to clarify why the padlock and locking-device are present.

 

Codes That Apply To ALL Water Heaters

Temperature & Pressure (T&P) Relief Valve

Water heater code requires a Temperature & Pressure (T&P) Relieve Valve Be installed On Every Water Heater. The T & P Valve will open at a predetermined pressure (150 PSI in most cases) and/or a predetermined temperature (210F in most cases).  The valve allows pressurized hot water to escape from the tank until the pressure and/or temperature drops below the valve’s pre-set levels.  Then the valve recloses. WHY?   Without a properly functioning T& P Valve, a water heater will explode if it malfuctions and continues to heat.

Click Here To See A Home Destroyed By An Exploding Water Heater:  Arizona Home Destroyed By Exploding Water Heater

photo of water heater

Shown: T&P Discharge Pipe Runs From The Valve (on top) To The Side Of The Water Heater And Downward

Water Heater Code requires the discharge piping serving a T & P valve shall be one size larger than the size of the T&P valve outlet, where the relief valve discharge piping is installed. The outlet end of such tubing shall be fastened in place.

WHY?  The discharge pipe routes the hot water toward the floor.  Without the discharge pipe, the hot water would spew (in all directions) from near the top of the tank.

 

Drainage Pan – For All Water Heaters Located Where Water Causes Risks

Many DFW homes have a water heater(s) in their attic.  Since most water heaters start leaking water when their water storage tank cracks, the water released can cause scalding of anyone walking below the water heater once it’s leaking.  Additionally, ceilings can become water damaged.

  • GAS

Code for GAS Water Heater requires a metal drain-pan under the water heater if it is installed in an area where water can cause damage. Where a GAS water heater is installed in a location where water leakage from the tank will cause water-damage, the tank shall be installed in a galvanized steel pan having a material thickness of not less than 0.0236 inch WHY? Water Can Cause Scalding Risk or damage to the home.

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Shown: Metal Water Heater Drain Pan.  Can be used for gas or electric — metal required for gas.

 

  • ELECTRIC

Code for an ELECTRIC water heater can a plastic drain pan (not less than 0.036 inch in thickness).  A plastic pan shall NOT be installed beneath a gas-fired water heater.

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, Or Order From Amazon.com

Shown: Plastic Water Heater Drain Pan (for electric water heaters only)

 

Thermal Expansion Tank 

photo of water heater with expansion tank shown

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Thermal Expansion Tank Installed For Water Heater

Water Heater Code requires a Thermal Expansion Tank be installed where the water heater is supplied with cold water that passes through:

  • a check valve
  • pressure-reducing valve
  • backflow-preventer

In these 3 cases, a thermal expansion tank shall be connected to the water heater’s cold water supply pipe in a location beyond these devices.  Thermal expansion tanks shall be sized in accordance with the tank manufacturer’s instructions and shall be sized correctly for the water pressure. A water heater can stress plumbing due to the normal thermal expansion of water when it’s heated.  It’s estimated that 50 gallons of cold water expands to 52 gallons when heated to 120°F. The water heater creates extra water-volume each time it heats the water.  The extra water volume can create excess pressure in the plumbing system, possibly causing damage to the water heater and the water pipes. The water heater thermal expansion tank provides a place for excess water volume.  When the water (inside the water heater) heats up and expands, the additional water moves into the thermal expansion tank.  When the water (inside the water heater) cools,  the water is moved from the thermal expansion tank back into the water heater’s storage tank.

WHY? The Thermal Expansion Tank eliminates pressure (from water expanding as it’s heated) from putting stress on the water heater and the water pipes connected to it. 

 

Electrical Bonding Of The Water Heater’s Water & Gas Pipes

Click Here To See A Photo Of Water Heater Bonding: Photo Of Water Heater Bonding

Note: This Same Wire Can Also Bond The Gas Pipe To A Gas Water Heater.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that a metal underground water pipe that is in direct contact with the earth for 10 feet or more is to be used as one of the grounding electrodes for the building’s electrical service.  A metal water piping system must be bonded back to the electrical service ground wire. The Electrical Service Panel (Breaker Panel) has a wire that carries electricity into the ground (the earth) to eliminate the risk of shock or electrocution in the event of a short circuit.   A ground connection is a bare copper wire that connects inside the Breaker Panel to a ground-rod driven into the earth (near the service panel) or to metal rebar in the home’s foundation.  This final ground connection (with the earth) allows stray electrical current (such as a surge created by lightning) to pass safely into the soil surrounding the house.  

