Written By: Angelo DiGangi
We’ve all heard it: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Although complete failure or partial failure will vary based on the situation, one thing doesn’t change…you have to have a plan!
The best news is that when it comes to plumbing problems – which, as we all know can wreak havoc on our homes in a matter of minutes – you don’t need to have extensive flow charts (pun intended) or elaborate practice runs. For the most part, a few simple checks can keep everything in balance before, during and after the storm (both literal and figurative storms, that is).
Preventative Plumbing Maintenance
Here are some overall tips that can help keep your pipes flowing smoothly and cut down on those debilitating clogs:
Become Well Versed in your Water Shut Off Valves
Step One is always going to be to locate your various water shut off valves and make sure they are in good working condition.
In general, you can expect to find:
- Main Shut Off: For homeowners, you should be able to access your main line in the event of an emergency and this is usually located just before the water meter, where the supply enters the home. Also, outside near the street or near the side of the house there is usually a shut off valve that may only be accessible by your municipal public works employees.
- Cold Water Intake: Near your water heater there is usually a shut off valve on the cold side. If you rent an apartment or condo, this water heater valve often is the highest level of water control you can expect to have (because the main water line services multiple units within your complex and is not accessible by tenants).
- Individual Supply Lines: These are going to be around or near your water-using appliances and fixtures.
- For sinks, the shut off valve is located under and behind the basin (for pedestal sinks) or inside the cabinet (for vanities and enclosed sinks).
- For toilets, look behind the bowl on the wall or on the floor at the base of the toilet for the shut off valve, which is atop the water supply line.
- For washing machines, there are hot and cold water knobs behind the unit.
- For all other appliances and fixtures, these supply valves are not necessarily located in a “standard” place (i.e., your dishwasher’s line may be under the sink…or not). Thus, it may be easiest to simply turn off a valve closer to the main line if you need to address a problem.
No matter which combination of the above valves applies to you, it is important to know where they are and make sure you have easy access to them at all times. Turn them off and on at least once a year to ensure they are not rusted or difficult to twist. And remember “righty tighty, lefty loosey” since turning knobs to the right (clockwise) will close a valve and turning to the left (counterclockwise) will open them.
- Address leaks immediately to prevent further problems.
- Systematically flush your drains – this can be done with a liquid de-clogging solution and a boiling water flush (heat a pot on the stove and carefully dump it down the drain after the liquid solution has done its job to break up remaining clumps of hair and hair care product that can create a film on your pipes).
- Rather than waiting until it gets cold out, check on your water heater’s insulation in the summer. Making sure your heater is properly insulated and in place during the hottest months can save you big time on your electric bill by easing some of the burden on your AC unit!
Of course, there are more maintenance checks you can perform but the above are some of the most basic that cover the most ground.
Plumbing Problem Solving
Even the most careful DIY plumbers can run into snags, like when you go out of town or have a pipe burst.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do if you return from vacation to a flooded home, but there are steps you can take if a pipe bursts or freezes up on you!
As before, step one is always going to be to shut off the water supply to the house. This is sufficient to stop the water long enough to repair the leak if you have a pipe that burst for reasons other than frost, but for frozen pipes, step two is “don’t panic.”
Open a faucet near the blocked area and grab a hair dryer. Making sure you’re not in standing water, turn on the dryer and warm up the pipes, starting at the end of the pipe closest to the tap. Never use an open flame! As soon as water starts to trickle, you can inspect for cracks and address those as needed.
What are some other plumbing problems you’ve been able to avoid or handle yourself?
Author Bio: Angelo DiGangi, a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago area, is a regular contributor on Home Depot plumbing products and projects of interest to homeowners. Angelo’s interests range from providing tips on hot water heater usage to discussing the latest in plumbing fixtures.