Plumbing 101

Plumbing 101

Plumbing is an integral part of every home, and the more plumbing 101 know-how you have, the smoother you can keep all your pipes flowing. You don’t have to be an expert plumber to take the best care of all your pipes and plumbing fixtures, but being familiar with the basics and common repairs is always a smart choice.

Why Learn About Plumbing?

With the easy availability of expert plumbers, 24-hour service, and emergency responses, why should you learn any plumbing skills instead of leaving the work to professionals? Many plumbing repairs are easy and only require basic tools, but if you call a repair technician, not only will you pay fees for their labor and materials, but also service call charges and other possible fees for holiday or after-hours responses. While this can be well worthwhile for true emergencies, most homeowners are perfectly capable of learning the basics to keep their plumbing running smoothly and to fix minor problems before they become major catastrophes. This will save both time and money, as well as prolong the life of the plumbing and pipes and provide great self-satisfaction and pride of ownership in your home.

Plumbing 101 – Learn Your Home

The first step in understanding your plumbing and keeping it running efficiently is to learn about your home. To do this…

  • Find your main water valve – usually near the water meter – and learn how to turn it off safely. You will need to be able to do this quickly if there is a major plumbing problem, such as a burst pipe or flood, even if you will be calling a professional for assistance.
  • Find the individual shutoffs for sinks, toilets, the washing machine, the water heater, and other appliances that use plumbing. This will help you control water flow if there is a problem in just one place, so you don’t have to shut off water to the whole house.
  • Learn the basics of your hot water heater, including the make and model, as this information will be critical if it needs repairs. Also inspect the tank and heater to be sure it is secure and does not have any immediate problems.
  • Learn where all your plumbed appliances are (don’t forget the refrigerator for a water and ice dispenser), as well as any unused plumbing lines for as-yet-unfinished bathrooms or laundry room hookups. Don’t miss outdoor water spigots or garage sinks as well.
  • If you have a septic system, learn where your drain field is and how functional it may be. This can easily be accomplished by a septic inspection or a septic technician can provide that information when the tank needs to be pumped.
  • If you use a water softener, learn the make and model of the equipment, as well as what type of salt is best and how to adjust the cycles. This will help you adjust the water quality to your own personal preferences.
  • Find the regular and emergency contact numbers and websites for your water company or city utilities, as well as local plumbers in case you do have problems and need to get a fast response.

The more familiar you are with your home’s plumbing and the appliances and fixtures connected to it, the better you will be able to care for the system and keep it running its best.

DIY Home Plumbing

While the exact steps for different DIY plumbing adjustments and repairs will vary based on the fixtures you use and the types of piping in your home, there are certain simple plumbing tricks every homeowner should know. For your own plumbing, try to learn the basics for each appliance and its most common problems.

  • Toilets – Learn to adjust the flapper, correct slow flushes, stop incessant running, clear clogs, reduce mineral buildup, and what should and should not be flushed
  • Sinks – Learn to clean out traps, change aerators, remove clogs, snake drains, stop leaks and drips, and what should not be put down any drains
  • Tubs and Showers – Learn to adjust water pressure, clear and prevent clogs, correct leaking joints, remove mineral buildup, and replace shower heads
  • Dishwashers – Learn to clean the filter, adjust cycles based on best needs and efficiency, and what material should be cleaned off dishes before use
  • Laundry Washers – Learn how to connect hot and cold water supplies and ensure they are hooked up properly
  • Refrigerators – Learn what plumbing needs to be connected and how to clean out water and ice dispensers as needed
  • Hot Water Heater – Learn to adjust the overall temperature, relight the pilot if needed, and drain the tank if necessary
  • Pipes – Learn where your pipes are overall and how to locate pipes in walls to prevent accidental punctures, as well as how to protect pipes from freezing in cold areas

When to Call a Professional

Even the savviest homeowner familiar with all the basics of their home’s plumbing and fixtures may occasionally need to call a professional. Big emergencies, floods, dramatic changes in water pressure, and sewage backups should always be tended by professionals, as well as any plumbing issue that may involve exterior sewer lines. Large remodeling jobs, particularly new installations or when plumbing lines need to be moved, should also be handled by professionals who can ensure the work is done to the latest building codes and safety standards.

Plumbing issues and dealing with minor repairs and maintenance are part of every homeowner’s to-do list, and the more plumbing 101 you are familiar with, the more confident you will be to handle small jobs and fixes yourself. Not only will you save on service fees, but you’ll be able to keep your plumbing functioning at its best with the least hassle and inconvenience, which is always worthwhile for any home maintenance project.