Knowhow-Now Article

The Penny Pinching Plumber: DIY Fixes

Although it's true that some plumbing mishaps simply cannot be avoided, this isn't always the case. In many circumstances, a costly and damaging plumbing emergency is the culmination of a series of minor issues left unchecked. By properly maintaining your plumbing system, you can do your part to prevent careless mistakes while protecting your home.

Tip: If your pipes are making a racket, there is a simple way to quiet them down. Anchor any easily-accessible loose pipes.

You probably already know that wrapping your pipes is a must-do when the temperatures dip below freezing. Don't rely on the overnight forecast to determine whether or not you wrap the pipes. Even meteorologists make mistakes, and it may turn out that the temperature drops well below what is expected. If the forecast calls for lows of less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit, take action. Allow a trickle of hot and cold water to drip constantly from all faucets. Disconnect your garden hose, open cabinet doors, and use heat cables or tape to wrap exposed pipes.

Tip: If your pipes freeze, turn on the water from the faucet nearest them to let water out when they start to thaw. Letting the water drain out will relieve pressure in the frozen pipe, which will reduce the chances of it bursting and damaging your home.

Make the area beneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks a clutter-free zone. With bottles, rags, and cleaning supplies crowd your pipes, it's less likely that you will be able to detect a leak when it first occurs. Over time, these leaks can cause damage to the floor, cabinet, pipes, and anything else in their path. It also adds up, causing your water bill to climb. Do away with these hazards to ensure that you can clearly see all pipes and fittings. Check periodically (once a month is sufficient) for any drips or telltale signs. You are more likely to conduct these checks if you don't have to displace dozens of bottles and boxes each time.

Tip: If your toilet is clogged, the water level in the toilet is low, and a plunger is not doing the trick, you may be able to resolve the problem by pouring a bucket of warm water into the toilet from waist level or higher. If the water goes down to a lower level again, then you should repeat the procedure.

If you notice water coming from the base of your bathroom or kitchen sink faucet, your first instinct may be to replace the entire unit. Believe it or not, some new faucets cost well over $1,000, and you can expect to spend a minimum of $200, plus installation materials. Before you take this route, use your owner's manual or manufacturer's website for your faucet to determine whether a faulty o-ring or washer is to blame for the leak. These tiny pieces cost less than $10 apiece and can be replaced fairly easily.

Tip: Put the strainer on top of drains to catch any food that would go down and cause a clog. You should clean your strainer in your kitchen anytime you have anything in it.

Any home maintenance project requires you to have the right tools, and plumbing issues are no exception. If you don't already have a well-stocked toolkit, a trip to your local home improvement store is in order. At the very least, you need a basic plunger ($10 or less) and a pipe wrench ($15-$50). Ideally, you should also have access to a sewer snake or drain auger, most of which cost less than $100. An assortment of o-rings and washers in various sizes should prove useful. Heavy-duty gloves can be helpful if you need to grip wet, slick pipes.

It's not uncommon for plumbing bills to reach hundreds of dollars for parts and labor. In some cases, calling a plumber for repairs is unavoidable. Many times, however, there is much you can do to prevent or decrease the likelihood of sustaining major damages to your plumbing systems. Basic care and maintenance saves both time and money.

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