Here’s a list of the most common plumbing problems in Dallas.
Homeowners spent an average of $848 per plumbing job in 2009 according to Angie’s List member reports. Here’s a look at the most common plumbing problems according to Dallas plumbers.
Problem: Slab Leak | Cost: $1,000 to $3,000
This winter marked the second wettest on record, with 15.8 inches of precipitation falling on Dallas, and experts say to expect more of the same through May. The rain has been a headache for homeowners, but it’s been a boon for business — especially plumbers.
The freezing temperatures and ground movement from the rain are causing a ton of slab leaks, especially in low-lying areas like South Arlington, South Fort Worth, North Dallas and Plano.
Leon Dudley, owner of Charlie’s Plumbing Service in Arlington says slab leak repairs are 20 percent of his business right now.
“I’m just a small plumbing company, and we’re doing one of these repairs every day of the week, more than ever before,” says Dudley, who’s been in business since 1972.
Connie Addington of Baker Brothers Plumbing in Dallas agrees. “Texas has bad soil. When it’s extremely dry and extremely wet, we see a lot of slab leaks.”
The ground acts as a giant sponge and all that rain is causing ground movement, which in turn affects pipes and sewer lines underground. And because the ground is saturated and the grass is already wet, homeowners don’t immediately notice any extra water bubbling up because of a leak.
So the leak festers, and most homeowners don’t notice until they get a giant water bill. Dudley says one customer called after getting a water bill for $3,000; they usually pay $48 per month. That particular customer got hit with a double whammy because they had a hot water leak, so not only were they hemorrhaging water, they were paying to heat the water too.
Unfortunately, there’s not much a homeowner can do to prevent this type of leak. But if you do have one, get it fixed fast. To determine if you have an underground leak, turn off all the water supply to your house and listen for the sound of running water. Pay careful attention, and don’t just dismiss the noise as your HVAC unit.
Dudley’s crew use geo phones — super sensitive listening devices — to locate the leak. Once found, they drill a hole in the concrete foundation, dig up the pipe and fix it. Dudley says it’s a solid day of work and typically runs between $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the type of leak and where it is.
Problem: Drippy Fixtures and Running Toilets | Cost: $100 to $200
Another fallout from all the rain is water main breaks. When the city makes repairs, dirt and foreign objects can get into the water system and cause faucets and showerheads to drip and toilets to run.
“A lot of people don’t want to call plumber out for a drippy faucet because of the service charge, but you might be costing yourself a whole lot more money in the long run by letting it drip,” says Dudley.
That’s because in the Metroplex, annual trash and sewer fees are based on the last two months of the previous year and first two months of the current year. If you let a dripping faucet or running toilet go unattended during that time, you could pay heightened trash and sewer fees the whole rest of the year. That’s in addition to heightened water bills due to water loss from a leaking fixture.
If you have a leaky fixture, avoid usage and turn the water supply off until you can get a licensed plumber to come out. Dudley says repairs usually run $100 to $200.
If you are hit with a big water bill because of a plumbing leak, there’s help available. Call Dallas Water Utilities customer service at 214-651-1441 and request a leak repair statement. Homeowners will be asked for the date of repair, type of repair done, account number and phone number. Once your water usage returns to normal, DWU will credit your account the difference based on a tier based pricing system.
For a 5/8" residential meter, DWU charges $1.54 per 1,000 gallons used, up to 4,000 gallons. Homeowners that use 4,001 to 10,000 gallons are charged $3 per 1,000 gallons used. So, if you typically use 3,000 gallons and then use 6,000 gallons because of a leak, you would be charged at the $3 rate, but once you proved that you returned to the normal usage, the bill would be adjusted to charge $1.54 instead.
Processing leak adjustments is a full-time job for the DWU, but Billing Manager Alex Land says that not every leak is eligible for an adjustment. “Sprinkler heads, filling a pool, or a pool tile leak would not be covered. But most everything else, including an underground leak, running toilets and leaky fixtures would be covered,” he says.
Problem: Clogged Drain | Cost: $100 to $300
“We see a lot of clogged drains in the Metroplex,” says Addington. If you notice that your toilets, sink or bathtub are draining slowly, call in a licensed plumber to have your drains cleaned.
The source of the clog is often tree root penetration in the sewer or septic line. Plumbers use cameras to go underground and find the source of penetration. If it’s at the joint, the roots can typically be removed, and a maintenance product like Root X or Bio-Smart can help prevent future clogs. Cost varies depending on where your cleanout is – the yard or the roof.
Depending how often the line gets clogged, homeowners will have to decide if it’s cheaper to keep having the drain cleaned every six months, or if they should go ahead and replace the pipe. Average drain cleaning runs $135 to $325 whereas having the pipe replaced will cost you $1,100 - $2,000 or more depending how much line needs to be replaced and how deep.
If the root causes a break in the line, homeowners will need to have the pipe replaced. “A lot of older homes in the area have clay and iron pipe, which deteriorates over time and can collapse. When that happens, we replace with PVC,” Addington says.
Problem: Water Heater | Cost: $1,200 - $4,000
“By the time we get the call, the homeowner is either seeing brown water or they have a leak,” says Addington. The harder your water, the more sediment buildup you’ll get in your water heater. That sediment sinks to the bottom of the water heater instead of going to the plumbing line, which eventually takes up more space in water heater.
To prevent brown or yellow water and keep the water heater running efficiently, it should be drained annually.
The typical lifespan of a water heater is seven to 10 years. Depending on where you are in that lifecycle, it may be better to replace the water heater than repair it. “If you have a gas water heater, we always recommend that you go tankless,” says Addington.
A tankless water heater is about the size of a small suitcase so it takes up less space, and they don’t store water so there’s no concern of a leak or extra weight on the floor. They’re also more efficient and qualify for a tax credit.
A standard 50 gallon water heater runs about $1,200; tankless goes up to $4,000.
What kinds of plumbing problems have you dealt with recently? Tell us about them in the comments below.