Common Plumbing Mistakes Every Homeowner Should Stop Making

Sometimes, it can seem like a struggle to keep up with the maintenance in your home. From a crack in the ceiling to a floorboard coming undone, at times it can feel as if the madness doesn’t stop. However, one of the most common problems many homeowners face is taking care of their plumbing on their own. Sure, there are some jobs that you can try to tackle yourself (and we admire the courage), but that DIY job can end up harming your plumbing in the long run, if handled incorrectly. Without further ado, here are some of the most common DIY plumbing mistakes that are committed quite regularly:

Improper Planning

Whether you are building a new bathroom from scratch or updating your old one, you'll want to have a good plan in place for everything, including the details of your plumbing and fixtures. Some of the biggest DIY mistakes happen when last-minute changes are made to the initial renovation. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Measure: It's the 3-part, golden rule of any project: measure the space that
    you are working with, then measure it again. And, before you start cutting or punching holes, measure it one more time. You want to make sure that you are allowing enough room for any plumbing facets that are being installed to fit properly, with ease. The last thing you want to come across is a sink that’s too close to the door, the bathtub and toilet touching each other, or a faucet that's too big for the sink you’re working with. Ultimately, it's a lot less expensive to do it right the first time than it is to redo it later — so please, take your time when completing a project like this.

  • Too many fixtures: It’s true: your home only has so much water pressure readily available. If you have too many fixtures, you may not have enough water pressure to supply an adequate amount of water for everything. It would be a shame to add a new bathroom to your home to only find that you have just a trickle of water coming out of the taps. Before you make a move, it’s imperative to make sure that you’ll have enough water to handle any added fixtures.

  • Cleanout: This is a designated space that will allow a plumber easy, quick access to the interior of your plumbing system's pipes — which is perfect if there’s an obstruction within them. However, if you’re looking to change your renovation plans, you’ll want to make sure that the cleanout isn't obstructed in any way. This, of course, will make it much more difficult for a plumber to gain the proper access and will ultimately be quite a challenge to take care of what should be a simple procedure.

What’s Going Down the Drain?

On average, there are three main drains in your home: sinks, tubs, and toilets. Here are some things to look out for to keep your drains safe.

  • Sinks: If you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen, it shouldn't be used in place of a trash can. A little food waste is okay, but too much can clog the drain. Of course, there should also be traps in place for every sink drain to keep anything substantial from falling down into the drain (and causing a headache that could have been avoided). Truthfully, you'd be surprised at how many service calls a plumber receives on a daily basis because something like a piece of jewelry or a small toy, has been inadvertently dropped down the drain.

  • Tubs: A hair trap over the drain is a must in any home. If all of that hair is allowed to wash down the drain, it will eventually collect somewhere along the pipe and cause a blockage. And, these clogs are sometimes the hardest to find, especially if the tub is upstairs and the cleanout is downstairs.

  • Toilets: It’s important to remember that toilets are only designed to flush water, waste, and toilet paper. Too often, homeowners flush paper towels, napkins, tissues, hair, and cigarette residue. When this happens on a frequent basis, it's only a matter of time before a plumber will have to be called to fix the clogged toilet.

Putting Off Repairs

Pipes and fixtures are meant to last for a very long time. However, at some point, they will require little maintenance to keep them in good shape and functioning as they should. Here is one example of when some homeowners are tempted to wait before calling for a repair:

  • Leaky faucet: Over time, all faucets are bound to leak. Usually, it's a minor issue inside the fittings that can easily, and quickly, be repaired by a qualified plumber. Unfortunately, these repairs are often put off until later. And, to make the problem worse, a homeowner will have a tendency to twist harder on the fixture, trying to get the drip to stop in its tracks. This method (not recommended) might not work at first, but will make the drip get worse over time. Additionally, all of that twisting and pressure will eventually wear the internal fittings — which will cause an even larger problem down the road. Ideally, what could have been a minor issue with a gasket could be exacerbated into replacing the entire fixture. Just remember: the minute your faucet begins to leak, call a plumber right away.

Taping Pipes

Using insulating tape to protect pipes from freezing in the winter is one thing. However, using this tape, or another adhesive, to seal cracks in pipes is never a good idea. While you might find a product that will create a blockage and stop the leak, it's only a temporary fix and will lead to plumbing nightmares down the road.

Think about it like this: once the integrity of the pipe has been breached, the crack will continue to grow. If you don't see it growing on the outside of the pipe, it can still be growing much larger on the inside of the pipe. And, if you're trying to seal a pipe that runs through a wall, there could be damage on the other side of the wall that you cannot see (hello, water damage).

Getting In Over Your Head

It can happen to the best of us — you find yourself diving into a project that isn’t quite as simple as you thought it would be. Suddenly, you find yourself in a situation where you not only can't complete the project, but you can't undo what you have done, meaning you’re stuck with plumbing that doesn't work.

While there are some minor plumbing issues that most homeowners can handle on their own, sometimes it's best to hire a professional (especially if you aren't confident that you are able to handle the project).

The Reassembly Process

Replacing a washer in a leaky faucet or cleaning the intake valve on a water softener are a couple of things that some homeowners, with a little skill, can handle on their own. The real problem arises when a homeowner takes apart something with several pieces and can't remember how to put it back together.

If you're tackling something like this for the first time, it's a good idea to take a few
pictures during the disassembly process. Those pictures may come in handy when you are putting everything back together and will ultimately save the day (and bouts of frustration).

Avoid Quick Fixes

Picture this: you begin to wash your hands in the bathroom and start smelling a strong sulfur odor coming from your drains. In a panic, you find a chemical drain cleaner that promises that it will get rid of the smell entirely. If you happen to use that cleaner, then the problem won’t be the lingering odor anymore, but rather the health of your pipes.

You need to be careful with drain cleaners. In fact, we highly advise homeowners not to use them at all. While the bottle might promise to clear minor blockages, the active chemicals in cleaners can start to erode certain pipes and fittings, especially if they are used too often. If you’re looking to get rid of a foul drain odor, it's much better to find the cause of the problem (by scheduling a drain cleaning with a plumber) than to do something that will only mask the issue, or worse, cause harm to your pipes.

When you need a professional to help service your home’s plumbing, know that Fox & Sons is ready for your call! Our goal is to keep you and your family safe, giving you peace of mind in knowing your plumbing system is healthy and reliable!