The plumbing system is a key part of any home and yet it’s often overlooked or ignored until something goes wrong. This is the wrong approach, like any complex machine or system a plumbing system requires regular maintenance to work efficiently. A plumbing system has a useful lifespan, aging and neglect can shorten that time and frequent repairs may be necessary. But, it doesn’t have to be this way, it is possible to take care of a plumbing system and you may save money at the same time. In this article, we will take a closer look at the merits of a proactive approach to plumbing maintenance.
The first thing to realize is that plumbing problems don’t “just happen” and in many cases, they can be prevented or at least the risks can be mitigated.
This starts with your choice of local plumber to work on your home. This may seem strange, most people don’t contact a plumber until something goes wrong. But, it’s better to find a plumber that you want to work with before you need them. Let’s face it, when water is leaking everywhere and you’re under pressure the last thing you want to do is search online reviews for plumbers. If you front load this choice and do your research now, you can have the plumber’s emergency number when you need it.
The next thing you need is a basic home plumbing toolkit to deal with minor problems. A small toolbox with a cup plunger, toilet plunger and a couple of plumbing snakes in different sizes can solve many drain clog issues. A screwdriver and pair of adjustable wrenches can come in handy if you want to fix a leaky tap or clean an aerator. Keep some white vinegar and baking soda on hand to make a simple and gentle chemical cleaner to clear drains. Don’t use store bought chemical cleaners because they are caustic and they will damage your pipes.
Finally, ask your plumber about an annual maintenance plan to keep your plumbing system in great shape. An annual inspection by a professional plumber will identify smaller issues before they develop into larger problems that are expensive to fix. This will help you to save money in the medium to long-term on repairs and replacements. It’s also worth noting that a plumbing system in good shape can add up to 15% to the value of your home.
Effective plumbing maintenance can be sub-divided into weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual tasks. Let’s take a look at each time period in more detail to help you manage your time and efforts.
- All drain clogs should be cleared quickly.
- Basket strainers should be installed and cleaned to prevent materials from entering the drain.
- When you’re done with the garbage disposal, run some cold water for at least 15 seconds.
- The washing machine lint trap must be kept clean.
- Every drain in the home should be checked to make sure it’s draining properly.
- Check under every sink for any signs of water leaks.
- Before summer check the sprinkler heads and external plumbing for leaks.
- Before winter disconnect the exterior hoses and insulate pipes.
- Schedule a home plumbing inspection to detect problems you may have missed.
If you make these four sets of tasks part of your home maintenance regime, you will prevent or minimize many plumbing problems.
There are three different types of clogs found in plumbing systems and if you understand the differences it’s easier to choose the correct approach:
This is the most common type of clog and it can be removed without plumbing experience. This drain clog is usually located near the entrance to the drain in the kitchen sink, toilet, and shower stall. Avoid the temptation to use store bought chemical drain cleaners as a quick fix because they damage your pipes. Start with a plunger, run the water, place the cup over the drain entrance and move it up and down. This will change the pressure in the pipe which may break it apart and then it can be flushed away. If this doesn’t work a second approach is to pour baking soda in the drain followed by a cup of white vinegar. The mixture will foam causing a gentle chemical reaction that may melt the clog after around 20 minutes. Then run the cold water and the remnants of the clog will be flushed away. If these techniques don’t work, they can be repeated, but after a few failed attempts you should call your local plumber.
This is known as a stubborn clog because it’s harder to reach and it’s located further in the drain line. At one point, this was probably a basic clog and over time it became larger. Removing a stubborn clog will require more force than a basic clog removal. A cup plunger will not be effective, but a longer plumbing snake may be long enough. If you cannot break this type of clog apart with an augur, it’s time to call your preferred plumber.
This is a far more serious issue and it cannot be resolved with basic DIY plumbing tools. To evaluate this type of clog, it will be necessary to feed a sewer line camera into the line. This will provide detailed images that the plumber can interpret to suggest a fix. A sewer line clog is usually a major problem, such as a tree root intrusion or a collapsed pipe. If every drain in your home is not draining at the same time, this may be the root cause of the problem. Contact your local licensed and certified plumber and they can check it out for you.
If you have a basic drain clog, it’s worth attempting a clearance yourself following the advice in this article. But, if the clog is harder to reach or the problem lies further in the sewer line you need to contact your local professional plumber.