Water Damage Insurance Claims Are Still Increasing

Water Damage Insurance Claims Are Still Increasing

Water damage insurance claims are an issue we deal with every week. We are continually called upon to deal with insurance companies or assessors on behalf of clients when they have sustained water damage to their homes.

With COVID-19 lockdowns keeping a large proportion of Australians at home, research from QBE Insurance indicates water damage insurance claims remain at high levels.

New research from QBE Insurance revealed that 77% of people who experienced water damage were home at the time of the incident, unravelling misconceptions that flooding mainly occurs when the house is unoccupied.

The QBE Insurance research statistics reveal that:

  • 77% of claimants impacted by water damage were at home for the water damage incident.
  • Burst pipes, blocked pipes, damaged roofs and old plumbing are the main water damage culprits.

According to the research, internal water damage is typical, with 58% of survey respondents having experienced internal water damage themselves or know someone who has, or both.

This coincides with QBE claims data, which found water damage incidents account for almost a quarter (24%) of all home insurance claims. Water damage insurance claims are one of QBE’s most regular home insurance claims. An average claim is $5,000, and more severe water damage claims commonly reaching over half a million dollars.

“Preparedness and prevention are key to limiting the potential damage caused by internal water damage,” says Arron Mann, General Manager, Short Tail Claims at QBE.

“Water damage can happen whether a household member is at home or not being home more often, as many of us are right now, can increase the pressure on our plumbing and risk to our homes. However, this kind of damage can also be sudden and severe regardless of whether you’re home or not, which is why prevention and knowing what to do when something goes awry are so valuable.”

Despite 53% of research respondents saying their first response to water damage would be turning off the water main, 1 in 5 Australians (21%) don’t know where their water main is, and worryingly, 1 in 5 (18%) also don’t know how to turn it off.

The QBE research also revealed that almost 30% of Australians don’t know what home maintenance tasks can prevent water damage in their homes, with 16% not knowing that home maintenance can prevent it in the first place. Cost is also a factor, with 21% not undertaking any home maintenance because it’s too expensive, while 8% say they don’t have the time.

“Sometimes, the difference between no damage and severe damage can be in how quickly a householder responds. Yet concerningly, many people are unaware that much of this damage – and the stress and cost that comes with it – is often preventable,” says Arron Mann.

The best way to avoid water damage insurance claims is by regular maintenance from Whywait Plumbing. Now this will not prevent every possible water leak scenario from happening, but it will demonstrate to the insurance company that you have been undertaking regular maintenance if claim difficulties occur.

At Whywait Plumbing, we see instances every day of water damage that has occurred through the failure to maintain your home regularly. That is why we recommend all our clients to become a Service Partner and enjoy the VIP benefits of having a Service Partner Plan to maintain your most valuable asset, your home, proactively.

Detecting COVID-19 in Your Wastewater Drain

Detecting COVID-19 in Your Wastewater Drain

Your wastewater is one of the key sources used to identify the presence of the COVID-19 virus in your local community because plumbing is public health

COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for every level of government in Australia. The pandemic has reiterated that plumbing is all about public health. With vaccination rates being hailed as our pathway back to the new normality, we need politicians and bureaucrats to embrace that plumbing protects the entire community and individually plumbers preserve the nation’s health.

A pivotal component in managing COVID-19 is establishing where transmission of the virus occurs. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, the identification of exposure sites by health authorities and the requirement for people who were at the same areas during the same time to monitor for symptoms or get tested themselves have been a ceaseless part of the public health response.

Wastewater testing has been crucial for health departments to identify where COVID-19 may be present in the community to help to stop the spread.

Wastewater or the used water from toilets, sinks, showers, baths, basins and dishwashers are analysed and tested for fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Fragments of the virus potentially enter the wastewater system through people who have or have recently had COVID-19. People shed the virus fragments through toilet paper, used tissues, off their hands and skin or in faeces. This shedding can continue for weeks after a person is infectious.

“The COVID-19 virus, SARS-Cov-2, can enter wastewater infrastructure through any of those means. However, it is likely to enter wastewater principally from faecal and respiratory shedding. Shed virus is then detected by analysing the wastewater using analytical methods that are specific for SARS-CoV-2,” says Dr Nick Crosbie, Recycled Water and IWM Research Manager at Melbourne Water.

