Plumbing emergencies aren’t only annoying, they’re expensive. According to Forbes, even basic maintenance can be costly: The average cost to repair a clogged drain is $450.
Learning how to fix and maintain plumbing can help you keep more money in your wallet. Here are some basic maintenance tips and other things you should know about plumbing.
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Make your own drain snake
A clogged drain is easy to fix with the proper tools. While drain snakes aren’t expensive, they can be even cheaper when you use a do-it-yourself approach.
Easy DIY drain snake methods include metal hangers, steel cables, and bike lock cables.
Avoid chemical drain cleaners
Some people use chemical drain cleaners for what seems like an easy, cheap fix. However, such chemicals can cause more harm than good, possibly damaging pipes. That may require you to hire a plumber for a much pricier fix.
Instead, use a drain snake and natural cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar.
Replace your own toilet handle
If your toilet handle is wobbly or broken, you don’t need to call an expensive plumber to fix it. You don’t even need to buy new tools.
All you need is a new handle, which costs less than $10. Typically, the replacement and installation can be done by hand without tools.
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Using PVC piping is fine
When replacing or installing new pipes, plumbers may try to convince you that you need to use copper instead of PVC.
Copper does have a few advantages over PVC, but PVC is still a perfectly suitable option. Plus, it's more resistant to corrosion. Copper pipes cost more for materials and installation and aren't necessary for functional, durable plumbing.
Unclog your own garbage disposal
A backed-up garbage disposal can often feel like a plumbing emergency. A plumber might charge a lot for this simple fix, but you can likely do it yourself.
Often, it’s as easy as resetting the disposal or turning your breaker box on and off. Sometimes, it’s not even a plumbing issue, but rather electrical.
Retrieve your own lost jewelry
If you dropped your ring or any other object down the drain, you likely don’t need to call a plumber to fish it out.
If you have newer pipes, all you need to do is put a bucket under the pipes, pull out the access plug on the p-trap, and find your ring in the drained water.
Prevent frozen pipes
A frozen or burst pipe is a very costly and serious plumbing emergency. Preventing frozen pipes is a great way to avoid expensive plumbing fees.
Turning off outside hoses and water sources, insulating your pipes, keeping your home properly heated, and letting the faucet drip are all ways to prevent pipes from freezing.
Clean out your faucet aerator
If your sink’s water pressure is weak or inconsistent, the issue is likely with the faucet aerator. This can be fixed in minutes for free.
Instead of calling a plumber, simply remove the aerator, clean it, and replace it, and your water distribution should be back to normal.
Fix your running toilet
A running toilet is not only annoying, but it can also cause your water bill to rise. Instead of spending even more money on a plumber, you can probably fix the problem yourself.
The issue is likely with the fill height of the water, which can be controlled by adjusting the height of the float. Your toilet should have markings to guide you, or you can consult the user manual.
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Replace your toilet flapper
The other thing that might cause a running toilet is the flapper, which is another easy fix that doesn’t need a plumber’s assistance.
All you need to do is remove the old flapper, clean the seal, and put a new one in its place. Also, make sure the chain doesn’t have too much slack.
New flappers typically cost less than $10.
Repair your water heater
Water heater repairs seem complicated, and some are. However, you can fix others by yourself.
If there's no hot water, you likely need to just reignite the pilot light or adjust the thermostat to your liking. Or, if the water heater is leaking, tighten the valves.
Find and replace your shut-off valve
You should know where to find your shut-off valve in plumbing emergencies or floods. While you'll likely need to hire a plumber, shutting off the water can prevent further, more expensive damage.
Many shut-off valves can be found in your basement or crawlspace, outside in your yard, or by an outdoor wall. Make sure you also know how to shut it off.
Leaks are often the result of an issue with your shut-off valve. There is a good chance you can replace it by yourself.
Some valves are old and rusted and would be better replaced by a professional, and others may require a plumber to do the job. Compression fit valves, however, are much easier fixes. You might be able to tackle this job on your own.
Perform basic maintenance
Routine plumbing maintenance can prevent many issues, both small and large.
Regularly checking your appliances for leaks, following precautions over what you flush in the toilet or put in the garbage disposal, and preparing your home for seasonal changes are just a few simple tasks that have a big impact.
Verify your plumber’s license
When a plumber is required, hiring someone trusted increases the odds that repairs will last longer and won’t cause more harm than good.
It’s easy to fake credentials, so do a quick verification of any plumber you are considering hiring. Your plumber should be able to show you a license, but you can also check with your state board for further verification.
No one wants to deal with plumbing headaches, let alone the costs associated with them.
However, a little knowledge can help you prevent issues — or at least deal with them more effectively when they do arise.
Understanding your plumbing a bit better also can help you avoid wasting money by allowing you to tackle minor problems on your own.