Avoid These Common DIY Plumbing Mistakes

There’s nothing like a little do-it-yourself knowledge when it comes to your home’s plumbing system. You can save money and feel good about completing a project using your own skills and ingenuity. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as easily as planned – and when plumbing work goes wrong, it can go very wrong in a hurry. Make sure to avoid these common plumbing mistakes so you don’t end up creating a messy and expensive repair job.

Not Shutting Off the Water

There’s a main water shut off valve somewhere in your house, and probably localized shutoffs for some of your individual rooms and fixtures. Be sure you shut down the flow of water before you start taking anything apart, lest you end up with an inadvertent flood.

Too Much Drain Cleaner

A clogged drain is one of the simpler problems for the DIY plumber, but even this fix can go wrong. Many plumbers recommend that you avoid using chemical drain cleaners, or if you do indulge, use very sparingly. If you overdo it, you could end up corroding your pipes. Better to use mechanical methods like a plunger or a plumbing snake to clear up whatever is causing the blockage.

Mixing Up Your Materials

There are a variety of pipe materials on the market, and you should be aware of what’s installed in your home. If you want to make a change, like swapping outdated PVC plastic for more modern PEX, be sure you understand what the consequences might be. Some types of plastic can’t handle hot water, and there are other materials you shouldn’t match – copper connectors on galvanized metal pipes can cause corrosion, for example, leading to blockages down the road. Consult a professional before making any material changes.

Not Having the Right Tools for the Job

When you’re trying to pull your pipes in and out of place, there’s not a lot of margin for error. You don’t want to be tightening joints with the wrong kind of wrench, or struggling to remove a nut when it would come off easily with the right tool. Make sure you have the correct tools for the job before you start, and know how to use them.

Ignoring Local Code

Your municipality has a local building code which includes rules and regulations for plumbing, covering what types of materials you can use, what types of configurations are legal and more. The code is there for a reason – it helps protect your home from cheap, shoddy work that’s likely to break down and cause more problems in the future. Know the code and follow it.

Not Knowing When to Throw in the Towel

Know when it’s time to give up. A repair that looks easy on video can end up taking you days, especially if you have to run out for new parts or tools in the middle of the work. There’s no shame in admitting that a job is beyond your capabilities. If you end up in over your head and in the midst of a DIY plumbing disaster, call in an expert plumber ASAP to help mitigate any problems and get you back on the right track.

How to Clean Out Your Sink Trap

Are you struggling with a clogged sink? If you’re lucky, you can resolve the problem by using a plunger or  using a plumbing snake to clear the drain, but a tougher clog might require you to remove the trap in the pipes. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple task that you can probably take on yourself. It’s also a valuable skill to have in case you accidentally wash something valuable, like a wedding ring, down the sink. When in doubt, call in a professional.

The Right Tools for the Job

Before you put wrench to pipe, try sending hot water down the drain and using a plunger to dislodge the blockage. If both the plunger and the snake fail to get the job done, it’s time to get an up-close look at the pipes under the sink.

First, gather your tools. You’ll want a bucket to catch spilled water, a wrench or channel lock pliers to get the pipes apart and a brush to clean out the clog. The trap is easy to find – just look directly under the sink for the pipe that’s bent into a “J” shape.

Set the bucket underneath the trap to catch any water or debris. Next, use the wrench or pliers to unscrew the joints on each side of the trap and remove it from the other pipes, letting the water drain into the bucket. Keep an eye out for the o-rings that should be sitting between the trap and the other pipes.

Clear Out the Gunk

Now that you’ve removed the trap, you can use a brush to remove the hair, soap scum and other debris that may be clogging the pipe. It’s also a good opportunity to clean it out with the hose to remove any lingering goo or biofilm.

Once the trap is clean, all that’s left to do is put it back together exactly the way it was – minus the clog, of course. Don’t forget to reinsert the o-rings between the pipe fittings before you screw them back together. Tighten up the joints until they are firm, but be careful not to twist too tightly or you could damage them. This is especially important if you have plastic pipes.