“Wastewater monitoring is equivalent to obtaining and analysing a large community-based composite sample of faeces, saliva, vomit, sputum, urine, shed skin and other material shed during personal cleansing, washing, bathing, and excreting.”

Throughout Australia, wastewater samples are taken from wastewater treatment plants, regional wastewater treatment plants and multiple locations throughout any metropolitan sewerage system.

Dr Crosbie describes surveillance as dynamic, adjusting it to meet changing needs such as surge testing during outbreaks.

“Samples are obtained by ‘grab sampling’, auto-sampling, and by the deployment of so-called ‘passive samplers’ which accumulate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the period of their deployment. Between a few 100 to more than 1,000 samples are collected and processed in a seven-day period. The samples are analysed of the passive samplers with presumptive detections confirmed by third-party analysis.”

Wastewater testing has come to public prominence during the pandemic, although it has been regularly undertaken worldwide to monitor poliovirus, norovirus and adenovirus for close to twenty years.

Dr Crosbie says the public identification of locations in which viral fragments are identified in wastewater – announced by the Department of Health regularly, including sending text messages to people in affected postcodes – allows health authorities to target their responses.

“Information can be used by health departments to focus their investigations further and to encourage an increase in local clinical testing rates,” he says.

The role of plumbers in effective wastewater testing is critical. The provision of safe and effective plumbing and sanitation illustrates how plumbers contribute to strengthening public health. Master Plumbers CEO Peter Daly is unequivocal in stating that “Plumbers play a vital role in developing, maintaining and promoting public health among the community. Plumbers prevent against disease and illness stemming from poor plumbing and sanitation and against the dangers of unsafe gas appliances, some of which can be deadly. Our day to day work in plumbing and sanitation also supports the overall wastewater testing process to play a big role in the COVID-19 response.”

Dr Crosbie agrees, “the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program is a huge team effort between people working in the plumbing industry, water industry, and the laboratory and health sectors,” he says.

Dr Crosbie understands that plumbing is public health, “More generally, the safe operation of our water and wastewater infrastructure ensures that the community do not suffer from significant health effects from water and wastewater-borne diseases.”

The World Health Organisation and leading doctors state that the world’s most significant medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation. Despite the tremendous medical breakthroughs and scientific advances, the seemingly mundane advance of reliable sewage and reliable, clean water supply is the most significant medical advance over the last 200 years.

How much does a burst pipe add to your Gold Coast water bill?

How much does a burst pipe add to your Gold Coast water bill?

Your Gold Coast water bill issued by the City of Gold Coast as a Water and Sewerage Rate Notice arrives every three months. Currently, every water meter is manually read every three months, with your Gold Coast water bill coming soon after. The cost of Gold Coast water is set every year as part of the budget process with the detailed current water pricing for 2021-22 available from Gold Coast Water.

What are the costs of your Gold Coast water bill?

For most homeowners who use around the average daily water usage of 451 litres, the highest costs in the quarterly Gold Coast water bill are their sewerage and water access service charges. If you look closely at your water bill, you can see that you have the following access charges:

Residential Charges Cost
Sewerage access charge per quarter

$181.03

Water access charge per quarter

$53.02

Total Access Charges per Quarter

$234.05

The usage charges per kilolitre as measured by your water meter are made up of council charges and Queensland Government charges as below:

Residential Charges Cost

City of Gold Coast water per kilolitre

$1.117

Queensland Government water per kilolitre

$3.231

Total Cost of Water per Kilolitre

$4.348

In reality, even if you did not use one drop of water, you would still pay for water and sewerage access service charges of $234.05 every quarter or $936.20 every year.

Our experience is that the average water use of 451 litres or 0.451kL per property shown on Gold Coast water bills is not an accurate guide to your water use.

Most homes with more than one occupant will use 1-2 kL every day. However, remember your water usage will vary every day based on the number of occupants at home each day and their water use behaviours. That is why we recommend you read your water meter weekly, as that will give you a better guide about your average consumption and alert you to a potential water leak.

