10 Basic Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Should Know
You know what they say about an ounce of prevention… Don’t leave yourself unprepared for a plumbing crisis. If you’ve read our 12 Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Should Know, then you’re aware that some basic knowledge and a few helpful tips can keep your home safe from water damage and your wallet safe from hideously high water bills. Whether you’re moving into a new home or you just want to brush up on your DIY plumbing knowledge, check out these 10 additional plumbing tips that every homeowner should know.
Plumbing Tip #1. Know Your Seals
Taps may be sealed closed with one of several different parts. Usually a tap will use a ceramic disk or a rubber washer. Familiarize yourself with the different taps in your home and which components they use. This will help you be prepared for repairs or replacements as they are needed.
Sink mixer taps are more likely to boast ceramic seals, but basin sinks still typically rely on rubber washers.
Plumbing Tip #2. Find All Water Supply Valves
It’s common practice to turn off the water supply to larger appliances before leaving home for an extended period of time, such as when you’re going on vacation. Doing so lessens the likelihood of coming home to a flood. Most of the time you can manage this by simply turning off the water supply to specific areas of your home, rather than messing with the water main.
Look closely around toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and sinks to familiarize yourself with these valve locations. You’ll need to know where they are before you attempt any repairs on these appliances as well.
Plumbing Tip #3. Stock Up on Vinegar
In the plumbing world, vinegar is a good friend to have. It is relatively gentle on most appliances and excellent at cleaning and unclogging. Vinegar is a common ingredient in home drain remedies and can also be used to clean a dirty bathroom appliance. For example, if you notice your showerhead is operating at a low water pressure, the solution may be as simple as wrapping a baggie of vinegar around the showerhead and waiting.
Plumbing Tip #4. Locate Your Water Main
The water main is essential to your home’s plumbing. When something goes wrong, turning off the water main is usually your first step before addressing the issue.
If you don’t know the exact location of your water main shutoff valve, it can cause extra stress and damage in the event of a plumbing problem. Your valve is usually located in one of a few different places, depending on the type of home you have. In homes with a basement or crawlspace, the valve is usually found on an interior wall near the front of the house. Homes built on slabs typically have their shutoff valves in the garage or near the hot water heater.
If you have trouble locating your shutoff valve, call a plumber or even your utility company. They will be able to help you.
Plumbing Tip #5. Don’t Block Your Valves
Sometimes shutoff valves may seem like they’re clashing with your decor, but try to leave them undisturbed. Placing furniture, houseplants, or any other hindrance between you and your shutoff valves is a fast way to increase water damage in the event of an emergency.
Plumbing Tip #6. Find the Main Sewer Line Cleanout
It doesn’t sound fun or glamorous, but you’ll need to be able to access your main sewer line to complete maintenance or address blockages. The cleanout is usually located near the house or property line, and occasionally may be found in the basement. Much like a shutoff valve or water main, this piece of your plumbing is very important and every homeowner should know where it is.
Plumbing Tip #7. Photograph Your Walls
Whenever you have home renovations done, you should take a few pictures for posterity. If your plumbing is exposed due to a wall remodel, snap a picture and keep it in a safe place. It’s always handy to know for sure what’s inside your walls and where. This can be especially helpful down the line if you decide to hammer anything into your walls and want to avoid damaging any concealed plumbing.
Plumbing Tip #8. Buy Pipe Insulation
Insulation isn’t just useful for keeping your pipes from freezing, it can also keep your plumbing from interfering with itself. The pipes under your sink, for example, are a great place to put a little extra insulation to ensure the spray hose from your sink can be easily maneuvered. If you find your sprayer needs some jiggling every time you use it, odds are it’s getting stuck against the pipes under your sink. Some insulation around the adjacent pipes with quickly fix that. Insulation is cheap and easy to find. It’s a wonderful idea to have a few extra feet of it stocked away in a cupboard somewhere.
Plumbing Tip #9. Invest in a Shop Vac
Shop vacs are great to have around the home for a lot of reasons. They’re perfect for cleaning outdoors and are sturdy enough to suck up even the wettest messes your garage can muster. But a shop vac is a useful plumbing tool, as well.
Oftentimes, clogs caused by hard objects like toothbrushes or small toys can be hard to dislodge with traditional plumbing tools. Plungers, for one, usually just push the object further into the pipes and make it even harder to dislodge. This is where the shop vac can pull double duty. Have one on hand to suck out those stubborn clogs.
Plumbing Tip #10. Don’t Overdo the Tightening
It may seem like over-tightening pipe fittings will offer the most protection against leaks, but the opposite is actually true. Over-tightening fittings can easily strip screws and break bolts, resulting in more plumbing trauma. As a general rule, fittings don’t need to be adjusted much tighter than what you can manage with your hand.