Finish the Job

When the trap is back in place, run some water down the drain to refill it and check for any leaks. If it’s dry, clean up any mess and you’re done.

If something does go wrong, however, don’t hesitate to call up an expert to come put everything back together. It’s better to admit defeat and ask for help than risk creating an even larger problem.

What Do Those Funny Plumbing Noises Mean?

When your plumbing system is working properly, you don’t have to think about it. Water comes in, water and waste get removed – that’s the end of the story. Unfortunately, things don’t always go so smoothly. Sometimes, the plumbing can break down – noisily. Here’s a primer on the possible meaning behind the strange noises coming from your pipes, and how to remedy them.

Hissing in the Sink: A hissing sound coming from your fixtures is often a sign that the water pressure is too high. This can run up your water bill and stress your pipes over time. Having a pressure regulator installed can keep the PSI within normal levels.

Thud or Hammer: The distinctive thud when you turn off a faucet can be another indication that your pressure is too high. A regulator might help, as could installing air chambers or shock absorbers in the pipes. These devices compress when the water shuts off, cushioning the hammer effect.

Whistling from the Pipes: If your fixtures whistle, that could indicate the opposite problem – the pressure is too low. Try turning your pressure regulator down, if you have one. A whistle could also be a sign that there’s air or debris in the pipes. To address that issue, turn off your main shutoff valve and run the faucet until you drain out all the water, then open the valve again and see if that helps.

Rattle and Shake: Do you hear your pipes rattling when you flush the toilet or otherwise drain out water? They might be physically loose. Test the fittings to find any spots that aren’t properly secured, and simply tighten them up to quiet down the racket.

Strange Gurgling Coming from the Drain: This could mean that your vent pipe is blocked, which prevents water from draining properly and also could cause bad odors and gases to back up into your home. The vent opening (usually located on the roof) should be visually inspected for anything that might be obstructing it.

An Ominous Dripping: If one of your plumbing fixtures is dripping, it’s not just a minor annoyance – it’s also a serious waste of water. A single leaky faucet can waste 3,000 gallons of water per year, according to the EPA. Before you waste another drop, you can solve the problem by putting in a new washer or even installing a brand new faucet.

Whooshing from the Shower: If you hear a whoosh when you take your daily shower, it probably means that there is mineral buildup in your pipes or hot water heater. This is most common in areas that have “hard water,” or water with high quantities of mineral content. You may need to have your heater or pipes professionally flushed to clear out the sediment. A water softener can also help minimize future problems.

When in doubt, call in a qualified plumber to diagnose your noisy pipes and get your plumbing system flowing in peak condition again.

Debunking common plumbing myths

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So, you’ve purchased your own home and want to educate yourself on prudent and effective home maintenance. You’ve learned the basics about your plumbing system and have even brandished an adjustable wrench a time or two. Kudos on taking responsible steps to safeguard your home investment. However, make sure you aren’t being fooled by some common home plumbing myths that are at best useless and at worst could end up costing you a lot of money.

Some of the biggest plumbing myths to avoid:

Don’t worry about a leaky faucet: It’s just a tiny drip, how big a problem could it possibly be? Very big. According to the EPA, a leak can lead to 10,000 wasted gallons of water per year in a single household, or the equivalent of 270 loads of laundry. Plus, a leak can actually damage the faucet and stain the fixture. Get it fixed ASAP.

Toilets make a great garbage chute: Unless you want toilet water overflowing onto your floor, followed by a nasty plumbing job and cleanup, never flush anything except toilet paper and human waste.

Lemons and water are the key to a clean and functional garbage disposal: While a lemon slice or two can help eliminate odors, they don’t do anything in the way of cleaning. Read your manual to find out what kind of maintenance your disposal really needs to keep it running in peak form. Similarly, water will not prevent clogging. If you toss in something that the disposal isn’t equipped to handle, or if you overload it with too much at once, running water at the same time won’t be enough to prevent a clog or other damage.

