DIY Plumbing: Quick Fixes You Can Do Yourself and How To Tell if It’s Time to Call a Plumber
May 15, 2018
DIY jobs are becoming increasingly popular as people look for new ways to save money, upgrade their homes and do things for themselves. From leaky faucets to clogged toilets, you can do many plumbing jobs on your own. However, some do require a professional. Use this guide to determine what you can handle alone and when you should start searching the internet for “the best plumbers near me.”
Turning Off the Water Supply
Although not all plumbing projects require you to turn off the water supply before working, some will. Even if the project doesn’t require you to shut off the water, it may be a good idea to do it anyway if you are new to repairing your own plumbing. Your sinks will likely have an easy-access valve underneath of them, and your toilet typically has one behind the base. Turn off all the valves to ensure you don’t have any watery accidents. If you can’t find the valves underneath the piece you’re working on, or if you need to work on your bathtub, you’ll need to shut the water main off.
Main valves are a bit trickier. While you might have one inside your house, such as in the basement, you might find that your main valve is at the street. If looking in your home, focus on ground level. This means a water main in the basement will likely have a shut-off valve at eye level or higher, but a water main on the ground floor means you need to look down. The valve may also be outside your home near your water meter. If the valve is near the street, you will probably need to call your water company or a professional plumber in Houston for help. In many cases, Houston homes have the main shutoff valve coming up out of the ground and into the house located either on the side or front of the residence.
Choosing the Right Tools
Gathering the correct tools is an essential part of successfully completing a DIY plumbing job. The types of tools you need depend on the specific plumbing job, but it’s a good idea to gather each of these items so that you’ll always have what you need in the future.
If you don’t already own them, start by purchasing flathead and Phillips screwdrivers in a range of sizes. You’ll also need several types of wrenches for your plumbing repair kit.
Pipe Wrench: While a large crescent wrench works well for many jobs, a pipe wrench opens wider and provides a better grip while you work.
Seat Wrench: Most jobs won’t require a seat wrench, but it is still important to pick one up in case you ever need to work on a sink or bathtub faucet.
Basin Wrench: Bathroom faucets and some kitchen faucets typically have nuts in very tight places. A basin wrench’s design includes an adjustable-angle head that makes it easier to get to and remove the nuts.
In addition to wrenches, you’ll need several other items in your kit. A small drain snake is about 25 feet long and uses a hand-powered crank. It will allow you to pull out any clogs that aren’t too deep. Teflon tape is important for wrapping threads on pipe fittings so that they are better protected against leaks. Plumber’s putty is useful for sealing pipe joints or joints between basins and drains. Finally, consider purchasing a water meter key. A key is useful if you need to shut off the main water supply because it makes the job much faster, especially if you are dealing with a plumbing emergency.
Working in the Kitchen
Leaky kitchen sinks are the most common plumbing problem, but luckily, they’re also one of the easiest to fix. Whether leaking from the handles or from the spout, the handle itself is your culprit. Most kitchen sinks use a single-handle faucet, but they don’t all work the same. Some use rotating ball valves while others use cartridges or ceramic discs. While instructions vary slightly depending on the type of faucet, the basic instructions for fixing one include removing the handle and the mechanism and replacing the seals surrounding the faucet. If you can’t discern which area is causing the leak, or if each seal is looking a little rough, you might consider replacing the entire faucet.
If you do want to replace the entire faucet, you’ll first need to determine which type to purchase. A sink with one hole requires a single faucet with no deck, and one with two holes typically requires one faucet and an accessory, such as a soap dispenser. Some sinks have three holes, and some have four. Since most kitchen sinks use single faucets, the extra holes are often for spraying mechanisms or other accessories. After determining which type of faucet to purchase, installing it is often as simple as following the instructions included with your item.
Sometimes, a faucet works perfectly, but the sprayer accessory begins to malfunction. Replacing a sprayer is usually easy as long as you know which type you have. If the hose is detachable, as is likely if it’s an older sprayer, it will be easier to replace. Simply purchase a new hose and nozzle.
Working in the Bathroom
If you want to start small, upgrading your showerhead is the way to go. Installing a new showerhead is as simple as unscrewing the old one from the pipe at the top of the wall, wrapping Teflon tape around the old threads and screwing on the new showerhead. Of course, it is still important to read the instructions. While most will work with Teflon tape, some don’t require it and using the tape could even make the showerhead leak. Pay attention to size as well. Some showerheads are too large for the pipe and won’t easily fit in the allotted space. If you fall in love with a showerhead and it doesn’t fit, you can also find extensions for the pipe to ensure everything fits well.
A toilet that never stops running is usually the next easiest fix in a bathroom. It typically occurs for one of three reasons: the flush valve doesn’t close completely, there is too much water in the tank or the flush valve needs to be replaced. If you need to replace the valve or the handle, you can purchase a new one at any home improvement store. Most are standard and will fit any toilet, but you can take your toilet’s model number with you if you want to be sure. Look for it on the side or inside of the tank. Replacing the valve or flusher is as simple as following the instructions in the packaging.
Do you have clogs in the shower drain, bathroom sink or toilet? Depending on how deep the problem runs, you may be able to take care of it yourself. If the problem is in the tub, you’ll need to remove the drain plate first. From there, you will find the straight drain pipe that you can use a snake with. If the problem is in the sink, a different method is required. Grab a bowl, a bucket an old toothbrush and some replacement washers. Be sure to turn off the water before you start and then crawl under the sink. Place a bowl under the trap to catch any leftover water and unscrew the sink trap. Remove any gunk and use a bucket of clean water to wash the trap with the toothbrush. Once it is clean, you can screw it back onto the sink, using new washers to prevent further problems. Finally, you can fix a stopped-up toilet with a traditional plunger.
Working in Other Areas
There are a couple of other places in your home where plumbing knowledge comes in handy. Take your water heater, for example. The temperature and pressure valve, which is located near the top of your tank, may cause leakage. If you notice it leaking, check the water temperature before doing anything else. It should be at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or medium. If it is higher than that, the valve is operating under too much pressure. If your water temperature is fine, you will likely need to replace the T&P. When replacing, be sure to verify the length of the existing one to make sure you get a proper match.
Knowing When to Call a Professional Plumber
While fixing some plumbing problems yourself can save you a lot of money, DIY plumbing can also cost you a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing. In some situations, it’s not only more cost-effective, but safer to call a licensed professional.
Low water pressure is one common example in which repairs can go either way. The pressure may be as simple as replacing a faucet that is too old or dirty with hard water buildup, but if doing that doesn’t fix the water pressure, the problem could be more serious.
Perhaps your home completely lacks hot water. A failed water heater is a serious issue. Replacing one properly requires a certain level of skill and experience which is uncommon for most home owners. Typically, a professional can replace water heaters faster, safer, and cleaner.
Pipe blockage may also be a problem. If your at-home drain snake or store-bought drain cleaning agents didn’t work, a plumber has the professional-grade tools to dig deeper into the system to locate the problem. This includes issues such as broken or punctured sewage lines or tree roots growing into the sewage system, all of which can release raw sewage and cause thousands of dollars of damage if not dealt with swiftly and properly.
Of course, a burst pipe is a necessary time to call in a professional. Cracked or burst pipes can damage your walls, floors, furniture and personal belongings if you don’t repair the pipe and clean up the water properly. A poor cleaning job may even cause mold or mildew to grow.
Other times to start searching for a “plumber near me” online include for any major installations or any jobs that pose a safety hazard, such as working with electricity, gas or the major moving parts of a garbage disposal.