Why Electrical Bonding & Grounding Are Required For Your Safety

A short-circuit occurs when electricity starts going somewhere it’s not intended to go. Electricity will always take the shortest path.  If a short-circuit occurs, the electricity uses that path instead of the path it’s intended to travel. Avoiding short-circuits is why trees are cut away from overhead electrical wires. If any part of the tree touches an overhead electrical wire, it creates a short-circuit occurs and the tree becomes energized with electricity (electricity is flowing through the tree and then into the earth).   This short-circuit will continue until the tree no longer touches the wires.  Often the tree will catch on fire.

Click on the white arrow in the center of the image below to see a short-circuit caused by a tree and power line touching each other.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAteBqMYYZ4   Without Grounding, YOU Can Become Energized With Electricity if you become part of a short circuit!   This is why you should never break off the 3rd prong on a grounded electrical cord. It’s there to safely carry electricity away and into the ground (the earth).  The ground plug was installed to ensure you don’t get shocked or electrocuted should you  become part of a short-circuit. electrical cord with grounded plug third-prong

Shown: A Grounded Electrical Cord Has The Rounded 3rd Prong.

 

Electrical Bonding Of Water & Gas Pipes — Continued

Water Heater Code Requires Bonding Of Hot & Cold Water Pipes AND The Gas Piping With 6 AWG Wire + Clamps.

American Wire Gauge (AWG) = The Wire’s Diameter Size)

Bonded is not the same as grounded.  Bonding is connecting different systems together.   This is done to reduce the chance of arcing caused by a sudden surge of electricity from a nearby lightning strike, or other unexpected cause, such as a damaged electrical wire. **

Bonding Prevents Electrical Energy (from lightning or degraded electrical wires) From Energizing (metal) Water Pipes.

  • Metal water pipes are required by code to be electrically bonded.
  • Bonding of water pipes is usually accomplished by connecting metal water pipes to the grounded neutral at the Electrical Service Panel (circuit breaker panel).   The grounded neutral is a wire that routes electricity into the earth if an electrical short-circuit occurs.
  • Bonding between the cold & hot water pipes is located at the water heater.  The wire (often called a jumper wire) completes the electrical bonding between the hot & cold water pipes.
  • Electrical arcs can easily start fires.  Additionally, an electrical arch between water pipe and Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) Gas Piping has been known to create pin-holes in the CSST.  If pin holes are created they allow gas to escape.  This can cause an explosion, or added fuel to an existing fire.  We discussed this in detail at the end of Part-1 of this article.

Click To See An (enlarged) Pin-Hole In CSST Gas Piping — Caused By A Lighting Strike On Or Near The House: Pin-Hole In CSST Gas Piping

WHY? Water pipes energized with electricity create shock & fire hazards.  

** SOURCE:  http://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/bonding-required-water-gas-csst/ *** SOURCE: https://www.thespruce.com/water-heater-bonding-wire-4125747

Cold Water Shut-Off Valve At Water Heater

photo of water heater

Image Source: CanStockPhoto

Shown: Water Heater Installation With Shut Off Valve For Both Cold & Hot Water Lines

Water Heater Code requires a separate shut-off for the cold water supply at the water heater.  This shut off allows water to be turned off to only the water heater, while the rest of the house continues to have cold water service. 606.2 Location of shutoff valves. Shutoff valves must be installed in the following locations:

  • On the water supply line to each plumbing fixture (other than bathtubs and showers).
  • On the water supply pipe to each sillcock (outdoor water faucet).
  • On the water supply pipe to each appliance or mechanical equipment.
  • Installing a dedicated water shutoff for water heater that allows water to be turned off water to only the water heater, not the entire home.
  • Individual water supplies shall be constructed and installed in accordance with the applicable state and local laws. Where such laws do not address all of the requirements set forth in NGWA-01, individual water supplies shall comply with NGWA-01 for those requirements not addressed by state and local laws.