The actual cost of water dripping from a tap

What will cause your water usage charges to blow out is having leaking water that you are unaware of. Leaking taps and toilets are frequently overlooked and put off to another day. A dripping tap that drips one drop every second will use 40 litres of water a day. The reality is that it becomes 280 litres a week and then 1214 litres a month, and then 14560 litres a year. This is all water charged for on your Gold Coast water bill that you never utilised for any practical purpose.

If we translate the litres wasted to the cost of water, then the numbers become real very quickly.

Cost of a Dripping Tap at 1 drip per second Residential Cost at $4.348 per kL or 1000 litres Business Cost at $8.909 per kL or 1000 litres

1.66 litres per hour

$0.007

$0.015

40 litres per day

$0.174

$0.356

280 litres per week

$1.217

$2.495

1214 litres per month

$5.278

$10.816

14560 litres per year

$63.307

$129.715

The actual cost of a leaking underground water main

You can visually see a dripping tap or running toilet, but the real killer to your Gold Coast water bill is your underground water main pipe leaking. For residential users, these are usually leaking polypipe water mains that were never installed correctly when the house was built. Only occasionally is a water leak apparent and bubbling to the ground. Most of the time, they are a silent Gold Coast water bill killer leaking 24/7 undetected.

There is no accurate average for any leaking water main supply pipe because it depends on the type of break in the pipe, what the pipe size is and what the incoming water pressure is.

Recently we had a client with a small leak where we have 24/7 electronic water monitoring installed that is leaking on average of 45 litres per hour, so we use that as a basis for what leaking water main will cost on a Gold Coast water bill.

Cost of a leaking underground water main at 45 litres per hour Residential Cost at $4.348 per kL or 1000 litres Business Cost at $8.909 per kL or 1000 litres
45 litres per hour

$0.196

$0.401

1080 litres per day

$4.696

$9.622

7560 litres per week

$32.87

$67.352

33480 litres per month

$145.57

$298.731

401760 litres per year

$1746.85

$3579.280

A water leak at 45 litres per minute is only a relatively small leak in larger pipes. It is unlikely to show up as bubbling at the ground unless it is directly under the grass in a shallow trench. Even looking at your water meter, it will not be evident unless you are testing your water use at the meter by checking for a water leak.

How much does a leak cost per litre?

We have always recommended that you test your water usage through your water meter every month. By having comparable figures, you will soon ascertain whether you have a leaking pipe.

We have always recommended that you install an AquaTrip water leak detection system after your water meter. An AquaTrip Water Leak detection system with an integrated automatic shutoff valve supplied and installed by Whywait Plumbing is a permanently installed leak detection protection system that quietly protects against leaks 24/7. It is a one time only insurance payment.

With our modern leak detection methods, it’s an easier task to locate a leak. However, unless you have an AquaTrip installed or use our 24/7 water monitoring service, you will still pay for a large amount of lost water before you become aware of the water leak.

If you think you have a water leak contact us because every litre that you lose is costing you $0.004348 for residential properties or $0.008909 for businesses on your Gold Coast water bill. If you naively feel that is inconsequential, we have just rectified a leak for a commercial business client in a 50mm underground polypipe water main that was leaking 106 kL every day, which is 106000 litres every 24 hours. This leak cost $944.354 every day.

InSinkErator Safety

InSinkErator Safety

InSinkErator Questions

In November it will be 48 years since I finished high school and began my plumbing apprenticeship. Over the years, I have either asked myself every dumb question or have been asked some interesting questions by other people concerning plumbing.

But last week I got asked a question by Steve, a long-standing client that I cannot recollect ever being asked before. The question being, “What happens if I stick my hand into the kitchen sink InSinkErator waste disposal unit when it’s going?

My first response was to wonder why you would contemplate even doing such a thing. That was until Steve explained it was a question posed by his 5-year-old grandson.

Steve was genuinely worried it was something his grandson may try to attempt. Now the question did not seem so dumb at all. Steve was correct to be worried that his grandson would try to see what would happen if he put his hand down the InSinkErator unit when it was turned on because as we all know a 5-year old has little fear.

