5 Tips on Basic Plumbing Repair

A renter deals with plumbing issues by calling the landlord or building superintendent. When you own your home, you are responsible for repairs. This does not mean you must call a plumber for every problem.

If you know the basics of plumbing, you can make some repairs yourself – saving hundreds of dollars. Here are five tips for basic plumbing repair.

1. Watch for Water Leaks

Small water leaks can lead to big plumbing problems if they go unnoticed. Stay alert and pay attention to signs that trouble is near. Dripping faucets, leaking pipes and damp closets are symptoms that demand quick action.

Water leaks are more than annoying; they can be destructive to both your home and your health. Ongoing leaks can cause extensive damage to fixtures and structures. They waste water and encourage mold and mildew growth.

2. Know Your Shut-Off Valve

Knowing how and where to turn off your home’s water supply is important. It can help you avoid costly water damage. As home construction differs, so does the location of your water shut-off valve. Common locations are basements, crawl spaces and under the kitchen sink.

You should also know how to turn off the water to individual fixtures and appliances. This includes sinks, toilets, washing machines, and water filter systems. Turning these off during an emergency can reduce damage and make clean-up easier.

3. Know How to Unclog a Drain

Do you have a slow drain due to a clog or buildup deep in the line? Chemical drain cleaners are effective but expensive – and toxic to your health. For a safe way to unclog a drain, you need a plumber’s snake.

Also called a drain auger, a plumber’s snake is a tool that reaches into pipes to remove clogs. It consists of a long, coiled metal wire and a crank that rotates the wire as it moves through the pipe. If this does not fix the problem, call a professional for plumbing services.

4. Know Your Water Pipes

Do you know the composition of your water pipes? It affects your entire plumbing system. It can mean the difference between decades of use and sooner-rather-than-later replacements.

If your home existed before 1930, it may have lead pipes. In a home built before 1970, the pipes may contain galvanized steel or copper. Although strong, these materials can leach contaminants into your drinking water.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic was popular in recent years since it does not corrode. Yet, it susceptible to cracks and leaks. Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is the current choice for plumbing. It is more flexible than PVC and less susceptible to bursting during a freeze.

5. Maintain Your Water Heater

Every home has a water heater, and every homeowner should know how to care for it. Your water heater works hard for you – providing warm baths, clean clothes, and shiny dishes. Routine maintenance will keep it efficient and reliable for many years.

Adjust the thermostat to 120 degrees to save energy costs and prevent scalding. Maintain two feet of clearance around the unit. Drain part of the tank (about one-quarter) a few times a year to remove debris and sediment. Test the relief valve yearly, and always be on the watch for leaks.


Plumbing emergencies can take a toll on your mind and wallet, but you do not have to call a plumber for every issue. With a few tools and some basic knowledge, you can learn how to handle common problems on your own.

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