Are you dealing with a dripping faucet, low water pressure, or clogged pipe? You’re probably tempted to call a professional plumber, and with good reason. Homeowners usually don’t have the necessary skills for a DIY plumbing job. They can even make matters worse in the end, triggering thousands of dollars in property and personal damage. But don’t put your plumber on speed dial just yet! Here are 10 basic plumbing secrets every homeowner should know. Maybe one of these could save you a costly visit from your local expert.
Know the Location of Shut-Off Valves
Before moving into a new home, note the location of the main shut-off valve and drain (in some cases, the shut-off will be located outside the house). You should also get acquainted with sewer line access points, in case you need to conduct periodic cleanouts. Note that apartments and condos may not have their own dedicated shut-off valves.
Don’t Puncture Pipes
Are you planning to drill holes or pound nails into your walls, floors, or ceiling? First determine if there are any supply or drainage pipes behind your work area, since you don’t want to accidentally puncture them. You may be able to locate pipes behind walls with an inexpensive stud finder. Alternatively, you could invest in an endoscopic camera, which can be snaked into the walls.
Find Out What’s Flushable
Homeowners shouldn’t use their toilet as a trash can, since flushing anything except toilet paper leads to nasty clogs. Even “flushable” baby wipes can back up the system!
Don’t Put Garbage Down the Drain
Never dump coffee grounds, food debris, bacon grease, vegetable peelings, or starchy foods like rice or potatoes down the kitchen drain; they will almost certainly clog your pipes. It’s also smart to read the manufacturer’s manual for your garbage disposal to know what, exactly, the unit can handle.
Take the Plunge
Invest in a high-quality plunger to clear clogs in toilets, sinks, and drains. If you’re planning to clean sink traps, use a plunger to push most of the water out before removing the trap. The task will be a lot less wet and messy.
Pull Out the Vacuum
When you're trying to dislodge a clog caused by a small, hard object (like a child’s toy, toothbrush, or comb), rely on a wet-dry vacuum. It's more effective to suck the object out. A plunger will only push it deeper into the drain, making it more difficult to remove.
Don’t Ignore Leaks
That steady drip, drip, drip of a fixture symbolizes money going down the drain. In fact, a leaky faucet typically wastes up to eight gallons of water per day, while a running toilet can waste 200 gallons per day. Fix small leaks promptly before they become big—and costly—problems.
Never Over-Tighten Fittings
A common DIY plumbing mistake is over-tightening fittings and connections, which leads to broken bolts and stripped screws. Remember this adage: “hand-tight is just right.”
Make Friends with Plumber’s Tape
Plumber’s tape (also called Teflon tape) is used to seal pipe threads to prevent leaks around joints and fittings. You should typically wrap plumber’s tape three times around the pipe threads before sealing. Also note that white tape is designed for common household plumbing projects, while yellow is for gas line connections.
Always Check for Leaks
After every plumbing project, check for leaks by running water through the system, then opening and closing all valves and drains. Even professional plumbers may miss a small leak and need to reseal a connection.