10 Plumbing Tips Everyone Needs to Know

By Donna Boyle Schwartz

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. plumbing tips
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. plumbing tips

  1. Know the Location of Shut-Off Valves
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    Plumbing Tips: Where Are Main Water 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 clean outs. Note that apartments and condos may not have their own dedicated shut-off valves. plumbing tips

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  2. Don’t Puncture Pipes
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    Plumbing Tips: 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.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  3. Find Out What’s Flushable
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    Plumbing Tips: What Can't You Flush Down the Toilet?

    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!

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  4. Don’t Put Garbage Down the Drain
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    Plumbing Tips: What Can You Put in Garbage Disposal?

    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.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  5. Take the Plunge
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    Plumbing Tips: Best Plunger

    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.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  6. Pull Out the Vacuum
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    Plumbing Tips: How to Unclog Sink with 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.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  7. Don’t Ignore Leaks
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    Plumbing Tips: Don't ignore a Leaky Faucet

    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 leakspromptly before they become big—and costly—problems.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  8. Never Over-Tighten Fittings
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    Plumbing Tips: Never over tighten plumbing 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.”

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  9. Make Friends with Plumber’s Tape
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    Plumbing Tips: How to Use 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.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  10. Always Check for Leaks
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    Plumbing Tips: How to 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.

    Photo: istockphoto.com

  11. Plumbing 101
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    Plumbing 101

    With the right knowledge, you can be your own first line of defense for basic plumbing issues.

    Photo: bobvila.com

What to do if you suspect a leak between your meter and home (water service line leak)

It is estimated that about 20% of homes have a main service line leak between the water meter in the street and the home. Short run pipes between the home and meter are just as susceptible to leaks as long run pipes. So don’t be swayed by the distance between the two.
Its also important to note that the water utility is responsible for any leak to the meter and the homeowner is liable from the meter onward. 

Why will an exterior pipe leak?

Here are the 3 common reasons that the pipe between your meter and home will leak.

1) Tree roots and other vegetation that have shallow and invasive roots will push up against your pipe and crack it.

2) The pH of the soil can cause your pipes to degrade. Whether copper, plastic or any other material, the pH of your soil can cause the pipe wall to weaken and break. Soil pH changes over time because of the pH of the water absorbed by the soil, fertilizer applied to your garden, and environmental contaminants runoff.

3) Soil expansion and compression will also cause your pipe to break. Having soil that is composed of sand or clay will cause “flexing” of your soil when saturated with water. Having concrete or asphalt over your water main service line does not necessarily provide protection. In fact, it may create a hard frame that restricts the movement of the soil when it expands. Thus when water seeps under the concrete or asphalt and saturates the soil, there is limited room for soil expansion. In cold climates saturated soil may freeze and cause soil contraction. Both conditions put pressure on your service line and may cause cracks or complete ruptures.

Is there a leak?

To determine if you have a water main service line leak, you should first shut off your home’s water at the House Shut-Off Valve. Then go visually check the meter. None of the dials or digital read-out should be changing. If any dial is spinning (even slowly) or the digital read out is incrementing, you have a leak.

If there is no water flow registered on the meter, we recommend you take a picture. Go run some errands and return at least 30 minutes later to compare for any changes. Many times slow flowing water does not immediately register on the meter. 

If the meter reading has now changed when compared to your previous reading (picture), you have a leak. 

Before you call a pro?

Trace the water line to see if you have an abnormally wet spot in your garden. That could be the location of the leak.

Another check is to listen for water flowing. At times if the leak is large, you may be able to hear the water flowing. So walk along the outside of the home listening for water.

If you are fit and motivated to do some work, you should dig up the dirt above the service line to try to find the specific location of the leak. 

Locating the leak yourself will save you on the cost of the plumber searching for the leak. 

What to look for in a leak detection professional?

Be sure that the plumber is a licensed and bonded; and if you haven’t found the leak make sure they specialize in leak detection.

Check BBB and social media reviews to eliminate plumbers that provide poor service.

Again if you haven’t located the leak, ask the plumber what sort of technology they use to locate the leak. Ultrasonic technology is used for both underground and in wall leak detection. The other technology used is infrared cameras that uses thermal technology to “see” a hot spot or a cold spot in the wall or ground.

As with any home project, get at least three quotes and the details of what will be done for that price. Don’t shy away from a free inspection. Some very good and reputable plumbers use this attention getting approach as a promotional tactic to get your attention. 

 

 

written by: Emilio Vargas II

Checklist for home plumbing maintenance

In response to the many requests, we have put together this plumbing maintenance checklist to help you identify and avoid potential problems with your home’s plumbing.  We invite you to download this checklist for your use.

To download, click here > Plumbing Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Check our podcast for the 3 part series on home maintenance.

Plumbing maintenance – scheduled:

  • Where is the water shut off valve located?

› Exercise main water valve at least once per year more often if you have hard water (high mineral content.

» To check your water quality, check with your water company.

  • Water heater

› Flush your water heater at least once a year.

» Turn the heating element off. Turn the water inlet valve to the off position. Connect a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the water heater. Open the valve for the spigot and let all the water drain out. When completely drained, close the spigot valve. Turn the water inlet valve to on position for 2 or 3 minutes. Then while water is on at the inlet, open the spigot. This will flush any remaining sand and silt from the bottom of the tank. Let drain until you see clear water. When clear water is seen, close spigot valve, remove hose and turn heating element on.

› Listen to your water heater

» Listen to the water heater for a gurgling sound while the heating element is on. This sound usually means that you have a thick layer of sediment at the bottom of the tank. This sediment will cause the heating element to work longer to heat the water. This extra heating time overheats and weakens the metal of the tank which will result in rust and eventually a leak.

  • Washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator hoses

› Inspect annually; look and feel for small bulges forming along the entire length of the hose. If a small bulge is visible or felt, replace immediately.

› It is recommended that these hoses (both rubber and metal reinforced) be replaced every 5 years.

Plumbing Maintenance – Prevention Tips:

— Heat your water no higher than about 120F / 50C.

» Setting your water temperature too high causes the heating element to heat the tank longer. The longer heating time overheats the metal of the tank and weakens the metal of the tank which will result in rust and eventually a leak.

— Add pipe insulation to the plumbing in cold parts of your house—such as garages, basements, and crawl spaces—to avoid frozen pipes (and to shorten the wait for hot water).

— Avoid using acids and corrosive chemicals to clear drain. They can damage your drains and cause expensive leaks.

— Prevent frozen pipes

» Heat your entire home — not just certain rooms. Allowing warm air to circulate through your home keeps your pipes warm.

» Allow the water to trickle from each faucet in your home when temperatures are extremely cold.

» Insulate both cold and hot water pipes.

— Never use an exposed pipe as a hanger rod for laundry or pull-up bar. Doing so can loosen joints and fasteners.

— Outdoor spigots in cold weather regions need special attention

» Use extended length gate valves; the valve gate should extend past the interior wall

» Insulate the spigot during cold weather

» Fix a leaky spigots before freezing temperatures occur

posted by: Intellecy Inc
To download, click here > Plumbing Preventative Maintenance Checklist