Simple Steps To Avoid These Plumbing Disasters

What Do I Need To Know About Burst Water Pipes?

Under Sink Water Pipe

Presenting Problem

Take a look under your bathroom, laundry and kitchen sink. Do you have flexible hoses under your basins and sinks that go from the wall to your tap-ware?

We see a lot of issues with stainless steel braided hoses bursting.

These flexible hoses are normally included with the tap. They are good products in many ways, because they are easy to install. They are generally, but not always, robust. 

Root Cause

Incorrect Installation

The product may have been incorrectly installed.

Faulty Batch of Products

It seems like there was a period of time when maybe products like these weren't all made to the appropriate standard. If they're installed incorrectly and there is a kink or a twist, they can burst more easily. 

Excessive Water Pressure

Excessive water pressure is another cause of these pipes bursting.

Corrosion

If a basin is leaking and dripping, corrosion can occur. Maybe the soap you use is dripping on that pipe. Over a couple of years rust may happen faster than expected.

What Happens?

Imagine you've just gone out to dinner on a Friday night. Several hours later you're home and open the front door to a partially submerged lounge room or kitchen.

It is surprising how much can be damaged in these situations.

It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix the damage. You can have a carpet that needs to be replaced. You can have floorboards that have swelled and need replacing. It can be the same for cabinetry and timber skirting or doors. Did you leave your laptop on the ground? Was there a painting you haven't hung on the wall yet?

What About Insurance?

Insurance can be arranged to cover the damage caused by water from the burst pipe. For many insurance policies, you will usually have to pay for the plumbing to fix the pipe.

Many insurance companies have an excess that you'll need to pay prior to the claim or your premiums may go up. So insurance might not be the best thing to rely on to solve your problem.

Preventative Measures

  • Get a plumber to check these hoses.
  • Do they look kinked?
  • Are they correctly installed?
  • Are there signs of corrosion?
  • Are there any bulges? 
  • Is there a need for a pressure limiting valve to reduce risk from a pressure surge?
  • Even hoses that look perfectly fine, should be routinely replaced about every 7-10 years.

How Do I Avoid A Blocked Sewer or Drain?

Become a plumber

 Presenting Problem 

Here are some warning signs that you have a blocked sewer or drain.

At first, none of these present as emergencies. However, they are all hints that one may be on its way.

  • When you use the shower, do you hear a bubbling noise coming from the toilet?
  • Have you noticed the basin or shower is slow to drain?
  • Do you have water overflowing in the yard?
  • Are there unusual smells that come and go?
  • When you pull the plug, is there an excessive sucking sound?

These are indicators that there's an imbalance in the drains. When there's a drain or sewer blockage, things don't sound and work as they should.

Root Causes

Defects

Blocked drains or sewers can be caused by the drains themselves being defective. They could have been installed incorrectly from the start. 

Damage

There may have been damage during construction. As the building foundations were laid, maybe someone hammered a star picket through the drain without realising the damage created.

Movement

Over time, earth movements can have an impact. We're on a tectonic plate, and there are slight movements within the earth all the time. 

Seasonal Change

Changes in season make the earth move. In summer, the ground shrinks and in winter, the ground swells. This can move the pipes back and forth, and can cause cracks in pipes. A pipe may lose its gradient over time as the ground moves slightly. 

Tree Roots

Probably the biggest cause of blockage in drains and sewers are tree roots growing into a broken drain.

What Happens?

Blocked drains can affect the way showers, kitchen sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, basins and toilets drain.  A small problem can become a very big problem quickly.

Imagine a worst case scenario. We've had a call on Christmas Eve with a sewer overflowing. It was pooling on their lawn, and they have family coming around. It can be pretty gross and inconvenient.

Suddenly you realise how much goes down the drain, and how much you rely on that drainage system.

What About Insurance?

Insurance will generally fix the damage, but you will have to fix the cause of the problem. For example, insurance might replace damaged carpet from a blocked drain. You will need to pay for the repair of the blockage itself.

Preventative Measures

New Property Inspections

If you buy a new property, we encourage you to have a camera put down the drain. We've got a CCTV camera that views inside the pipes. It's like buying a car, you check the engine, you check the brakes, and make sure the basics are right. Putting a camera down the drain can check out the state of the pipes in your place. You'll know in advance if there are any major problems.

Generally, if drains are in a good condition, they'll often stay in good condition. It has to be something substantial to affect them and you can plan for potential problems.

An owner might say, "Okay, I've got that big tree in the backyard. I love that tree. We didn't know the drain ran under it when we planted. The tree roots keep growing, so every six months, I need to send the cable down there to get it unblocked."

A home owner can stay on top of that maintenance issue using prevention to avoid facing a disaster down the track.

Plumber Advice

As soon as there are symptoms (unusual noise or smell or slow drainage), it's wise to call the plumber straight away. A bigger problem is often on its way. There's never a good time for a blocked drain, but there are certainly some really bad times for one.

It's much harder to unblock a completely blocked drain and you're usually looking at an emergency call out. Emergencies cost more. The sensible approach is to make a plan with your plumber and attend to the issue early.

Some sewer/stormwater drainage issues may need pipes to be dug up and repaired to fix. We can offer that service because we have a 1.5 tonne Kubota excavator. It is small and perfect for the type of backyards you see around the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.

What Roof Repairs & Maintenance Are Essential?

Gutter clean and roof condition report completed for this Richmond house. Completed March 2019.

