Every homeowner needs to know some basic plumbing. At the barest minimum the location of the water meter should be known and a curb key should be at hand to turn the main valve, shutting off the water to the entire house. There are major plumbing problems and there are minor problems. The major ones require shutting off the main supply quickly and then calling a plumber and the minor ones can usually be fixed by the homeowner himself with little or no investment. Major problems that might occur are thankfully rare and include ruptured pipes, either in the crawl space, behind a wall, or in the yard. Keeping the pipes insulated, especially in winter, will help avoid this problem, and turning off the water main prior to leaving for vacation will ensure no water damage occurs while away.
The most common plumbing problem, and one that every homeowner will face given enough time, is a leaking faucet. While this does not cause structural damage, it will continue to worsen and will cost money in lost water. Repairing the faucet is easy, but varies depending on the design of the faucet. Shut off the water to that faucet, remove the handle and then remove the stem hardware. Take that to a local plumbing store and ask for a replacement part, usually for only a couple of dollars. Replace and the faucet will be good as new.
Another common problem is a leaking toilet, identified by the toilet repeatedly refilling. Either something gets caught in the flapper valve, usually the chain) or the flapper wears out. If the flapper is not obviously obstructed, put some drops of food coloring in the tank and wait an hour; any color in the bowl is a sign of a leak. Normally, a flapper is held in place with a single clip and requires no tools to replace, just make sure the chain is short enough to keep from getting caught under the flapper.
A third common problem is a clogged toilet. Keeping a plunger close by will usually clear a clog rather quickly, but occasionally feeding a plumber’s snake down the toilet is needed to free the clog. Avoiding putting anything in the toilet that doesn’t belong is important to prevent a clog.
Plumbing, like everything else, eventually wears out especially the parts that are moving and are used frequently. Knowing how and when to fix these simple problems will save time, money, and grief.
Tim Allen showed viewers many ways not to fix common household items in his long-running sitcom, Home Improvement. A few of the incidents even involve plumbing mishaps. Fortunately, Tim Taylor is a caricature and does not represent the way most plumbers operate. A person who does not want to visit the hospital or at least face an expensive repair pill can use the following tips to reduce his bill.
Clearing Clogged Drains
As long as nothing physical gets stuck in the drain, most clogs can be removed by products available at your local grocery store. The reader may immediately think of Dran-o or Liquid Plumber, but these two products work for moderately severe clogs. Home kitchens have two items that work just as well to clear the drain. The first common product a person can use to clear the drain is discarded coffee. Coffee is a slight base. Pouring your used coffee down the drain can remove items that are likely to cause clots later. Another item that can help clear a backed up drain is common baking soda. Mix the baking soda in the water and pour it down the drain. When neither of these work, apply the Liquid Drano.
Disposing of Items Properly
The drain of a kitchen sink can collect a number of items it was never designed to hold. Vegetables, matchboxes and a number of other small toys can find their way into the drain. The best thing a person can do to maintain his household plumbing is to keep such items out of sink. The drain plug will keep food particles out of the pipes. Keeping small toys out of a home’s requires careful supervision of children. Anyone who has children knows this sounds easy, but constant supervision of infants and toddlers is difficult to put into practice. If the drain becomes clogged, a plunger can solve many flow problems. More server cases require a drain snake.
When Working On the Plumbing
A do it yourself plumber can easily install most pipes on his own. He simply needs the right kind of wrench to remove the pipes. Before applying the wrench, a do it yourself plumber needs to turn the water to the pipe off. Failing to turn the water off will create a very wet and possibly a very injured amateur plumber.