You don’t need to think about your pipes unless they are clogged: Just because the water is draining for now doesn’t mean you don’t have nasty clogs building up in your pipes. Debris like food in the kitchen sink and hair and shampoo in the bathroom can accumulate over time, until the water starts backing up at the worst possible moment. Always practice good drain hygiene by using a trap to catch any solids, and have your system inspected annually to make sure there isn’t a major issue lurking just around the corner. You can also ask your plumber about maintenance products that will help keep your drains clear without damaging pipes.

In an emergency, any plumber will do: When you have a major problem and need plumbing assistance immediately, it’s tempting to hire the first handyman who answers the phone. However, if you trust your pipes to an untested novice you could find yourself out a lot of money while the problem remains unresolved, or even worsens. Only accept experienced professionals when it comes to the plumbing in your house so you know the job will be done right the first time.

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. Never 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.

The best ways to unclog a shower drain

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There are many reasons why you might need to call a plumber, but a clogged drain doesn’t necessarily have to be one of them. Shower drains can clog often, and you may be able to clear it yourself using some  simple tricks. Of course, you should always keep the number of a professional plumber on hand in case the clog turns out to be too serious to handle on your own.

Use a plunger
Plungers aren’t just for toilets — you can use them to unclog drains in your bathtub or shower as well. Remove the drain cover, place the plunger over the drain and let the shower run until the rubber portion of the plunger is submerged. Then pump up and down and see if you can dislodge the clog.

Snake it out
Another common way to tackle a clogged shower is to snake the drain. You can purchase a quality snake from most hardware stores. Feed the snake slowly into your drain until you feel some resistance, then wind the snake around to break up the clog. Once the snake clears it, the debris should go down the drain by itself. If you don’t have a snake you can try using a bent clothes hanger. If you opt for this method, try to fish the clog out; the hanger won’t be able to break up the blockage and you could end up pushing it further down the drain.

Get a liquid drain cleaner
There are many drain cleaners on the market that can help you remove a clog. Ask a professional plumber for a recommendation on which is best for your plumbing system.

Boil some water
If you’re not comfortable using professional-strength chemical drain cleaner, there are natural remedies that may work. Try carefully pouring boiling water down the drain to see if that assists in breaking up the clog. If that doesn’t help, try pouring in a mix of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup vinegar to see if this is more effective.

If none of the methods above is successful, call a plumber. A professional will have the tools and expertise to trace the cause and clear the drain.

Install a Drain Plug in Your Bathtub

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The bathtub drain stopper plays an unheralded but important role in the hygiene routines of many Americans. If you exclusively take showers to get clean, you probably don’t think twice about the drain plug, and might not even own one. For a relaxing bath, however, the drain plug is even more important than candles and a rubber ducky. Read on for tips on how to install a universal drain plug if yours is missing or malfunctioning.

A DIY Bathroom Plumbing Repair

There are plenty of reasons you might need to install a new drain plug in your tub. Even a tiny leak around the seal of a stopper can be annoying and wasteful. Perhaps the old plug has become lost or broken, or you’re tired of dealing with a standalone plug that gets in the way when you aren’t using it. Or maybe you just want to update the look of your tub. Fortunately, you can purchase kits that include press-on drain stoppers and overflow caps that will fit in most tubs.

Replacing the stopper is one of the simpler bathroom plumbing repairs you can take on. The kit should have supplies that allow you to either screw the new stopper into your drain flange, or glue it into the tub using an adhesive. It’s easier and less time consuming to screw in the part, but that may not be an option because your flange doesn’t have threads, or they don’t match up with the new plug. If the plug isn’t a perfect fit, you can also use the silicon adhesive to fill in any gaps and create a better seal. Keep in mind that if you use glue, you need to wait several hours for it to harden before you can test or use the tub.

Don’t Forget the Overflow Cap

If you purchase a press-on drain stopper, there’s no need to hook it up to a new or existing lever that you control via a switch on the overflow cap. This makes your bathroom plumbing repair far simpler than it would be otherwise. However, you still might find it worthwhile to replace the overflow cap with a new model, even if just for aesthetic purposes so it matches the new drain plug.