Presenting Problem

Have you been home during a storm and the ceiling starts to drip? Often leaks come through a downlight in the ceiling. The hole in the ceiling is generally the weakest point. The light fitting is not necessarily where the leak is, however, it's where the leak first appears. If this is your problem, you'll see water coming inside the building or maybe cascading off the roof onto your back porch.

Root Cause

Most roof leaks are caused by leaf litter or foreign items that have landed on the roof and have been washed into the gutters. Gutters block at a common point or a junction, like the down-pipe. Once the downpipe gets blocked, it acts like a plug in the bath. Everything else fills to the point of overflowing, which sometimes leads to leaks inside your building.

What Does This Mean?

Roof leaks and the resulting flooding can damage your ceiling and your floors, and also damage your possessions. It is surprising how neglected gutters can get. We've seen gutters growing grass and little trees out of them. Every time it rains, they're overflowing, and it's falling on the ground, and then there is excessive moisture around the building. The result may be rising damp, foundation issues, or wall cracks. Neglect over a long time can be devastating to a building, especially when water is involved.

What About Insurance and Neglected Maintenance?

Insurance assessors are familiar with damage from unexpected causes and damage from neglected maintenance. It is their job to know the difference. If there is a fair cause, they will cover damage to property. If the damage is due to neglected maintenance, they are unlikely to pay.

Preventative Measures

Clean out your gutters or get someone in to do it for you. Have a plumber check the roof for leaks. Sometimes with heat, roof sheets expand and contract. This causes movement and screws and nails can work their way loose. A roof plumber will replace defective screws, or screw them back in. The wind might cause flashings to lift and move, and these can also be fixed during a routine maintenance check.

Why Is There No Hot Water In My Shower?

Expert Plumbers - Hot Water Systems

Presenting Problem

A cold shower is a rude shock. There is often a warning if you know what to look for.

One day you realise the water is not quite as hot as it used to be. A little time passes, and there's definitely a problem, you're out of hot water. Most often the problem is a failing hot water unit, rather than a temporary water heating issue.

Root Cause

Thermocouple

A common cause of water heating problems is a faulty thermocouple. The thermocouple is a safety device. It is a sensor that knows when the pilot light is working. If a gust of wind was to blow out the gas pilot light, the thermocouple shuts the gas off altogether.

If a thermocouple is faulty, it simply turns off the gas. There may be no actual problem, other than this small faulty part.

Valve Issues

Hot water issues also result when valves prevent the water flowing correctly. This is commonly caused by a tempering valve. The hot water unit can burst, extinguishing the flame and no longer heat the water. This requires a replacement hot water unit.

What Happens?

All hot water taps in the house stop working. These could be in the kitchen, laundry as well as your bathroom basin and your shower.

What About Insurance?

Usually, insurance doesn't cover a faulty hot water system. If the hot water unit stops working and it's within the warranty period then you might be covered under that warranty. A hot water unit might have a 12-month warranty, some even have a 10-year warranty.

If a hot water unit catches fire and burns part of the building, that may result in an insurance claim. However hot water units last about 10 to 15 years and they all need to be replaced eventually.

Preventative Measures

All hot water units should be serviced and maintained annually. That thermocouple sensor should be checked or replaced. There's also another valve called a PTR valve, or pressure and temperature relief valve. This needs to be checked annually as well.

It is valuable to have a plumber look over the hot water unit because they can spot a hot water unit that's about to start leaking. There may be rust marks or the flame might not be burning correctly. The unit may also need a pressure adjustment.

Why Is My Stormwater Drainage System Blocked?

Blocked stormwater drain

Presenting Problem

There is a difference between blocks in sewer drains and blocks in stormwater drains. If sewer drains stop working, you normally know within 24 to 48 hours because you're constantly using those drains and it quickly becomes an urgent issue.

Stormwater drains are different. They are often neglected because water only goes down them when it's raining.

During a storm, when water is everywhere, you may not notice your gutters overflowing when they shouldn't be. You may also miss the pit in the backyard or the grate in the driveway is becoming slow at draining away the water.

Realistically stormwater drains need to be working well to draw excess water away from buildings. A drain that isn't quickly clearing the ground of excessive water can cause excessive moisture build-up and expensive property damage.

Root Cause

Blockages often build up from a series of small things. Material enters the drain from people hosing the driveway or cleaning their car. Other materials like decomposing leaf matter or moss can come down the pipes from your roof. Those materials go down your drain and mix with general pollution and dust.  All these elements can add up over the years and cause major blockages in stormwater drains.

What Happens?

Blocked underground pipes can cause excessive moisture in the earth, which in turn causes rising damp in buildings. Buildings can move and crack. Foundations can be affected. These escalating issues become a drama when a heavy storm comes through. A drain from the driveway that used to cope does not cope anymore. Your garage floods and you've got a whole heap of boxes that you haven't quite got to yet. There can be a lot of damage.

What About Insurance?

If the insurance company inspect and see issues of maintenance neglect you might not get the financial help needed to repair damage to your house.

Preventative Measures

To prevent blockages in storm water drains, have your gutters regularly cleaned out. What lands on your roof goes in your gutters, down your downpipe and into the stormwater system, and this is when it can become blocked. Pits are designed with a grate that lifts so you can clean out all the leaves and the sediment that builds up.

When you buy a new property, you can engage a plumber with a camera to look down your drain and check whether there are any underlying issues. We can jet blast the drains to give them a bit of a reset. They might not have had any attention in 50 to 70 years.  Better to find any blockage during a plumbing inspection than discover it during a major storm when your house floods.