Steve was seriously contemplating getting us to remove the food waste disposal unit out of the sink permanently. This was despite him being concerned about the loss of conveniently and hygienically disposing of food scraps which could also increase the risk of a blocked sink.

An InSinkErator Has NO BLADES

Like most people, Steve was convinced that an InSinkErator waste disposal unit is a mass of sharp blades spinning around chopping and shredding everything that enters its chamber. Contrary to popular believe an InSinkErator sink waste disposal unit is not like a kitchen blender and it has NO BLADES at all.

Steve was much happier once I explained how an InSinkErator unit works. If his grandson put his hand into the unit when it was turned on then he would at the worse end up with a bruised and maybe cut hand. Although in all likelihood he would pull his hand out as soon as it came into contact with the spinning plate and or its impellers which have absolutely no cutting function.

Very simply instead of spinning blades chopping, cutting and breaking down the food scraps InSinkErator waste disposal works by:

  • Instead of blades, impellers (or lugs) mounted on a spinning plate use centrifugal force to continuously force food waste particles against a stationary grind ring
  • The grind ring breaks down the food scraps into very fine particles – virtually liquefying them
  • After they are ground, the running water flushes the particles through the grind ring and out of the disposer and into your waste-water pipe and into the sewer house drains

How Does An InSinkErator Work? 

If you want to see exactly how an InSinkErator waste disposal unit works have a look at this 90-second video below which gives you a graphic inside view of how a unit works.
After watching the above video Steve was happy to keep using his InSinkErator waste disposal unit because like most people who have an InSinkErator he knew it was the most convenient, environmentally friendly and hygienic method to dispose of food waste and scraps. Generally, waste disposal units create a safer and cleaner kitchen using minimal water and electricity.

Tips on Using An InSinkErator

If you already have an InSinkErator sink waste disposal unit installed here are a few tips to using it which assist in prolonging its working life:

  • InSinkErator waste disposal units can become stuck or seized, and this can be caused by non-food items such as spoons being placed or falling into the unit
  • overfilling the InSinkErator can cause the unit to jam
  • grease or fatty liquids should not be poured into the InSinkErator
  • InSinkErator units should never be run dry, always use with the cold water running whilst the unit is spinning plus always turn the cold water off after turning off the unit
  • cleaning your InSinkErator waste disposal unit once every week by inserting and grinding a handful of ice in your unit. This will remove any buildup that may have been left when grinding food materials, and often gets rid of any smell coming from your kitchen sink drain. If an odour persists after carrying out this cleaning try cutting up and grinding a lemon or grapefruit will give a fresh citrus smell
  • the InSinkErator unit should be equipped with a reset button either at the side of the unit (older models) or underneath the unit.  If your unit fails to start after pressing the reset, then it is probably more than just jammed disposal, and you should call Whywait Plumbing and have one of our plumbers solve the problem.
Tree Roots in Sewer Drains

Tree Roots in Sewer Drains

Tree roots in sewer drains have legal rights

Tree roots in sewer drains are an issue we are confronted with on a weekly basis. They can be confronting for plumbers as we are frequently faced with situations where clients want us to give quasi-legal rulings on issues of non-compliance of tree roots in sewer drains where there is, in reality, no black or white answer. The reality is there are multiple opinions in multiple shades of grey.

perennial issue for all plumbers as long as I can remember is the issues created by trees and tree roots. Trees can do considerable damage to plumbing infrastructure especially to underground water pipes and drains. Often the damage has been slowly occurring over many years before you are affected.

A common issue we are confronted with, numerous times every month, is tree roots in sewer drains and stormwater drains.

A fact that some people fail to grasp is that tree roots don’t respect or understand property boundaries. Trees they just grow and their tree roots search for water and nutrients from the soil. Regrettably, your sewer drains are a great source of both water and nutrients for tree roots.

The photo on the left is a perfect example of how far tree roots will infiltrate a drain.

These tree roots we removed from a stormwater drain had infiltrated 12 meters down the drain and were causing flooding to the property every time there was a rainfall event.