 

Type Of Shut Off Valve

 

 

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Shown: Ball-Valve Style Water Shut-Off Valve.  Ball-Valves always have a lever handle.

  National water heater code does not specify which type of value must be installed.  Ball Water Valves may be specified in a local municipality’s plumbing code.  

WHY?  Gate Valves (with a round handle) Are More Prone To Failure

Gate water valves are more prone to failure.  Failed gate valves won’t shut off completely, or shut off at all.   The details are below.

  • When closing a gate water valve, the shut-off device comes downward as the valve is turned off.
  • It’s common for debris to get in the way, resulting in the valve’s inability to close completely.
  • Because all the parts inside are brass, corrosion occurs over time, and can “freeze” the valve (not allowing the handle to turn).
  • Ball valves have a plastic or stainless-steel ball with a hole in the ball’s center (where the water flows through).
  • Debris does not have a place to settle like in the bottom of a gate valve.
  • Because the ball is plastic or stainless-steel, corrosion is quite limited.
  • These features make ball valves more long lasting and reliable.

Ball valves have offer benefits not found in a gate valve:

  • The user can see at a glance if the valve is open or closed.
  • When the handle aligns with the direction of the water pipe, the valve is open.
  • When the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, the valve is closed.
  • The stem (the shut off lever is attached to) is sealed by a rubber O-Ring under nut.
  • Ball valves are notably less prone to failure than gate valves

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HomeProPlumber 

This article details the Plumbing Codes for a new water heater installation in Texas.  HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell & install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Murphy, Rowlette, and Wylie, Texas.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel-charges. HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service  

18 Signs Of A Slab Leak

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HomeProPlumber 

This article details 18 Signs Of A Slab Leak.  HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell and install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel-charges.

HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

18 Signs Of A Slab Leak

-PLUS-

How To Minimize The Risk Of Slab Leaks With Slab Watering (at the end of article)

photo of underground water leak

Image Source: Flikr  Photographer: Scott Durnell

SHOWN: Large Under Slab Water Pipe Leak

Your DFW Slab Home’s Water Pipes Are In The Soil Under The Home. 

A Slab Leak Is Typically Due To A Leaking Water Supply Pipe Under Your Home.

 

The Fastest & Easiest Way To Know If You Have A Slab Leak

  • Be Sure Every Water Outlet In The Home + Outside Faucets Are Turned Off.
  • Watch Water Meter To See If It’s Recording Water Usage.
  • Nearly All Water Meters Have A Rotating Gauge (may be an arrow or “gear”).  It Shows Even The Slightest Water Usage (see “gear” below).
  • If you see movement, watch to see if it continues for 1 minute. You could have a ice-maker filling with water.
  • If dial is moving (and all water sources are off) you have a slab leak.
water meter

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID: 00126239

For This Meter, The Black “Gear” Will Turn With Even The Slightest Water Usage

The Term Slab Leak Is Commonly Heard In DFW.   It can be caused by either a leaking Water-Supply Pipe, or a leaking Sewer Pipe under the home’s slab foundation.  This article addresses only leaking Water Supply pipes.

Slab Leaks in DFW are common.  They are caused by the home’s slab foundation moving up & down with changes in soil moisture. DFW is built upon Expansive Clay Soil. When the clay gets wet, it expands in size.  When the clay dries out, it shrinks.  The clay can dry out to the point it becomes dust.  The home’s slab foundation depends on support from the ground underneath it.  It order to ensure the soil provides consistent support, the moisture level in the soil must be kept stable

This Movement Is Also What Causes Foundation Damage.  The edges of the slab move up & down (more than nearer the center) due to changes in soil moisture.  The most movement is at the corners of the foundation.  The moisture level become more consistent the closer it gets to the center of the slab.  With movement on the edges and at the corners, and no movement at the center, the slab will eventually crack due to recurring movement.  This damage can largely be avoided if a Slab Watering program is in place (details at the end of this article).

 

Click Below To See What Happens With Expansive-Clay Soil With Changes In Soil Moisture:  

Expansive Clay Soil — Wet & Dry

The soil moisture becomes more stable the closer you get to the center of the slab.  Along the edges and corners, the clay soil dries out easily, then rewets when it rains.  This causes the edges and corners of the slab to rise and fall.  Over time, this will likely damage the foundation and crack water supply pipes.   This problem can be minimized with Rain Gutters + “Slab Watering”.  

