4 DIY plumbing tips every homeowner should know

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Guest article by mrspeedyplumbing.com

Some people are natural “Tinkerers.”  Others are less handy and would rather hire a skilled technician to fix every little fault in their home rather than try to repair or install anything on their own. No matter how uninterested you are in fixing and repairing stuff when it comes to taking care of your home knowing one or two things is a great idea.

There are plenty of reasons why knowing some simple tips and hacks for fixing your plumbing is important. It’s not merely about saving some money, although this can also be a major motivation too. Knowing some simple plumbing tips will help you cope better in case of an emergency (say a clogged toilet or drain when everyone is trying to get ready for work or school). These tips can also help prevent further damage to your plumbing or keep the situation at bay until you can call in a skilled plumber for a full-on repair. Here are 4 simple DIY tips that every homeowner should know!

Turning Off Your Water Supply

There are a lot of situations that might require you to shut off your water supply. If there is a fault in your plumbing, it is important that you know how to cut off the water supply in case of an emergency. This will prevent further wastage of water. You also have to switch off the water supply before any major or minor repair job can be done on your plumbing. Typically, there are three ways to get this done:

  1. Locate the shut-off valve that is closest to the plumbing fixture in question and shut it off. This is usually located directly beneath the fixture or above it. Turn this valve in a clockwise direction to cut-off water supply. You might have a hard time turning an old valve. In some cases, you might even need a wrench.
  2. An alternative is the main shutoff valve that supplies water to your home. Usually, this is a brass valve with a round handle typically located near the main pipe that brings water into your home. This could be in the kitchen, downstairs or in some cases in a separate utility room (or even outside!). Turning this wheel in a clockwise direction should shut off the water supply to your home.
  3. The third option is to cut off the water supply to your property entirely. You will need the permission of your water company for this and this is absolutely a last resort in cases of emergency.

In all cases, it is important that you know where all of these valves are located even before a fault arises. This way you can quickly identify the fault and shut off the water before further damage is done.  

Fixing a leaky pipe

A leaky pipe is one of the most common plumbing issues homeowners are faced with. Although it looks like a completely minor fault, if you consider how much water a simple leak can waste if left unchecked, you might want to fix it as soon as possible.

Typically, a leak is caused by a hole in the pipe or a damaged/loose joint. There are basically two ways to fix this. You can repair a leaky pipe with epoxy putty or use a pipe repair clamp to fix the damage. Which option you go for depends largely on the extent of the leak and the type of pipe involved.

  • Using an epoxy putty

Epoxy putty is space filling adhesive with clay-like consistency. It hardens at room temperature and it is typically used for filling small holes in pipes.  To fix a pipe with an epoxy putty, locate the point of the leak and turn off your water supply. You will need to wipe the pipe with a towel to dry it off.  Knead the two components of the putty together and apply it around the pipe. Wait for a while for it to set. It should fill the hole in the pipe and seal it off.  Turn the water on again and see if the leak has stopped.

  • Using a pair repair clamp

The initial procedure is almost the same when you are using when you are using putty. However, it is more mechanical and requires some simple tools. Once you locate the point of leakage in the pipe and shut off the water supply, loosen the screw on the pipe repair clamp. Place it around the pipe to cover the hole then tighten the screw in such a way that the clamp’s rubber gasket covers the hole in the pipe. You can turn on the water once this is done.

Replacing a damaged washer

Another common form of water leakage is when you have a damaged tap. The most common cause of leakages in taps is a damaged washer. However, a damaged washer is quite easy to fix with little or no technical knowledge whatsoever.

First, you need to get a new washer to replace the damaged one. They usually come in standard sizes and are commonly available in local hardware stores. Before you continue with the repair you should shut off the water supply. This way the water doesn’t drain out while you are working which will leave a mess.

Remove the cover and handle of the tap. To remove the body of the tap from the fitting, unscrew its headgear nut from the fitting. Be sure to keep the spout secured while unscrewing the headgear in order to prevent damage to the pipework.  With the tap body exposed, you should be able to find the old washer at the bottom of the tap. You should be able to pull it off with pliers and replace it with the new one. Proceed to reassemble the parts once this is done and recheck to see if the leak is fixed or not.

Unclogging a toilet

Knowing how to clear a clog is one of the most essential skills every homeowner should have. It is important that you always have a plunger in your home and know how to use it. You never know just when you might need it. For more stubborn clogs you might have to prepare a homemade toilet cleaner to get the toilet to flush again or use an auger to snake the line.

  • Using a plunger to unclog a toilet

Even if you don’t use it often, you should always have a plunger in your home. Ensure that you buy a good quality plunger as this will help you get the job done more conveniently. You should purchase either the ball-shaped plunger or one with a rubber flange at the bottom. A small suction-cup styled plunger might not work.

Before you start plunging, it is recommended that you run your plunger under hot water. This will soften it up and make your work easier. With the plunger softened up, you can proceed to insert it into the toilet bowl. Ensure that it covers the hole in the toilet and that the plunger is completely submerged beneath the water surface. Push it down over the hole then pull back up sharply to dislodge the clog. Continue to push and pull vigorously until the toilet starts to drain. This might take 15 to 20 cycles.

  • Using an Auger or plumbing snake

For deeper clogs, a plunger might not get the clog out. For these types of blockage, you can use an Auger or a plumbing snake. As the name implies a snake is a sort of flexible coil of wire that can curve through your drain to break up and clear clogs.

Usually, plumbers use Augers to clear up clogs but you should be able to handle one too with little or no technical knowledge. To begin, insert one end of the snake into the toilet bowl. Push the snake into the drain until you feel an obstruction. Push and twist the snake into the obstruction until it breaks up into small pieces that can go down the drain conveniently. In some cases, if you feel up to it you can remove the toilet bowl entirely and snake the toilet in reverse.

Also, if you don’t have a regular auger, you can fashion a wire coat hanger into a homemade auger to push the obstruction. It should work pretty much the same way a regular auger would. A wet/dry vacuum cleaner can also get a clog out when all else fails. (do not use a regular vacuum cleaner for this)

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with some simple DIY once in a while especially for fixing simple faults. In fact, knowing these tips is important to help save time, costs and prevent further damage. However, for more complex faults, it is recommended that you call in a professional plumbing technician. Do not try to fix major plumbing issues on your own as this may cause bigger damage to your plumbing.

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