In some cases, you can simply unscrew the old overflow cap and replace it with a shiny new one. However, the job gets more complicated if you have an old drain lever that you want to remove. In that scenario, you might need some extra tools to extract pins and pull out all the old parts.

Expert Help in Your Bathroom Today

If you aren’t up to the task of installing a new drain stopper on your own, or you need any other assistance with bathroom repairs, contact an expert local plumber today.

A few ways to find hidden water leaks

6 Ways to find hidden water leaks

 

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Early detection of a water leak can save you money and avert potential disaster. Here are some signs that you may have a leak and should consider contacting a plumber.

  1. Check your water meter
    One of the best ways to tell if you have a leak in some part of your plumbing is to check the water meter. To do this, you’ll first have to turn off all the water in your home. Shut off all faucets, and make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are not running. Next, watch the meter and see if it begins to  change. If it does, you likely have a fast-moving leak. If the meter doesn’t change immediately, wait two hours and check it again. If it has changed despite all the water being off, you may be dealing with a slower leak. The leak could be anywhere after the meter, or even underground. Remember that all piping after the meter is a homeowner’s responsibility.
  2. Look at your usageThe U.K. Environmental Protection Agency recommends checking your winter water usage to find out if a leak is occurring somewhere in your home. If a family of four is using more than 12,000 gallons of water per month, there’s probably have a serious leak problem somewhere in your plumbing system.
  3. Monitor your billIf your bill is rising consistently but your water use habits haven’t changed, a leak may be to blame. Gather some bills from the past few months and compare them to see if there’s a steady increase. Your water bill should remain within the same range month to month. Remember that some of your pipes may be under ground. You may never detect leaks in this part of your system, but you will always pay for them. It’s best to have a professional plumber make a thorough check of all the pipes.  A warm spot on the floor ( with under slab piping) or the sound of water running needs prompt, professional attention.
  4. Grab some food coloringToilets can account for up to 30 percent of your water use, so you should  check to ensure they’re running properly. To test for leaks, add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet tank and wait 10 minutes. If the color shows up in your bowl, then you have a leak allowing water to flow from the tank to your drain without ever flushing the bowl.
  5. Check exterior usageLeaks don’t just happen inside the home — they occur outside as well. Check your outside spigots by attaching a garden hose; if water seeps through the connection while the hose is running, replace the rubber hose gasket and check to see all connections are tight. Consider calling a professional once a year to check your irrigation system if you have one. A system with even a small leak could be wasting 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  6. Use common senseMake a practice of regularly checking in the back of cabinets and under basins for any signs of mold or foul smells that might indicate a leak: prompt attention could save you thousands in repairs. Consider having a professional plumber make an annual inspection of your home to check for leaks or potential problems.Be especially vigilant if your home is over 25 years old; your plumbing system may be on the declining side of its life expectancy.  Inspect all accessible connections at the water heater, pumps, washing machine hoses and valves for oxidation or discoloration – clear signs of a slow leak.

    If you suspect a leak anywhere in your plumbing system, call in a professional to make a repair as soon as possible. Don’t wait until it gets worse and you end up with a real mess on your hands!

Need some professional guidance?

Your local Plumber & Drain Unblocker Rods Away are always here to help. Give us a call and we’ll track the leak down for you and make any necessary repairs.

DIY tips for clearing a clogged drain

DIY tips for clearing a clogged drain

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It’s an ominous sign most of us know all too well: You’re standing in the shower and you notice that instead of draining, the water is rising around your feet. Or maybe the kitchen sink takes forever to drain after you do the dishes. Clogged drains are a plague for many a homeowner, but fortunately with a bit of determination you can clear most of them yourself without having to call in a professional.

DIY Plumbing

It’s best to avoid using chemical drain cleaning products, because over time they can corrode your pipes and cause a much bigger hassle. Instead, try out one of these home remedies:

  • Boiling water: Sometimes all it takes is some very hot water to clear the path. Be careful not to burn yourself.
  • Vinegar and baking soda: If hot water isn’t enough on its own, recreate your middle school volcano project with a mix of equal parts vinegar and baking soda and send it down the drain. With luck the foam will clear or dislodge the clog.
  • The plunger: This is the first tool to try if the clog is in your toilet, but plungers can also be useful in sinks and bathtubs. Just make sure there is some standing water over the drain to create suction, then plunge away.