Many homes with automatic lawn-sprinkling systems also provide slab watering.   The only way to know if yours does is to talk with the company who installed it, or have an inspection done by a service that installs and repairs automatic lawn watering systems.

For Homes without an automatic lawn watering system, the home must be surrounded with “Soakers Hoses” operated by timers (more on this later within this article).  The frequency and length of time slab watering must be done depends on the time of the year.  During the coldest part of winter, slab watering  is not likely needed.  During the hottest period of summer, it’s needed frequently.  Soil Moisture-Meters will advise the current level of soil moisture so the home owner can adjust the recurring watering schedule as needed.  Soil Moisture-Meters will give you immediate information on soil moisture level (more later within this article).

An Active Slab Leak Can Generate Enormous Water Bills

And May Damage The Foundation As Soil Moisture Continues To Rise

The most common type of slab leak is due a cracked or damaged Water-Supply Pipe.  As with most components within a home, Water-Supply Lines are subject to deterioration due to aging and can wear out or fail.   Often though, Water-Supply Line Slab Leaks are caused by a cracked water pipe due to Slab Movement.

Most DFW homes have a concrete slab foundation.  However, some homes are “Pier & Beam” which means the house sits upon piers driven into the ground deeply enough that they won’t rise or fall with changes in soil-moisture.   However, with Pier & Beam the soil can get so dry that the piers may shift (side to side) at the top.  Pier & Beam homes may require less watering, but they must be watered too.

What Exactly Is A Water Pipe Slab-Leak & Why They Occur

Most water pipes are near the edges of the home.  As shown above, the concrete is tight to the pipes where they rise through the slab.  If the slab is allowed to rise and fall, the the water pipes move up & down too.  If the water pipes are metal, this movement may eventually cause a “stress-crack”.  It’s much like bending a paper clip back & forth — eventually the metal will fail.

NOTE:

  • Most newer homes have flexible Water Lines.  These lines are able to move (to some extent) with slab movement.
  • However, these homes’ have rigid plastic (PVC) Sewer Pipes that will crack if enough slab movement continues to occur.

Shown: PEX Flexible Water Tubing

Shown: PVC Rigid Sewer Pipe

 Signs You May Have a Water-Supply Pipe Slab Leak

  • Water bill will suddenly rises or spikes.
  • Water pressure appears to have dropped.
  • Damp or molded carpet.
  • Recent cracking in hard tile flooring.
  • Bucked or cupped laminate or hardwood floors.
warped wood floor due to moisture

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID: 42657777

Shown:  Warped Wood Floor Due To Moisture Coming Through Slab from Slab Leak

  • Drywall Cracks caused by slab movement.

Click Here To See An Extreme Example Of Drywall Cracks:  Drywall Cracks

  • Interior doors that stop closing right, stick or bind.
  • A musty odor (it’s likely mold or mildew caused by excessive moisture).
  • There is a visibly damp area in the concrete floor.
damp concrete and molded drywall due to slab leak

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID 1130844

Shown: Damp Concrete Floor And Molded Drywall Due To Slab Leak

  • A puddle of water on the floor inside the home.
  • Water against an exterior wall outdoors

Click Here To See Water Outside A Home That Is Evidence Of  A Slab Leak:  Water Outside Home From Slab Leak

  • You might be able to hear water movement sounds or hissing.

If The Slab Leak Is On A Hot Water Line:

  • You suddenly start running out of hot water when consumption has not changed.
  • Water heater is running more than usual or always running.
  • Somewhat increased energy bills.
  • Warm spots in the floor.  These can be spotted with a thermal-image device.

Click Here To See A Thermal-Image Device Locating A Hot Water Pipe Slab Leak:

Thermal-Image Device Shows Location Of Hot Water Supply Line Slab Leak

  • In winter, a cat or dog is spending time in a new location — they found the warm spot where a hot water pipe is leaking.

 

Slab Leaks Must Be Repaired Promptly To Prevent Slab Damage 

Water Pipe Slab Leaks are not something to be ignored, or left until a later time.  The water added under your DFW home (from the leak) will cause the expansive-clay soil under the house to increase in size.  As this occurs, the soil below your home will exert increasing upward pressure on the slab. Over time, the increasing upward pressure can heave the slab upward which will result in a crack.

