As an agent I have been a part of inspecting hundreds of Seattle homes, I understand the importance of a well-functioning plumbing system. Plumbing issues can disrupt our daily lives and lead to costly repairs if not addressed promptly. That’s why I believe it’s crucial to be proactive and avoid common plumbing mistakes. By taking care of our plumbing system and implementing a regular maintenance routine, we can prevent problems and enjoy a stress-free home. In this guide, I’ll share my personal tips and insights for maintaining a healthy plumbing system.
Here are five mistakes and poor habits that many homeowners make, and some tips on how to avoid them:
1. Dumping the Wrong Items Down the Sink Drain
One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is disposing of the wrong items down the sink drain. Oils, fats, and grease should never be poured down the kitchen sink. Over time, they can clog the drain and cause significant damage.
Instead, I’ve learned to dispose of cooled grease in the trash or a disposable container. Also avoid tossing other items like eggshells, coffee grounds, and food waste down the drain, as they can contribute to clogs and plumbing issues.
2. Flushing Non-Flushable Materials
Another mistake I’ve seen many homeowners make is flushing items that should never go down the toilet. Feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, cotton swabs, and even toys are not suitable for flushing. These items may initially go down the toilet without a problem, but they can cause blockages and backups in the plumbing system.
Not only can this lead to costly repairs, but it’s also harmful to the environment. Make it a priority to educate family members, especially children, about the importance of only flushing toilet paper and natural waste. (especially if you are on a septic system)
3. Overusing Commercial Drain Cleaners
In the past, I used to reach for commercial drain cleaners whenever I encountered a clogged drain. However, I’ve come to realize that these products can do more harm than good in the long run. They often contain harsh chemicals that can corrode pipes and cause further damage.
Instead, I’ve adopted natural alternatives for clearing minor clogs. A mixture of baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water can be surprisingly effective. Additionally, tools like a drain snake or a power auger have proven useful in tackling more stubborn clogs. If I find myself dealing with persistent or complex drain issues, I don’t hesitate to call a local plumber for professional assistance.
4. Remembering to Shut Off the Water
Working on any water-related project without shutting off the water can lead to disastrous consequences. Don’t make this mistake, thinking you could work quickly and avoid any mishaps. Turning off the water supply is a critical step. By taking those extra few minutes to shut off the water at the main water shut-off valve or the specific shut-off valve for the fixture being worked on, you can prevent potential floods and extensive damage to property. It’s a simple precaution that can save costly repairs.
5. Properly Tightening Fixtures
As a DIY enthusiast, I often take on plumbing repairs myself. However, one mistake I’ve learned to avoid is over-tightening or under-tightening fixtures. It’s important to find the right balance when tightening faucet supply tubes, pipes, plastic fittings, and bolts that hold down toilets or fixtures.
Over-tightening can cause fittings to split or crack, leading to leaks. On the other hand, under-tightening can also result in leaks. I’ve discovered that checking my fixtures regularly and ensuring they are secure but not excessively tight helps maintain a leak-free plumbing system.
Bonus Tip: Regularly Inspect and Maintain Your Plumbing System
In addition to the aforementioned mistakes to avoid, I’ve found that regularly inspecting and maintaining my plumbing system is crucial for its longevity and performance. Here are a few additional maintenance tasks to incorporate into a home maintanece routine:
- Drain the Water Heater Annually: An additional essential maintenance task for homeowners is draining the water heater annually. Over time, sediment and mineral buildup can accumulate in the water heater tank, affecting its efficiency and potentially causing damage. By draining the water heater, you can flush out this sediment and extend the lifespan of the appliance. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you:
- Turn off the power or gas supply to the water heater.
- Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of the tank.
- Place the other end of the hose in a suitable drainage area or connect it to a floor drain.
- Open a hot water faucet in your home to relieve pressure in the tank.
- Open the drain valve and allow the water to flow out until it runs clear, indicating that the sediment has been flushed out.
- Close the drain valve and remove the hose.
- Turn on the water supply to the water heater and allow it to fill back up.
- Once the tank is full, turn on the power or gas supply to the water heater.
- By performing this simple maintenance task annually, you can help ensure that your water heater operates efficiently and avoid potential issues caused by sediment buildup.
- Checking for Leaks: Inspect pipes, faucets, and fixtures for any signs of leaks, such as water stains, dampness, or dripping sounds. Even minor leaks can waste water and cause damage over time, so make sure to address them promptly.
- Testing Water Pressure: Low water pressure can indicate an underlying issue with the plumbing system. Periodically test the water pressure in different faucets and showers to ensure it’s consistent and adequate. If you notice a significant decrease in water pressure, seek professional assistance to identify and resolve the problem.
- Cleaning Faucet Aerators and Showerheads: Mineral deposits can build up in faucet aerators and showerheads, affecting water flow and pressure. To maintain optimal performance, remove these fixtures and soak them in a solution of vinegar and water to dissolve the deposits. After scrubbing away any remaining residue, reinstall them for a satisfying water flow.
- Insulating Exposed Pipes: Being in Seattle, where the weather can get cold, take steps to protect pipes from freezing. Use insulation sleeves or wrap exposed pipes with heating tape to maintain a consistent temperature and prevent frozen pipes, which can lead to bursting and water damage.
- Maintaining Drains: To prevent clogs and ensure smooth water flow, regularly clean the drains. Using a plunger or a drain snake, remove any debris or minor clogs. Stay away from chemical drain cleaners as they can be harsh on pipes and the environment. If a clog persists, opt for natural alternatives or seek professional assistance.
- Checking Toilet Functionality: Make it a habit to check toilets for any leaks, flush malfunctions, or continuously running water. Faulty toilets can waste significant amounts of water and result in higher utility bills. If you notice any issues, address them promptly or consult a professional plumber for assistance.
- Testing Sump Pump Functionality: We have sold homes or event added many a sump pump to handle excess water in the basements. I suggest periodically testting its functionality by pouring water into the sump pit to ensure it effectively drains the water. A malfunctioning sump pump can lead to flooding and water damage, so take this preventive measure seriously.
- Professional Inspection: While regular maintenance tasks are essential, also schedule professional plumbing inspections periodically. A licensed plumber can thoroughly assess an entire plumbing system, including hidden pipes, connections, and fixtures. They have the expertise to identify potential issues that might go unnoticed and provide recommendations for maintenance or repairs. This professional inspection gives peace of mind and helps ensure the optimal performance and longevity of a plumbing system.
In conclusion, maintaining a healthy plumbing system is vital for a stress-free home. By avoiding common plumbing mistakes, such as dumping the wrong items down the sink drain, flushing non-flushable materials, overusing commercial drain cleaners, forgetting to shut off the water, and improperly tightening fixtures, we can prevent unnecessary problems and expenses. Additionally, by regularly inspecting and maintaining our plumbing systems, we can catch potential issues early on and ensure their proper functionality.
As a homeowner, I take pride in the care and maintenance of my plumbing system. By following these tips and incorporating them into my routine, I can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing my plumbing system is in good shape. Remember, when in doubt or faced with complex plumbing issues, it’s always best to consult a qualified plumber. By working together, we can maintain the health of our plumbing systems and create a stress-free home environment in beautiful Seattle.
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