Taking Care of Your Home’s Drains



Taking care of your home’s drains, plumbing, and pipes

Your home’s pipes are hidden below floors and behind walls. Your drain pipes are tucked away beneath sinks. Your sewer line or septic system is far below ground in your yard. In other words, the plumbing that is most essential to the American home is not always top-of-mind for most homeowners. However, just because your pipes and drains are out-of-sight doesn’t mean they don’t require care and upkeep.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best ways proactive homeowners can take care of their home’s pipes and drains and keep their home looking its very best.

Caring for the pipes in your home

Most homes built since the 1980s make use of durable, long-lasting PVC pipes that can go many decades before needing to be replaced. However, that doesn’t mean that you should take your pipes for granted. Here are the two major threats your pipes face:

Hard water

If you live in a region of the country with hard water, you should consider having a water softener installed. Hard water has a number of negative impacts. It often clashes with soaps and detergents, making showers, dishwashers, and washing machines less effective. Hard water can also lead to stains and spots on dishes and faucets. But, by far, the most consequential impact of hard water is on your pipes.

Over time, mineralization—also known as “scale”—can build up on the inside of pipes, eventually leading to high water pressure and a complete blockage of the pipe. If this happens, you’re probably looking at needing a major repiping project.

High water pressure

When showering or doing dishes, most homeowners prefer high water pressure to low water pressure. But, too high of water pressure can put additional stress on your home’s pipes and fixtures. Again, think of your home’s plumbing as your home’s cardiovascular system: too low or high blood pressure can have a number of medical consequences for the human body, the same way it will in your home.

In the case of your pipes, you’ll want to have a plumber install a pressure regulator to help return your home’s pressure to a happy medium.

Keeping your sewer and septic lines clear

All the water used in your home needs somewhere to go. Depending on where you live and the type of home you have, that “somewhere” is either through a sewer line or a septic line to a sewer or septic system. No matter which setup you have, homeowners need to be proactive in protecting these lines from blockages and other issues.

Sewer lines

A vast majority of Americans own a home connected by a sewer line to a below-street municipal sewer. While most modern PVC sewer lines are designed to last for 60 years or more, there are several preventable issues that homeowners can run into.

The first is an internal blockage caused by the buildup of grease, oils, eggshells, coffee grounds, and other non-biodegradable trash. Homeowners can prevent such clogs—and an ensuing sewer backup disaster—by being mindful of what they put down their kitchen sink and toilet. Using your kitchen sink as a garbage can is a recipe for disaster: instead, pour oil and grease into a jar or can and—once it has solidified—dispose of it in the trash.

Not all sewer line issues start inside of the pipe. The thirsty roots of nearby trees and shrubs may grow around and into the sewer line, causing a leak at first and then a partial-to-complete blockage of the line. Homeowners with large trees in close proximity to the line are most at-risk for this, but never underestimate the ability for tree roots to travel great distances. A common catalyst for this issue is a small initial leak that attracts the root structure toward and around the line.

Septic systems

About 20% of Americans, mostly those living in rural areas, use a septic system to deal with waste and wastewater. When well-maintained, septic systems can be a great long-term fit for many homes. However, they do have their limitations. Septic systems operate by using beneficial bacteria to break down organic waste.

When non-biodegradable trash enters the system—such as non-flush wipes being flushed down the toilet, or a piece of plastic going down the kitchen drain—it is often stuck there until the system is pumped and cleaned out. In other cases, bleach and other chemicals put down the drain can hurt the waste breakdown process.

Consequences of a sewer backup

A sewer backup is a nightmare scenario for any homeowner. As the sewer line becomes either partially or completely obstructed, the wastewater from your home that normally flows down the line to the municipal sewer has nowhere to go. Dammed, it begins to back up into your home as more and more water is added.

Homeowners typically first notice this as every drain in their home clogs simultaneously. If they can turn off the water, they may be able to avoid the disaster that comes next, as toilets and shower drains flood with wastewater.

This release of raw sewage into the home is a major health and property hazard. Any water damage is bad news, but wastewater also can be a source of methane gas and dangerous bacteria. Flooring is damaged and damp drywall becomes an ideal home for mold and mildew.

The costs of cleanup can be high: homeowners pay about $4,400 on average to deal with the damage caused by a sewer backup, which may not even include addressing the root cause of the blocked pipe. Most home insurance policies do not cover this by default, which means you could be on the hook for all the repairs.

Avoiding a sewer line disaster

The good news is that proactive homeowners can take steps to prevent this from ever happening, mainly by exercising caution in what they put down the sink and by preemptively removing trees that are near their sewer line. In addition, you may want to consider adding sewer line protection to your home insurance policy—on average, this costs about $100 a year, but it may be worth the peace of mind it provides to you and your family.

Hire a professional

Keeping up with the care of your home’s pipes, drains, and waste disposal lines can seem like a daunting challenge—even more so when an emergency situation like a clogged sewer line or a leaking pipe present themselves. Our recommendation is that you always consult with a local plumber in your area who specializes in homes like yours.

A professional plumber will have the expertise and tools to address your home’s plumbing needs and advise you on how to best care for your home.

Additional Home Care Resources

11 Home Improvements Worth Making

The Best Home Remodeling Projects

Want to learn more about caring for your home and its drains? Check out this infographic below:

Anita Clark About Anita Clark

Anita Clark is a Warner Robins Real Estate Agent helping buyers and sellers in middle Georgia with all of their home buying or selling needs. Whether she is selling new construction homes, assisting first-time buyers, or helping military relocating to Houston County, she always puts her customers needs first.