How to Avoid 5 Common Plumbing Mistakes

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plumbing disaster

UPDATED MAY 2022

Even the most conscientious homeowner encounters a plumbing problem or two now and again: a clogged drain; a busted septic tank. While these problems are common, especially in homes with older plumbing, there are a few hard and fast rules for keeping your plumbing mistakes to a minimum.

When it comes to avoiding common plumbing mistakes, a little goes a long way. Some problems will be out of your control–such as a home with galvanized pipes that are releasing lead into the water supply of your home. At that point, it’s time to call in the experts.

But smaller issues can be kept at bay by following a few simple rules. You can also head off any big problems by having your plumbing inspected every year or so, including drain and supply lines. In the meantime, keep the following “what not to do” tips in mind to avoid costly plumbing mistakes.

Improper Cleaning of Clogged Drain Lines

Drain cleaners are not created equal. A cleaner intended for one type of drain can easily damage another. If a clog in your kitchen drain coincides with one in your toilet, for instance, do not use the kitchen sink cleaner to unblock your bowl.

Always read the fine print and spend that extra few dollars on powder or liquid drain cleaners that are appropriate for each type of drain. Incorrect chemicals can really do a number on your pipes. If you are unsure of what kind of plumbing you have (copper pipes, metal, PEX, etc.), we recommend finding that out before using drain cleaners.

The risk of damage can be high, particularly when using a drain cleaner on a heavy-hitting appliance pipe. If the chemicals eat through a pipe to your washing machine, you could be dealing with a leak that’s out of sight. Some caution here will save you bundles of both cash and frustration.

Or consider leaving the chemicals out of the equation altogether. In fact, many plumbers will advise against chemicals to unclog as they almost always damage the pipe even if advertised as safe. If you happen to get some of the caustic drain cleaners on your clothes or skin, it could cause injury. The internet is full of ideas for non-toxic drain cleaners, such as baking soda and cider vinegar.

Pipe Mismatch

We don’t want to second-guess you, dear DIY Homeowner, but replacing your own pipes is not advisable. Yes, we know you want to act fast when a fresh leak creates a growing puddle on your hardwood floor. But choosing the wrong size or type of pipe fitting could result in larger leaks than the one you attempted to repair.

If you are going to replace a pipe yourself, be sure to double-check (then check again) the type of pipe and connector appropriate for the job. Find your shut-off valve and turn off the water, even if you’re just working with supply lines to plumbing fixtures. If adding a line for an ice maker in the fridge, avoid saddle valves: they often don’t meet jurisdictional codes.

Make sure to use the proper type of adhesive for the pipes. If you have copper pipes, you may need to learn how to solder the joints and pipes together–thread tape won’t cut it. And you’ll want to make sure you’re following all local codes and regulations. And always use the right tool for the job: If you don’t know your basin wrench from a pipe wrench, consult Simpson Plumbing.

Not Teaching the Little Ones

Leaving a 2-year-old alone with a roll of toilet paper and the ability to flush may sound like a hoot. It won’t be very funny when your pipes clog because your curious child decides to see how much they can flush at one time. Or if they continue to flush the toilet, unspooling all of the TP on the roll.

Teaching your kids how to responsibly use home appliances, from toilets to ovens, will keep your blood pressure from boiling over and your family and home safe. Age-appropriate supervision will go a long way to preserving the life of your equipment, as well as your sanity.

Forgetting to Shut Off the Water

You’re in a rush and know you can repair that leak, pronto. We mentioned this earlier, but always, always shut off the water first. If you forget, you risk a flood and damage to the pipes as you work desperately to reconnect, all quicker than you can say “release valve!”

It may be inconvenient to shut off the water to the whole house if you’re just working in one area of the home. But we can guarantee that flooding a basement while you’re trying to perform a “simple fix” is a much, much bigger hassle.

Not Calling a Plumber

We said it before, but it bears repeating: Plumbing is what we do. If you are not a plumber and your project is complex or unfamiliar, calling in a professional is the best choice you can make for your home. Doing the job right the first time always pays off in the long run.

Plumbing mistakes are easy to make, but also easy to avoid. By keeping the above tips in mind, you can work on the plumbing in your home successfully, without crisis. If you have any questions or need immediate help, reach out to Simpson Plumbing.

We are experienced plumbers that know plumbing codes and if permitting will be needed for certain fixes. We are here to help in any way we can and will never overcharge you. From inspecting the water pressure or slow-moving drains to whole-home repipes, no plumbing job is too small or too big.

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