Sunday, May 31, 2015

Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Every plumbing problem is unique and not all require the attention of a professional. Most homeowners can fix some of the most common problems with a few simple hand tools and a little bit of knowledge about how the system works. Following these helpful plumbing tips can save anyone time and money.

The first step in do-it-yourself plumbing repairs is knowing how to shut off the water source to the house and the inside fixtures. The main shutoff valve to the home is usually located near the home's meter. Some meters are mounted on an exterior wall but some are buried underground, so the homeowner will have to look for the cover. To shut the valve off, turn the key 90 degrees to the right. If the meter does not have a shutoff key, an adjustable wrench will do the job. Shutting off the main valve will stop all water from flowing into the house.

Sometimes it may only be necessary to turn the supply off to a specific fixture. Most sinks and toilets will have a shutoff valve somewhere below the fixtures. Sink valves may be inside a cabinet. The valves for some bathtubs or showers may be located in the closet or wall behind the unit. In some cases, these fixtures do not have individual valves making it necessary to shut off the main supply when making repairs.

It is equally essential to know how to turn off the water and power to a water heater in case it develops a leak or overheats. If the heater uses gas, locate the supply knob on the unit and switch it to the off position. If the heater uses electricity, remove the appropriate fuse from the circuit board or flip the circuit breaker switch to the off position. The water shut off valve is located on the supply pipe. Turn it clockwise to shut it off.

Homeowners can often fix a minor leak in a pipe using a repair clamp or some epoxy. After locating the leak and turning off the water supply, use a towel to remove all moisture. Knead together the two-part epoxy and apply it in the area of the leak. After allowing time for it to set, run water through the pipe to make sure it holds.

To attach a repair clam, loosen the screws on the clamp and place it around the pipe. Tighten the screws far enough so that the rubber gasket covers the leak. Turn the water on and make sure the leak has stopped.

A faulty rubber flapper or the incorrect water level can cause a toilet to run constantly. To adjust the water level, remove the tank lid and turn the rod or screw to place the float lower in the tank. Flush the toilet and make sure the water level comes to just below the overflow tube.

To replace the tank flapper, turn off the water supply and flush the toilet. This will evacuate all the water from the tank. Remove the rubber flapper and chain from the handle rod and install the new flapper. Attach the chain to the handle rod. Turn the toilet's water supply on and flush. Adjust the chain until the toilet flushes without resistance.

Using a plunger will eliminate most minor sink clogs. Fill the sink partially full with water and move the plunger up and down several times. If you are clearing a drain in a double sink, plug the unclogged drain opening with a wet rag before plunging the clogged side. The rag will help direct pressure to the clog. If plunging fails to dislodge the clog, use a pipe wrench to remove the trap underneath the sink. Feed a cable auger into the pipe that goes into the wall until it will not go any further. Pull out approximately 18 inches of cable, tighten the lock screw, and crank the handle clockwise while pushing forward on the cable. Repeat the process until the clog is clear.

Bathtub clogs typically build up over time and slow draining will often be the first sign there is a problem. In many cases, removing the hair and soap residue from the drain train will solve the problem. If the tub is still draining slowly, try using the plunger. If the drain is still clogged, use the auger. When feeding the auger into the pipe, the user will feel resistance right away but it is necessary to keep cranking until the cable gets through the P-trap under the tub.

A plunger will provide enough power to clean most toilet clogs because they usually occur near the top of the trap that curves up on the fixture. If using the plunger is unsuccessful, it may be necessary to use a closet auger. Feed the cable into the bowl with the bent tip pointing upward. Dispense approximately three feet of cable and then retrieve it by simultaneously pulling up and cranking the device. Flush to clear the drainpipe. If the toilet is still not flushing properly, run the auger up the right side of the trap and again up the left side. This will remove any material sticking to the sides.

While the above methods will remove most clogs, some are more stubborn than others are. If using a plunger and auger fails to remove the clog, it is time to call a plumber for help. Always avoid exerting excessive pressure as this can cause permanent damage to the fixture or pipe.

A showerhead that fails to spray properly usually has mineral deposits from hard water clogging the holes. This is an easy fix requiring nothing more than some vinegar and an old toothbrush. Remove the showerhead from the supply pipe and place it a bowl of warm vinegar. Let it sit for approximately 60 minutes. Use the toothbrush to scrub away any remaining deposits, rinse the showerhead, and replace it.

Anyone can save money by learning how to make simple plumbing repairs. Try these tips before calling the professionals. With just a few simple tools, the water will be flowing freely again in no time.