Preventing a plumbing emergency

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Homeowners can save money with a little do-it-yourself spirit when it comes to minor plumbing projects. However, tread carefully, because with a single misstep you could make things worse than before or even flood your house. Plumbing disasters can be a huge hassle and end up costing much more than you hoped to originally save, so it’s crucial to be prepared and take steps to avoid a worst-case scenario and to know your limitations. Even homeowners who would never dream of attempting a repair can take preemptive measures to help preserve the integrity of their pipes and faucets and ward off emergency calls to the plumber.

If You Have a Project You Can Take on Yourself:

  • Study and understand your plumbing layout. Figure out where the pipes run in your walls, which are bringing water in and which are taking waste away. The more familiarity you have with the overall system, the better informed you will be when DIY-ing and the less likely you are to create a major problem.
  • Know where your main water shutoff valve is located. Usually, it’s found near the meter where water first enters your house. If you have a major leak, turn off the water flow as quickly as possible so you don’t have to deal with flooding and water damage in addition to whatever caused your original problem. Your home probably has individual shutoffs for different rooms, as well (typically found in the basement). Take advantage of this to cut off the room where you’re working but still have water flowing to the rest of the house.
  • Make sure you have the right tools for the job. Assemble a full assortment of pliers, wrenches, saws and files and whatever else a project calls for before you start so you don’t find yourself making an emergency trip to the hardware store while your sink is disassembled.
  • If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Better to admit when you’re stumped and call an expert than stubbornly attempting a repair and mucking it up worse than it was.┬áNever attempt a repair on your plumbing system unless you’re sure it’s something you can handle on your own.

Even if You Have No Intention of Breaking Out a Wrench:

  • Be careful with what you put down your garbage disposal. Don’t overload it, and make sure silverware doesn’t fall in.
  • Don’t pour grease down the drain. That’s a surefire way to clog the pipes.
  • Don’t flush anything but human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.
  • Keep a plunger in every bathroom. When a toilet starts overflowing, you don’t want to have to run through the house to find a plunger. Keep it close at hand and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to clear the clog before the waste water overflows onto the floor.
  • One tip especially for winter: Make sure you don’t have prolonged heat outages when the temperatures are below freezing. You risk freezing your pipes, which is annoying in and of itself. This could also cause them to burst, leading to floods and much bigger headaches. If you are planning on being away from home during the cold months have somebody check on the house periodically to make sure the heat hasn’t failed.

One more, very important step every homeowner should take
Establish a relationship with a reputable plumber before you have a problem. This has several benefits: your new plumber can give your system a once-over and point out any potential issues you may have missed, further reducing your chance of having an emergency. And if despite all your best precautions, disaster still strikes you already have someone to call who is familiar with your setup, does quality work and whom you can trust.