The concrete is likely to crack along the heaved area.   It’s common that one side of the cracked slab will be higher than the other side.  The higher side is where the soil has expanded due to the slab leak.

cracked and heaved concrete

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID 63049019

Shown: Heaved and Cracked Concrete At The Location Of A Slab Leak

 

How Water-Supply Pipe Slab Leaks Are Repaired

Find The Leaking Water-Supply Pipe

Different plumbers will use difference methods to determine the presence and location of a slab leak

  • Electrical equipment sends a small current through water pipes and a “listening” device can locate where water is leaking.
  • Force air into your water-supply pipe to remove any remaining water.  Then only air is escaping through the crack in the pipe.
  • The location of the leaking pipe may be found by using a sensitive “listening” device.  It locates where air is flowing out of the break in the pipe.

There Are 2 Ways To Gain Access Under The Slab Foundation 

1. Bursting Through The Slab From Inside The House

hole cut through slab foundation

Image Source: Dreamstime ID 7780291

Show: A Hole Cut Through The Slab To Gain Access To The Leaking Water Pipe.

(The “Grid” You See Is The Steel Reinforcement Inside The Concrete)

A hole is cut through the slab from inside the house.  Jack-hammers break away the concrete and soil is set aside.  Once the work is done, the soil is returned and a cement patch is poured to seal the opening.

Problems With Bursting Through A Slab

  • In most cases, residents must move out of the room, or the entire house.
  • If the work can be contained to one room, there are still times when a resident likely won’t want to be there, such as when jack-hammers are operating.
  • Glued down floor coverings are damaged or destroyed.
  • The home is exposed to any mold spores or gasses trapped under the slab.  For a sewer pipe slab leak, the home is exposed to bacteria and germs in sewage.
  • The Slab Was Designed & Built To Be 1 Piece.  It Was Never Intended To Be Cut.

Newer DFW Homes Have Post-Tension Cable Slabs.  Cutting Through A

Post-Tension Cable Can Cause Injuries & Require Expensive Repairs

photo of post tension slab foundation before cement is poured

Image Source: Dreamstime 17314786

Shown:  This Post-Tension Slab (see criss-crossed cables) Is Ready For Cement To Be Poured

Post-Tension Slab Homes Have A Warning (often stamped into concrete) Never To Cut Or Drill

Click Here To See A Sample Warning Not To Cut A Post-Tension Slab: Post-Tension Slab Warning

 

2. Tunneling Under The Slab From Outside The House

tunnel under home slab foundation

Image Source: Dreamstime 80454143-1

Shown:  Tunnels Dug Under The Home For Water & Sewer Pipe Repair Or Replacement

Benefits Of Tunneling Under The Slab

  • No Risk Of Cutting A Post-Tension Cable
  • Residents can typically live in the house while the work is being done.  All the work is outdoors and under the home.
  • No floor-coverings are destroyed.
  • The home is not exposed to anything toxic under the slab (such as mold or gasses).
  • The slab is never cut.  It remains in one piece, just as it was: designed, built, and intended to always be.

 

Slab Watering To Minimize Your Home’s Slab Foundation Movement

In Many Cases, A Slab Leak (Or Foundation Crack) Could Have Been Avoided If  The Soil Moisture-Level Around The Edges Of Home Had Been Kept Stable  Slab Watering Also Reduces The Risk Of Needing Foundation Repairs.

Click Below To See Images Of What Occurs With A Concrete Slab When Soil Moisture Is Not Maintained

Slab Bending Due To Drying & Wetting Of Expansive Soil

This occurs when the soil around the home becomes too wet and expands -or- becomes too dry and becomes smaller.  The closer to the center of the slab, the less the soil moisture-level varies.  Since the majority of the changes in moisture-level occur at the corners and outside edges of the slab, the slab’s movement is greater at the edges and corners.

Why slab movement can break water supply-lines or waste lines.The horizontal waste pipes are under the slab and run through the soil under the house.  The vertical pipes go up through the slab where they are connected to plumbing fixtures above the slab.  If the slab bends, it puts upward or downward pressure on the water & & sewer pipes.  Over time, they may crack and a slab leak occurs.

