Every homeowner should know how to fix a blocked sink and replace worn-out gaskets – trust us, it can come in handy when you least expect it. This guide has important DIY plumbing tips you should always have up your sleeve.
Let’s dive in!
1. Know How to Identify & Operate Shutoff Valves
Before diving into any plumbing repairs or tasks, knowing where the shutoff valves are in your house is important. These valves control the water supply to various parts of your house.
The Main Water Valve
The main water valve is a crucial component of your home’s plumbing system. The water supply to your whole home is controlled by it, and it’s usually located in the basement or at the lowest level of the house, close to the front.
Fixture Shutoff Valves
In addition to the main water valve, there should be individual shutoff valves for different fixtures like sinks and toilets. You can use these valves to stop the water supply to one fixture without affecting the rest of the house when working on your DIY plumbing jobs.
For instance, if you need to repair a leaky tap, you can shut off the valve under the sink, leaving the rest of the house unaffected.
Before you begin your DIY plumbing project, ensure the water supply is turned off at the relevant valve. Always double-check that the valve is off completely to avoid any risk of flooding.
2. The Art of Using Plumbers’ Tape
Plumbers’ tape is a useful tool in preventing minor leaks at connections. This white, non-adhesive tape is primarily used on threaded connections without built-in rubber seals. However, it’s unsuitable for all connection types, such as compression connections.
When and How to Use Plumbers’ Tape
To use plumbers’ tape, wrap it counterclockwise around the second thread from the end of the pipe.
This method prevents the tape from unravelling when you screw the pipes together. It also helps to create a watertight seal and lubricates the connection for easier assembly and disassembly.
3. Use Compatible Materials For Your Plumbing System
Your home’s plumbing system may consist of various materials. However, not all materials play well together. Use materials that work well together when fixing pipes or connections to make your home’s plumbing last longer.
Not sure what to use? Leave it to our Canberra plumbers.
Beware of Galvanic Corrosion
Galvanic corrosion can occur when different types of metals come into contact with each other. This phenomenon can cause your pipes to wear down prematurely.
To avoid issues, do not connect stainless steel and copper pipes or fittings directly; they don’t work well together.
Use Dielectric Couplings
If you can’t avoid using two dissimilar materials, consider using dielectric couplings. These fittings use rubber rings to stop electrical flow between metals and prevent corrosion.
Factor in All Components
Don’t forget to consider all the plumbing parts, like bolts, screws, hangers, etc. They can cause corrosion with materials that don’t go well together.
3. Regularly Check for Leaks
After any plumbing work, it’s essential to check for leaks. Even if the connections seem tight, they could still leak, leading to potential water damage.
Once you’ve finished a plumbing task, turn the water supply back on and observe the area for several minutes to detect any immediate leaks. However, any significant projects or repairs should always be left to a professional, anyway.
Continue to monitor the area where you (or a plumber) made the repairs for several weeks. Some leaks may not be immediately apparent and could develop over time.
5. Keep Weak Spots Easily Accessible
Certain connections, such as shutoff valves, are prone to leaking. It’s essential to keep these connections easily accessible for monitoring and future repairs.
The Risks of Hidden Vulnerable Connections
If hidden connections are behind the walls, you might not notice leaks until they cause a lot of damage. This might lead to expensive repairs, where a plumber will need to cut into the drywall to fix the leak. These can often be under emergency circumstances, as well, which is less than ideal.
The Benefit of Access Panels During Plumbing Repairs
You could even consider installing access panels in finished spaces. These allow easy access to vulnerable connections for monitoring and future repairs. You’ll thank yourself later.
6. Avoid Overtightening Connections
While it may seem logical that tightening connections as much as possible would prevent leaks, this can actually lead to damage. Overtightening can strip threads, ruin rubber seals, and even crack plastic parts.
Finding the Right Balance
Usually, you should tighten plumbing connections by hand or slightly more than ‘hand-tight’. This ensures a snug connection without risking damage from overtightening.
7. Use the Right Plunger for the Job
Having the right plunger for the job is an essential part of any homeowner’s toolkit. The three main types are flat, flange, and accordion.
Flat plungers are ideal for use on – yes, you guessed it – flat surfaces like sinks or bathtubs. Their flat bottom creates a good seal, making them perfect for these tasks.
Flange alternatives are designed to deal with minor plumbing issues in a toilet tank or bowel. They have a rubber flap in the centre of the cup, which creates better suction, making it easier to clear a blockage.
Accordion plungers, named for their ribbed, accordion-like cup, offer powerful suction for tough clogs, like those caused by excessive amounts of toilet paper. While they can be a bit tricky to use, their strong suction capability makes them a valuable tool in any homeowner’s arsenal.
8. Take Photos
If you’re inexperienced with plumbing, it can be easy to forget how parts were originally assembled once you’ve taken them apart. To aid in reassembly, take photos of the plumbing components before disassembling them.
Label Your Parts
Labelling parts with masking tape and a marker can also help track where everything goes. Both these strategies will make the reassembly process much smoother and less confusing.
9. Have the Right Tools & Spare Parts on Hand
Some plumbing tasks require specific tools, such as a basin wrench for working under a sink or a strap wrench to avoid damaging the finish on faucets.
Having spare parts like rubber gaskets or washers on hand can save a trip to the hardware store in the middle of a repair.
Before starting a job, gather all tools and spare parts to reduce stress and save time. This minimises any disruption to your drinking water system.
10. Know When to Call a Professional Plumber
Despite the best DIY intentions, some of these jobs should be left to professional plumbers who are experts in the trade.
Due to the inherent risks, jobs involving gas lines and fittings should always be handled by a licensed tradie (and it’s actually the law).
Similarly, it’s best to call in professional plumbing services if a job feels too complex or potentially hazardous, such as working with a water heater or gas plumbing.
Note: Australian regulations govern who can work with gas and sewer lines, so always seek professional advice if your plumbing issue relates to these aspects.
If your plumbing problems persist, despite your best efforts to fix them, such as a toilet bowl that keeps getting blocked, it may be time to call in an expert.
In emergency situations, like a major leak, it’s always best to call in a professional who can quickly and effectively manage the situation.
While you can handle many simple plumbing tasks with some knowledge and effort, it’s still important to recognise when to bring in the specialists. If you need more than these DIY plumbing tips to fix your problem, we highly recommend contacting our team now for rapid response and services.