Maybe you’ve just moved into your first house. You’ve unpacked the boxes and settled in, thrilled to have a place that’s truly your own. That is, until the shower head starts dripping or you notice the toilet running. You can’t put in a request to the apartment super anymore; now it’s time to learn how to try your hand at plumbing.
Have no fear; we’re here to back you up if all goes wrong. Just take into consideration these plumbing tips designed for newbies before you take apart your kitchen sink.
Take safety precautions.
That means use protective goggles (to protect your eyes from backsplash) and stay away from chemical cleaners. That means no toilet bowl cleaner tabs in your toilet tank, and no Drano for clogs. Fewer chemicals means a safer project area. Besides, toilet freshening tabs are bad for your toilet (causing corrosion) and chemical drain cleaners are ineffective and can damage pipes.
Make sure you know how to turn off the water source before you begin any project.
If you’re working on a toilet, the local water shut off valve should be located right next to the toilet. Other projects may require you to shut off the water to the entire house. Learn where your shut off valve is (and while you’re at it, show the other people living in the house with you so you won’t get stuck in an emergency.)
Protect your hands (and tools) while loosening stuck parts.
When working on your first plumbing project, you may be surprised at how difficult it can be to loosen a calcified plumbing part. Be smart: don’t pull a muscle trying to force that pipe fitting loose.
Instead, if you’re dealing with old, solidified pipe dope, use a little heat. A small torch (like the type you use to scorch the sugar for crème brule) will do the trick. Protect the walls with something heat resistant, and only heat water pipes, obviously. If you aren’t sure if you’re dealing with a gas or a water line, you have no business attempting the project at all. Be smart and stay alive.
Start with an easy project.
There are plenty of plumbing projects that will be disastrous if you get them wrong, but there's very little damage you can do when replacing your toilet’s flapper or fixing a leaky showerhead. The following are great beginner plumbing projects you may want to tackle yourself as you gain experience and confidence:
Replace a toilet flapper.
Old toilet flappers warp and leak, causing the notorious running toilet. They’re cheap (just a few bucks) and they have simple instructions right on the package. It’s such an easy project you might want to try it this weekend even if you’re not sure you need a new one!
Improve the efficiency of your water heater.
Here’s another simple project: extend the life of your water heater. You can help that bad boy last longer and produce more hot water at lower cost by draining and flushing the tank once a year (see step-by-step instructions for draining your water heater here), and you can lower winter heating costs by covering it with a water heater insulating blanket (which you can find at your local hardware store).
Prevent backflow problems.
Backflow occurs when there's a powerful drop in water pressure, pulling water back into the pipes instead of encouraging flow out of the home. For example, if a leak springs inside your home, water may be drawn back through pipes where it should have flowed out.
When does this become a problem? Backflow issues can happen if you:
- Have problems with your irrigation system, resulting in backflow into your water line
- Leave a garden hose in a pool, puddle or bucket of water and then you spring a leak somewhere inside the home drawing water in
To prevent backflow problems, thread a vacuum-breaker fitting onto the end of the hose bib. If you have an irrigation system, check that the backflow preventer has been properly installed and is working. Backflow preventers should be tested annually.
Fix a leaky showerhead.
Another simple task is to remove old thread tape and apply new thread tape to a leaking showerhead.
Unclog an old showerhead.
Showerhead seem like some of the holes are blocked? Soak it in a bowl of warm water and vinegar for 60-90 minutes. Scrub any clogged holes with a toothbrush. Reattach the showerhead and enjoy a victory shower!
Up Against a Plumbing Challenge That’s Out of Your Scope?
Found a plumbing project that’s over your head? Need a Charlotte area plumber with experience? We understand that these plumbing tips can only get you so far, especially if you're a new homeowner. Give us a call at 704-846-5371 today and we’ll complete that project for you.
Quick question & answer: What are the best plumbing tips for beginners?
The best plumbing tips for beginners involve taking safety precautions. Know how to turn off the water source before beginning any project. Protect your hands and tools while loosening stuck parts. Start with an easy project like one of the following:
- Replace toilet flapper
- Improve water heater efficiency
- Prevent backflow problems
- Fix a leaky showerhead
- Unclog an old showerhead