In areas that have recently been subject to historic storms -- New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and New York and New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy -- governmental and regulatory bodies have taken measures to raise homes in low-lying areas to prevent further damage. When your home or basement floods, sewer lines and plumbing fixtures can become irreparably damaged, causing tens of thousands of dollars in (often uninsured) repairs. If you live in a flood-prone area, should you invest in the switch to above-floor plumbing? Read on to learn more about these plumbing services and how they may help prevent damage to your home during the next severe storm.
What is above-floor plumbing?
Traditional plumbing (particularly in older homes) is often gravity-fed. When a toilet flushes or a sink drains, the water flows down a series of pipes until it reaches the primary sewer pipe underground. This can cause major problems during flooding -- when the central sewer pipe becomes waterlogged, waste water from the main sewer line can flow backward up into your drains and flood your house (even if the house itself is not underwater).
Gravity-fed pipes can also easily become clogged with hair, food particles, or other waste, or may begin leaking due to age or corrosion. To repair clogged or leaking gravity-fed pipes, contractors must often cut holes into the walls or floors -- sometimes even having to tear up basement concrete in order to access the pipes.
Above-floor pipes operate on a different principle than gravity-fed pipes. Instead of flowing downward to the main pipe, they exit in a slightly sloped horizontal angle across the wall, to a central pipe containing a high-powered pump. This pump liquefies the waste water and forces it into the main sewer pipe. Usually, the pipes themselves are covered with a baseboard or other piece of decor to help them blend in perfectly.
What are some advantages of above-floor plumbing?
Above-floor plumbing is highly recommended in flood-prone areas because of its resistance to flooding. Because the pipes are horizontal, they're not subject to the same gravitational forces as gravity-fed pipes, and waste water from the main sewer line has difficulty bypassing the high-powered pump. Unlike gravity-fed sewage lines, which store toilet and sink "gray water" in a holding tank until they're dumped every several dozen flushes, these lines completely empty on a single flush -- ensuring that your toilets won't be subject to a disgusting backup.
Above-floor plumbing is also much simpler and less expensive to repair than gravity-fed plumbing. If one of your pipes begins to leak, or if you develop a clog that can't be snaked out, repair is a simple matter of removing the decorative baseboard or enamel and repairing the pipe beneath, then replacing the baseboard. In most cases, you won't even have to use any touch-up paint.
When should you get above-floor plumbing?
In many cases, any expense incurred in installing an above-floor plumbing system in your kitchen or bathroom will quickly be offset by the decrease in your water and sewage bills, as well as the inevitable repair costs when your gravity-fed system begins to develop problems. If you don't have flood insurance or if your home is in an area that has had serious flooding in the last several decades, you might want to investigate the conversion process.
If you're currently working on a finished basement and are installing a bathroom or kitchen, this is the ideal time to upgrade the rest of your fixtures. Most basement systems are above-floor simply because the basement pipes are below the central sewer line, so converting the rest of your home to this system at the same time can save you money in the long run.Share
8 April 2015
When was the last time you really looked at your roof? I had no idea how important yearly inspections of my roof was until I found myself footing the bill for a full roof replacement and interior ceiling replacement. Since then, I have learned how to inspect my own roof twice each year. I always inspect it each spring after the harsh winter elements have gone away and again in the fall before winter weather sets in. You can use the information compiled on my website to inspect the roof on your home and make the small repairs that will save you from full roof replacement.