When the slab moves up or down (due to soil moisture-level changes):

  • The vertical pipes (attached to plumbing fixtures inside the home) move up and down with the slab.
  • The horizontal pipes don’t move (because they are located within soil).
  • If the slab movement is enough, the pipes can crack due to the upward or downward pressure the slab-movement creates on the pipes.  The older the pipes become, the more likely they are to fail under slab-movement pressure
  • NOTE: This same movement is also what creates the need for many foundation repairs in DFW..

How To Minimize Slab Movement / Bending

Due to Soil Moisture-Level Changes

1. Install Gutters To Eliminate Water  Near The Edges Of The Foundation (minimizes large increases in soil moisture).

  • This is accomplished with Rain Gutters to catch and move the water away from the foundation.  Allowing rainwater to fall right at the foundation causes tremendous changes in soil moisture-level. The more the moisture-level changes, the more the slab moves.
brick home

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: A Home With Rain Gutters Installed.   You can see a gutter downspout (white vertical pipe left of garage door).

  • It’s equally important to install Gutter Downspout-Extensions to carry the water at least 3 feet away from the foundation.

Shown: Slip-On Gutter Downspout Extension

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

2. Provide “Foundation Watering” During Periods Of Hot & Dry Weather (to reduce large decreases in soil moisture-level). 

It’s important to “water” your DFW home’s foundation when the soil around the home is too dry (this is mostly during summer).   This reduces the chances of damage to the foundation and water supply lines & waste lines due to slab-movement caused by low soil-moisture around the edges of your home.   Many automatic irrigation (lawn sprinkling) systems are designed to water the foundation (if it was part of the original installation).

 

For Those Without An Automatic Lawn-Watering System

These 4 Items Can Create A Foundation-Watering System

    

SOAKER HOSE 

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

 

GARDEN HOSE TIMER   

Note: Timers For Multiple Hoses Are Also Available

 

SOIL MOISTURE METER

These can be purchased at Amazon and many retailers with lawn & garden departments.   Most don’t require a battery, and all you do is push them into the ground.

 

PLANTING BEDS WITH MULCH or LANDSCAPE ROCK

Planting beds running down all sides of the home are perfect for minimizing evaporation of the water you add for slab watering.  This can also be done on grass, with the soaker hose 18″ away from the house.  The water will evaporate much more quickly however.  With a Moisture Meter, you will always know how often the slab needs water.  The hotter the temps the more watering needed.  In Nov-March, it’s less likely slab watering will be necessary if your lawn is flat.  The Moisture Meters will let you know if / when the slab needs watered during winter. 

  • If you have planting beds with rock, that’s all you need. 
  • If you have mulched planting beds, fill them as full as possible to minimize evaporation of the water around your home’s foundation. 
  • If you don’t have planting beds, you can create them with edging, weed-barrier, and rock or mulch.

Green metal planting bed edging is common in DFW.  The problems with metal are that the paint flakes off and eventually they rust and must be replaced.  That said, they are a good option to create planting If you don’t have planting beds, they can be created by installing edging 2 feet from the edge of the house. 

 

Click On Image To: See Product, View Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com  (a 48″ tree-ring is shown)

 

There are many vinyl planting bed edging products available.  This eliminates the issues common with metal.   Spikes that are hammered into the soil to hold the edging are sold separately.

Click On Image To: See Product, View Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com (this is one of many types of vinyl planting bed edging)

Other Important Things To Know About Slab Watering

  • Most (if not all) municipalities allow foundation-watering at any time on any day.  Check your City’s website to ensure you are in compliance if foundation-watering restrictions apply.
  • The best time to water is at night as there is no sun, and cooler temps reduce the amount of evaporation.
  • Place soaker-hoses 18 inches away from the foundation.
  • Start by setting the water-timer for 2 hours each day.
  • Monitor the Soil Moisture Meters to determine if 2 hours is enough.
  • As the weather gets hotter & drier during the summer, you will need to increase the frequency and length of time that you water.

 

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HomeProPlumber 

This article details 18 Signs Of A Slab Leak.  HomeProPlumber provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. We sell and install Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Richardson, Garland, and northeast Dallas, Texas.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel-charges.

HomeProPlumber in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call us today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service