Homeowner Plumbing Tips

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apartment living definitely has some perks, the biggest of which is the ability to simply call maintenance when something in your unit breaks.  However, once you buy a home, anything that breaks is yours to fix.  With some advanced planning, you can have everything you need to resolve minor plumbing problems at the ready when they happen to you.

Your first order of business is definitely to assemble a plumbing kit for your home.  It should contain a plunger to unclog drains, duct tape for fast triage on stubborn leaks, a screwdriver, and heavy duty paper rolls which can be sued to absorb leaks off of the floor.  Another thing you should have handy is a set of hex keys, also known as Allen keys.  These are essential for tightening small nuts and bolts in confined spaces.  You should also purchase and use strainers on your drains to keep soap, hair, and other items from entering and clogging your pipes.

Next, you should familiarize yourself with where the main shut off valves for gas and water are in your home.  Should you experience a leak of water or gas, it’s extremely important to be able to locate those valves and shut them off quickly.

Finally, here are a few tricks to have up your sleeve for later.

  • If your toilet won’t flush, you can fill a bucket halfway with water and dump it into the toilet bowl. This should serve to clear the toilet until you can have the issue fixed.
  • A plunger can be used to unclog a blocked drain or a sink. If the plunger does not work on the sink, you can remove the u-shaped pipe in the bottom to clear out the blockage.
  • Always have the information for a local licensed plumber at the ready in case you need help.

Summer Plumbing Problems

Image courtesy of pupunkkop at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of pupunkkop at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the news media reminding us each of every year, it is fairly well known that significant problems, such as frozen and bursting pipes, can be brought on by winter weather.  However, what you may not know is that there are several plumbing problems that happen more commonly in the summer months than any other time of year.

The first plumbing issue that arises more often in the summer is a clogged garbage disposal.  First, the disposal tends to get a tougher workout in the summer months, when you are more likely to be entertaining at home.  Second, summer fruit and vegetable remains such as watermelon rinds and corn husks can wreak havoc on the blades of the disposal.  Finally, you may be making the mistake of dumping dirty grease down the sink after grilling out, which will coat the blades and cause buildup on them.  Be sure to run cold water before and after using the disposal to help clear out the food.  Grinding some ice cubes can help to remove any buildup on the blades.

Another thing you may find breaks down more frequently in the summer is your washing machine.  Between the kids being home from school, trips to the beach and the pool, and summer vacations, you may find yourself doing twice as much laundry as usual.  It’s advisable to only run the washing machine when you are home, so you can stop the cycle immediately if you notice any problems.

Finally, a third plumbing issue that often arises in the summer is sewer line backups.  If you live in an area with excessive rainfall, it can cause damage to the pipes in two ways.  First, any shifting soil around the pipes can cause them to crack.  Next, once the cracks occur, excess rainwater can seep in through them, thereby causing the sewer line to back up.  If you discover water backing up into any drain in your home, you should call a licensed plumber immediately.

Plumbing Tips for Homeowners

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For the majority of home plumbing issues, it is best to contact a licensed plumber for investigation and repair.  However, there are some cases where you can safely attempt to repair a plumbing issue on your own before calling in the professionals.  Some examples are below.

If your shower head seems to be clogged, it could be because mineral deposits from hard water are blocking the holes the spray comes from.  Try removing the shower head and placing it in a bowl of warm vinegar for one hour.  You should find that most of the mineral deposits are dissolved, and anything remaining can be removed with an old toothbrush.

If your kitchen sink is backed up, the most likely culprit is the garbage disposal, as it can get clogged when grease or fibrous vegetables cling to the blades.  Before you attempt to unclog it, you need to turn off the power to the disposal via your circuit box.  Even with the power shut off, you should NEVER stick your hand into the disposal.  Instead, use a pair of tongs to pull out the debris, then flush the disposal thoroughly with warm water.  If your kitchen sink is clogged and you do not have a garbage disposal, you can try to loosen the material clogging the drain with a small plunger.

If your kitchen sink sprayer is getting stuck, it is a very simple fix.  The sprayer’s lengthy hose is likely getting wrapped around pipes and valves under the sink. Placing some half-inch foam pipe insulation around the pipes and valves should correct this problem.

If you discover a leaking pipe, it requires your immediate attention and triage.  You should first shut off the water supply to that pipe.  Then, wrap a sheet of rubber around the leaking area and clamp it down with either a sleeve clamp or an adjustable hose clamp.  Once you have the leak under control, call a licensed plumber for a full repair.