These tree roots came from multiple trees situated in multiple surrounding properties. The roots infiltrated the drain in three different locations where the pipe was cracked and broken. Broken pipes are how tree roots infiltrate a drain. Tree roots by themselves cannot break a pipe open.

Large trees are a source of neighbourhood disputes

The Gold Coast has in recent times allowed urban blocks to become smaller and smaller.  Over the years as the trees in landscaped urban blocks mature, problems begin to occur. Any large tree can become a real source of angst and stress. This results in trees becoming a source of disagreements between otherwise friendly neighbours with the most common disputes being:

  • Branches overhanging the boundary fence and pushing over dividing fences
  • Branches, fruit and leaf litter dropping into the neighbouring property
  • Roots causing damage to underground drains, water mains, electrical conduits and telecommunications conduits
  • Roots damaging fences, house foundations and concrete paths and driveways
  • Branches blocking sunlight for solar PV panels, solar hot water panels, windows, Foxtel microwave dishes and TV aerials

Issues with branches are clearly visible to everyone so they are generally much easier to resolve. In most instants, an amicable discussion with your neighbour can resolve most branch issues as there is a common interest.

Roots in sewer drains or stormwater drains are vastly different. These underground root infiltrations are neither visible nor easily traceable to their source. 

Tree roots in sewer drains & stormwater drains

When we find your drain blocked with tree roots there are often multiple types of roots inside the drain causing the blockage. Without an extensive horticultural investigation to determine the type of tree that the roots are from no one can ascertain which tree’s roots have infiltrated your drain and where the tree roots originate from.

As you can see in the photo above where we have undertaken vacuum excavation of a drain the roots are everywhere around the sewer pipe. It is clearly visible there are multiple roots of varying sizes and tree types.

Contrary to multiple urban myths tree roots do not break drains whether the drain is installed in PVC pipe or earthenware pipe.

Yes, in old earthenware drains tree roots over time will infiltrate the drain around the rubber ring joints, but that is because of movement in the ground that enable the roots to very slowly infiltrate over a number of years.

With PVC drains it is impossible for tree roots to break open pipe or fittings. In every instant, I have ever seen the drain was broken usually on a bend or junction that allowed the roots to infiltrate the drain. In just about every instant we come across of broken PVC drains it is our opinion the drain was damaged during the initial installation of the drain at the time of construction.

It is almost impossible to prevent tree roots from entering a broken drain without repairing the drain. This is where we commonly see the problems originating with neighbour disputes. It is not unusual to have clients misinterpret what we inform them and attempt to put words in our mouth as to whom is responsible for firstly clearing the blocked drain and secondly repairing the damaged drain.

The law concerning tree roots in sewer drains

If you have no trees on your property and your neighbour has a fully landscaped garden full of trees, then yes it’s likely the neighbour is responsible.

Having been drawn into these arguments between neighbours on a number of occasions over the years I highly recommend that you to try to resolve the issue tactfully with your neighbour before things get out of hand. I can assure you this is always quicker, cheaper and a lot less stressful than taking legal action which will ultimately end up in mediation after spending a small fortune with a solicitor.

From the legal perspective, the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 is the legislation relating to trees. The legislation requires that you determine who has the responsibility for the tree. However, if the tree is on the boundary, then both parties will have responsibility equivalent to the amount of tree on each property.

Trees have legal rights

At all times you must be aware that you cannot take the law into your own hands where trees are concerned. You cannot remove a tree outside your property that you believe is damaging your property. Legally all you can do is remove overhanging branches up to the boundary.

If you back onto a City of Gold Coast public park or reserve then you must contact the council about the problems as many trees in public parks are protected.

Prior to planting any large trees in your property, you should consider the height they will grow to when they are mature and where their roots can possibly spread. Similarly assessing neighbouring trees with your neighbour now may prevent property damage and large bills in the future.

Ultimately your house is your major asset and it is in your interests to protect your asset but remember trees have rights to, and just cannot be chopped down for no reason if they are not on your property.

Trouble shooting why do I not have hot water

Trouble shooting why do I not have hot water

Why do I not have hot water?

