Search on YouTube for DIY plumbing repairs, and you get thousands of self-proclaimed experts showing you how to fix a leaky toilet, clear clogged drains, and repair any number of common home plumbing problems. Many of them have millions of views. And then there are the videos that talk about the sometimes costly mistakes you can make when handling plumbing work yourself. Not surprisingly, they have far fewer views! But they have an important message for those who are willing to listen.
Here are several of the most common plumbing mistakes homeowners make that can turn minor plumbing issues into big problems — and why it’s often better to call in a professional plumber.
Not Turning Off the Water
Even though it’s the first step in nearly all plumbing projects, it’s also the easiest one to forget! If you don’t turn off the water before removing a fixture or pipe, you and your home are bound to get drenched! Be sure you know how to locate all your shutoff valves and understand what they control, and always know where the main house shutoff is. If any valves haven’t been operated in a while, you might find it difficult to turn them off. A plumber’s wrench can help.
Over-Tightening Plumbing Connections
It might seem logical that if a tight plumbing connection is a good thing, a really tight connection is even better, right? Not so fast! Over-tightening pipes, couplings, and joints can crack and break fittings. Problems like broken hex nuts and bolts can also occur when applying too much pressure to plastic fittings on faucets and toilets.
Not Having the Right Tools
The pros make plumbing look so easy, so it’s no wonder lots of homeowners think it’ll be easy for them, too. But keep in mind that professional plumbers always have the right tools for the job. Using ordinary wrenches or slip joint pliers on fittings that require internal pipe wrenches can break a pipe and leave its threads in the wall. If you don’t want to invest in more tools, call a plumber to handle the problem.
Using Tape Incorrectly
Plumber’s tape is a simple thread sealant and lubricating material; white and pink tape is used for fittings that carry water, and yellow is for gas line connections. It’s not uncommon for many DIYers to mistakenly wrap the tape in a counterclockwise direction around threads, which causes it to unwind from the threads as you tighten the fitting. Wind plumber’s tape clockwise three times around the threads, and make sure the last one faces left as you screw a pipe into its fitting.
Using Chemical Drain Cleaner
Store-bought drain cleaners offer quick, easy fixes for many clogs, but they shouldn’t be used regularly, as they can damage your home’s pipes. Persistent and stubborn clogs should be handled with a hand auger, drain snake, or natural drain cleaners like salt, vinegar, or baking soda mixed with water.
When to Call in the Professionals
A handy DIYer can safely make many minor plumbing repairs. In other cases, though — like when you have multiple drain clogs or a backed-up sewer system — a professional plumber can quickly and efficiently make the required repair. Having a pro repair your plumbing problem can also extend the effective life span of many plumbing system components in your home.
For more than 20 years, Michael Bonsby has provided quality HVAC and plumbing services to homeowners in Montgomery County, MD, and the Greater Washington, DC area.
To learn more about all the plumbing services we offer, including whole-home plumbing repairs, water leak detection and repair, and scheduled plumbing maintenance, contact us online today, or call us at 301-990-7970.