For some reason, many of us are nervous about plumbing issues and will call a plumber for the smallest reason. Not only is this an expensive process but very inconvenient too as we wait to use our kitchens and bathrooms.
Now, I am not suggesting we should all don coveralls and start changing pipes and water heaters; but there are some simple tips and hacks we can all use to fix problems and prevent them from recurring.
Before you start any plumbing project, you should always know where the main water valve is and, just to be extra safe, turn it off if you are going to be doing something to the pipes or taps.
Leaks will occur in most plumbing at times. The trick is to catch them early before damage is done to pipes, taps or the surface onto which the water is falling.
Leaky taps are most often caused by a faulty washer also known as the O-ring. Before replacing the washer, turn off the water at the mains first. (Removal of the tap without turning off the mains supply will result in the equivalent of the Niagara Falls in your home.)
Cover your tap with a cloth to protect the surface before using a wrench or pliers to remove the tap body. If you don’t have a spare washer and will need to go to the hardware store, make sure the mains water supply is kept off while you shop. (Tell everyone!)
Then, simply replace the washer, reassemble the tap and, hey presto, no more leaks.
Leaky pipes are not so easy to fix. If they are visible, you might want to try replacing the leaky part. Again, turn off the water at the mains before attempting anything and prepare for the fact that the pipe will have water in it when you remove it.
You might have water leaks where you cannot see them and this will affect water pressure in your home. Left unattended, water damage and mold can occur and the cause of the leak can worsen resulting in a flood.
If you suspect you have an invisible leak, the best way to check is to turn off all the taps in your home then take a water meter reading. Wait a few hours (making sure no-one uses any water in the meantime) and then check the meter again. If water has been used, you have an invisible leak and will need to call in the professionals.
3.Clogged Drains and Toilets
Clogged drains and toilets are one of the most common and annoying plumbing problems. Plumbers are often called out to solve them whereas a little effort on your part can clear them easily.
Firstly, try a good old-fashioned drain plunger. Put some elbow grease into it and plunge a few times to see if that dislodges the mass.
If that fails, try 1 cup of baking soda followed by 2 cups of vinegar. Wait 30 minutes and then pour boiling water down the drain or toilet. Then plunge again.
If neither of these works, try a drain clog remover. A drain cleaner is much stronger so should be used after other methods have failed. Follow the handling and usage instructions carefully to avoid accidents.
Finally, if your onslaught has been unsuccessful, your last step before calling a plumber could be to hire a plumber’s snake from your local hardware store. This is a long flexible pipe which you thread down the drain to physically dislodge and break up the clog.
4.Water Temperature Issues
In hotter climes, water coming from your cold tap can be very warm indeed. You can turn off your water heater and use cooler inside water instead or install a water cooler if it really is a problem.
However, the majority of water temperature issues come from water heater malfunctions or incorrect settings.
Firstly, make sure your thermostat is set no higher than 115˚ F which is perfect for showering. Any hotter and you risk scalding yourself (especially important if you have young kids) and it is pointless to use electricity to heat water which you will then need to cool down.
Make sure any lagging or insulation around your water heater fits properly and has not been damaged or worn out. You want to make sure heat stays inside the water heater not in the cupboard, ceiling or loft.
If, after checking all of these, you are still having water problems, you might need a new water heater or thermostat and will need to call the professionals.
5.Clogged Showers or Taps
Do you wonder why water is not coming out of all the holes in your shower head? Has your bathroom tap water flow reduced to a dribble? Lime-scale, debris, sand, dust and rust can all block the holes and aerators on your hardware.
There is a very simple fix before you go out and buy new taps. Soak the offending parts in white vinegar for 6-12 hours. You can use a plastic bag tied to taps if you don’t want to disassemble them or place your shower head in a bowl with the vinegar.
Use a soft brush to clean the blocked areas and then use a needle or thin piece of wire to clear out any remaining dirt from the holes. Finally, rinse thoroughly and you should be flowing freely again.
(Use any leftover vinegar with some baking soda to give your drains a quick clean.)
6.Maintenance and Prevention
Proper care and maintenance of your plumbing will help prevent future problems.
To Flush or Not to Flush
Teach everyone in your home that only bodily waste and reasonable amounts of toilet paper should be flushed down toilets. Feminine products, uneaten food, oils and fats, kitchen towels etc. will all, eventually, cause blockages.
Drains and Sinks
Hair, food scraps, oils and so on will all lead to blocked drains. Keep drain guards in your sink holes at all times to prevent unwanted items from entering your drains.
Regular Drain Cleaning
Instead of waiting for your drains to get blocked, you should assume that there is something already stuck down there waiting to cause a problem, so do regular vinegar and baking soda cleanses of your drains and toilets to prevent future problems. If you often experience blockages, do this process monthly otherwise quarterly should be fine.
Check the pipes of your dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator and ice machine at least every six months. Turn of the mains water and remove the pipes, checking they are clear, clean and have no cracks or breaks in them. This way, you will be able to replace them before they break and flood your home.
Prevention is always the best cure so look after your plumbing to avoid making those irritating and expensive calls to your plumber. If you do have a problem, you will be able to fix it yourself and feel so proud afterwards!