May, June and July are the coldest months on the Gold Coast, and no-one wants to start the day with a cold shower in winter. Unluckily for some clients of Whywait Plumbing who are not Service Partners it is in these months they go to the shower and question why do I not have hot water?

Unfortunately, hot water systems are a case of out of sight out of mind. Continually where hot water systems are concerned, there were warning signs that there was a problem. Over the summer months, hot water problems are overlooked as the demand for higher temperature; hot water is not a critical consideration.

Several warning bulletins in Queensland have been issued by the QBCC and Queensland Health advising homeowners that their hot water systems need to be maintained and serviced frequently.

AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 Heated Water Services

The Australian standard that all hot water installation is based around is AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 Heated water services that are an integral part of the National Construction Code of Australia issued by the Australian Building Codes Board and it is all legal requirements in Queensland.

In AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 there is Appendix M which provides guidelines for the operation and maintenance of your hot water system which is below:

M1 SCOPE
This Appendix provides guidelines for the operation and maintenance of a heated water system.
M2 GENERAL
In order to ensure maximum performance and length of operation, water heaters should be inspected periodically.
M3 MAINTENANCE OF HEATED WATER SERVICES
Heated water services should be maintained in accordance with the following:
(a) Water treatment units: Where installed, water treatment units should be inspected periodically to ensure proper operation.
(b) Water vessels and tanks: All vessels and tanks should be inspected and cleaned periodically, and in accordance with any requirements of the regulatory authority.
NOTE: The frequency of periodic cleaning depends upon the quality of the supply water, design, materials of construction and the pipe system. Combinations of materials giving rise to corrosion should be avoided.
(c) Valves: The following valves should be inspected periodically to ensure proper operation:
(i) Temperature/pressure-relief valves.
(ii) Expansion control valves.
(iii) Thermostatic mixing valves.
(iv) Tempering valves.
(v) Other associated valves/devices.
(d) The requirements of AS/NZS 3666.2, where applicable.

Common reasons for why do I not have hot water

why do I have no hot water so call Whywait PlumbingBelow are listed the most common reasons we attend to clients jobs who call up to as why do I not have hot water? Listed are elementary troubleshooting ideas that you can undertake yourself to resolve or understand why your hot water is cold:
  • blown fuse or circuit breaker – replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker and if it blows again it’s probable there is a fault with your element or thermostat, and you need to call Whywait out to repair
  • Energex relay switch failure – this is not the easiest to detect but if you are on off-peak rates and there are no obvious electrical faults or water leaks then its worth a phone call to your energy supplier to check whether the relay switch has failed to activate in your area
  • defective relief valve – most relief valves on the side of the HWS only have a life span of around 3-5 years. Still, they can jam open so first check if you see water running from it by pulling the lever up and then easing back down again. If water continues to run then you need to call Whywait out to service the unit
  • no water at all – this is when you wake up turn the tap on and cold water flows, but there is no flow from the hot water. Frequently this a failure of the non-return or isolating valve and a quick way to check is to turn the handle on the valve all the way off and then all the way back on. In many cases, the hot water will simply begin to flow again. However, if there is still no flow you need to call Whywait out for repairs
  • water fluctuation from hot to cold – there are several reasons for this occurring, but the most common is a faulty tempering valve. There is nothing you can do to solve fluctuation other than call Whywait and read our information on tempering valves
  • water leaking from hot water tank – there is only a maximum of 7 possible points on an HWS tank where there are joints that can possibly leak. Only 2 of those are concealed in the housing so if the water is leaking from the tank and its not from the visible water connections you need to call Whywait for service to check the HWS. In all likelihood, if the hot water tank is more than ten years old then its a 50/50 chance you need a new one installed

DIY warning

The above reasons are the most common problems you will experience with why do I not have hot water. As you can see above, there are only a few simple DIY solutions when you have no hot water.

A word of warning though. Please never open up the housing near the bottom of the tank where the electrical connections are as they are all live wires inside there and therefore very, very dangerous.

Whether you have a solar, heat pump, gas or electric hot water system they do need periodic maintenance so for all hot water problems call Whywait Plumbing now on (07) 5580 4311 as we guarantee a same-day rapid response for hot water problems.

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