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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What do you do if you have a burst pipe?

First, switch off the water supply to reduce the water damage. You should also turn off the electricity for the part of your home that has sustained the leak, as it can be extremely dangerous if the water comes into contact with an electrical socket. Next, drain the remaining water from your faucets so it doesn’t freeze inside the pipes. 

Once you’ve done all of this, search for qualified plumbers in your area and ask them to provide you with a quote. 

What happens when a water pipe bursts?

When a pipe bursts, the water can cause indoor flooding and damage your home. If the pipe is in an accessible location, you will likely notice puddles of water right away. However, if the pipe is underground or behind a wall, it may cause reduced water pressure, a sulfur smell or discolored water. All of this can cause significant (and expensive) damage, which is why you should always contact a plumber near you if you suspect your pipes are leaking.

How often do you clean a septic tank?

For homeowners with a septic system, it’s important to have a regular septic cleaning schedule. To protect ground and drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends residential septic cleaning every three years. Many septic system companies state that you can maintain a healthy system with regular septic cleanings every three to five years. In addition to cleaning, a septic tank inspection once a year will uncover problems and can save you thousands in cleanup and repair.

When waste goes into your septic system, it separates into three parts. The solids (sludge) drop to the bottom, wastewater floats in the middle, and a layer of scum rises to the top. Regularly scheduled cleanings prevent the sludge in your septic tank from building up and clogging your tank, leading to an overflow. Pricing for a standard septic cleaning ranges between $200 and $500, with the national average cost at $315. It’s easier, more cost-effective, and better for your home health to keep your septic tank maintained.

Does insurance cover a broken pipe?

Sudden water damage may be included under most homeowners’ insurance policies, but it’s typically not covered if the damage could have been avoided with proper maintenance.

For example, if a pipe in your laundry room suddenly bursts and causes damage to the flooring and walls, that is usually covered by insurance. But if a pipe under your sink has been leaking for months and causes your wood floors to rot, your policy won’t cover that damage.

Always double-check with your insurance agent (or another expert)  to see what your policy covers.

How much do plumbers charge per hour?

Depending on the service you need (unclogging a drain, fixing a pipe, installing new pipes, etc.), plumbers charge anywhere from $45-$165 per hour. Plumbers often operate on a fixed rate model, too. Some won’t charge hourly rates because the variables involved in their work makes it less practical to do so. 

Plumbers will scope out the work, calculate the cost of parts, and roll it together with other fees to give you an estimate for the job. They may even offer standard flat rates for things like installing a toilet or a sink. Reach out to plumbers near you to get an accurate cost estimate for your project or repair.

What are the signs of a burst pipe?

If your water pressure has suddenly dropped or your sink and toilet have unexpectedly started clogging, you may have a burst pipe. Other tell-tale signs include watermarks on the wall of your bathroom or laundry room, drips or puddles in your home or basement, or water from your faucets that have suddenly turned brown. You may also notice a strange rotten-egg smell or the sound of gurgling water in your home.

If you notice any of these signs, contact a plumber near you to fix your pipes immediately.

How much does it cost to repair a broken pipe?

The national average cost to repair broken pipes ranges from $120 to $170. Prices can vary depending on the type of damage, whether the pipe is easily accessible, the materials needed and where the pipe is located. For example, an exposed pipe under the sink will likely cost much less than a pipeline in your yard that requires digging. 

Your overall cost will also depend on the hourly rate of the contractor. Most plumbers charge between $60 and $65 per hour for standard pipe repair, and up to $95 per hour for complex plumbing work. 

Contact the best pipe repairers in your area to find out how much it will cost to fix your pipe(s). 

To learn more about pricing factors, read “How much does pipe repair cost?

Can a leaking pipe burst?

Yes. A leak in your pipe can build up pressure and wear through the material. Left unchecked, this pressure can cause the pipe to burst. This is why it’s so important to fix your pipes and contact a plumber as soon as you notice a leak — no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. 

Smaller leaks are easier and inexpensive to fix, saving you time and money in the long run. In addition, many insurance policies will not cover water damage for pipes that burst due to gradual leaks.

Who pumps septic tanks?

Septic system professionals pump septic tanks. Pros in different states will have different licensing and certification regulations. Make sure the company you hire is licensed and certified, is a legitimate business, and has the appropriate insurance. Damage to your septic system could cost thousands of dollars in cleanup and repair, so it’s best to hire a qualified professional from the start.

Using an industrial-strength vacuum hose connected to a tanker truck, the septic tank company will pump out the contents of your tank. First they break up the scum of the top layer, then mix the sludge (on the bottom) into the wastewater for removal. To get all the sludge and scum from the tank, pros may use a tool called a septage spoon that loosens stubborn waste from the sides of the tank. After the tank is hosed down and empty, it is inspected for any cracks or leaks that could lead to trouble in the future. The waste in the truck is then transported and disposed of at a waste management treatment center, a cesspool or an approved dumping site.

When should you clean a septic system?

Experts agree that you should clean your septic system every three to five years for optimal system health and safe water. You should also have it inspected every year to catch minor issues before they become major. If you think you may be overdue for a septic cleaning, here are signs that you should call a pro immediately.

  • You’re at capacity: If the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the tank’s outlet or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, your tank needs to be pumped, according to the EPA.
  • It stinks: If you can smell wastewater, call a pro right away to clean your tank, pipes and field.
  • Sewage backup: Raw sewage backing up into the pipes in your home is no fun. The pros can pump out your pipes, clean your tanks and clear any clogs, but it will be a complex and messy job.
  • Pooling water: Water collecting around your tank or drain field can be a sign you need to clean your septic system.
  • Super grass: If the grass above your septic system drain field suddenly gets vibrantly green and lush, the septic tank leak could be leaking sewage and fertilizing your lawn in unwanted ways. Call a pro to inspect it right away.
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