Break Out the Snake

If those options don’t work, you can roll up your sleeves and go after the clog manually. You’ll need a snake, or a tool that can bend its way through your pipes until it reaches the blockage. If you don’t have a snake, a bent coat hanger may work. If the clog is hidden deep in your pipes, a metal snake with a crank can work its way in, grab onto the blockage, and draw it out.

If your snake doesn’t fit through the crosshatch in the drain, you may be able to remove the drain entirely. Some bathtubs also have an overflow plate below that faucet that you can remove to access the pipes. If in doubt, call a qualified plumber. Don’t risk damaging your drain or fixtures.

Preemptive Action

Follow basic plumbing hygiene to avoid the problem before it starts:

  • Use a screen trap to catch hair and debris in your shower and kitchen sink.
  • Scrape food off your dishes into the garbage before you put them in the sink.
  • Never dump grease down the sink..
  • Don’t flush anything but toilet paper and human waste down the toilet.

Call in the Cavalry

If your efforts are unsuccessful and your drains are still clogged, don’t be embarrassed to call a plumber for help. There may be a blockage beyond your ability to clear, or there could be a much more serious problem like a collapse in your sewer outlet. An experienced professional will diagnose the problem and resolve it for you so your household water is flowing freely again.

HOW TO UNBLOCK A TOILET

Follow our guide and keep those drains moving!

  • Love your loo: Make sure that only waste water, toilet tissue and human waste goes down your drains and into the sewer.
  • Bin it – don’t block it: Wrap up sanitary products, nappies, wet wipes and condoms and put them in the bin.
  • Think – not in the sink! After cooking, fat, oil and grease should be left to cool – it can then be put in the bin or mixed with seeds and nuts to make a feeder for birds.
  • Chemicals, solvents, engine oil and paint should be taken to your local refuse site.
  • Medicines, tablets, syringes and needles should be taken to your pharmacist, local hospital or health authority for safe disposal

How to unblock a toilet

If there is one essential facility in your house you need to use on a daily basis it is the toilet.

A blocked toilet can be a real nightmare – inconvenient, tricky to deal with and perhaps a little embarrassing if you live in a shared house.

The problem

Blocked toilet

Blocked toilets are a fairly common occurrence and it’s possible to attempt to clear the blockage yourself. If the situation worsens or you feel concerned about tackling the problem, then feel free to contact us at Rods Away. We’re happy to help you resolve the situation and get your toilet back to normal.

Don’t flush

The first rule of dealing with a blocked toilet is simple: don’t flush! However instinctive it is to try to flush the toilet, this usually creates more problems than it solves. Excessive flushing is likely to cause your toilet to overflow and create a serious mess, so leave the handle alone and think about removing the blockage before you try to dispose of the build up.

Plunge away

The next step is to grab a plunger in the hope of loosening the blockage, just as you would approach a blocked drain. This could turn into a dirty job so it’s advisable to find yourself a pair of gloves before getting stuck in. If you’re lucky this should do the trick and fix the blockage. When you’re totally convinced that this has done the job, flush the toilet once again to check that everything is operating as it should be.

Avoid chemicals

In the event that using a plunger is not enough to dislodge your blockage, you might be tempted to opt for chemical products to deal with the problem. While chemical drain cleaners such as caustic soda can be efficient in clearing troublesome blockages, they can also be harmful to the environment and potentially hazardous in the home. If these chemicals come into contact with skin they can cause irritation or even burns which creates a serious hazard for your household. Try to avoid using these chemicals yourself where possible.

Call the professionals

If your toilet blockage is really stubborn and you can’t get it to shift or if it keeps recurring frequently, then it might time to let us step in and help. Rods Away will be happy to visit your home and help you to solve the problem. Recurring blockages could be caused by a problem further down the pipe. We have the tools and experience needed to shift hard-to-reach obstructions to prevent problems occurring in the future.

visit our website for more information and contact details.