One of the most important aspects of owning a home is keeping up with regular maintenance. That includes ensuring that your plumbing system is working as it should and there are no areas that could cause issues.
The plumbing system that snakes throughout a home is complex and involves many different piping systems and appliances. Although we rely on modern plumbing systems for bathing, cooking, laundry, and other daily activities, most of us rarely think about maintenance until a problem develops.
Why Plumbing Maintenance Is Important
Most plumbing systems and fixtures will last a long time with proper use and maintenance. Regular maintenance is always cheaper than dealing with plumbing emergencies and the damage caused by them. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to take care of your plumbing and avoid most common problems, including leaks, clogs, and broken pipes.
You can reduce the need for expensive plumbing repairs by following these ten tips:
1. Check for Leaks
Get in the habit of regularly checking for leaks around your home. Even small leaks waste a lot of water and increase water bills.
A leaky faucet wastes up to eight gallons of water each day. A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day. Garbage disposals, refrigerators, dishwashers, water heaters and washing machines are all potential sources of small leaks that can lead to costly damage and big repair bills.
Low water pressure or a sudden increase in water usage are signs of hidden leaks. If you suspect you have a leak somewhere in your home but can’t locate it, call a plumber. Undetected leaks can cause structural damage and attract pests, including termites and carpenter ants.
2. Clear Slow Moving Drains
A slow sink drain is usually caused by a combination of soap scum and hair accumulating on the drain walls. Before a drain becomes completely blocked, there are several inexpensive ways to get drains moving properly.
Removing and cleaning the stopper may be enough to fix the problem. Using a simple mixture of baking soda and vinegar is an inexpensive and often very effective way to clear sluggish drains. If these remedies don’t work, there is likely a blockage deeper in the drain that needs to be located and removed by a professional plumber.
3. Watch What Goes Down Your Drains
Drains in homes are narrow and it is easy for them to become clogged if not properly maintained. Everyday objects including hair, soap, food particles, and grease can easily clog kitchen and bathroom drains. The wrong kind of toilet paper (or too much toilet paper) can clog older pipes. Using inexpensive mesh drain covers in sink and bathtub drains keeps hair and other objects from clogging drains.
4. Don’t Use Your Toilet Like a Trash Can
Toilets and plumbing pipes are designed to handle human waste and toilet paper. Flushing anything else (even products labeled flushable) can cause clogs and damage pipes.
Even flushing items similar to toilet paper, such as facial tissue and paper towels, can create tough clogs as they are not designed to break down easily when they make contact with water. Feminine hygiene products, diapers, wipes, and any other items should be disposed of in a trash can.
5. Avoid Chemical Drain Cleaners
It’s tempting to turn to a chemical drain cleaner when you have a slow-moving drain or clog. These products may provide temporary relief but they rarely completely clear a clog. That means that you have to keep using them to keep the drain clear. In addition, most drain cleaners contain caustic chemicals that are dangerous to both people and pipes.
If there’s a clog in one of your drains, use a plunger or drain snake to dislodge it. If you can’t clear it on your own, call a professional plumber to remove the clog without damaging your pipes.
6. Don’t All Garbage in Your Garbage Disposal
Despite the name, there are many things that should never be placed down a garbage disposal. Grease and oils should never be put down any drain or garbage disposal. Pasta, rice, fibrous or starchy vegetables, eggshells, and coffee grounds are other items that should not be placed in garbage disposals.
Garbage disposals are only designed to safely handle small amounts of food scraps. Be careful about what you place in your disposal and use plenty of cold running water whenever you turn on your unit to avoid messy backups and clogs.
7. Insulate Your Pipes
It’s a common misconception that frozen pipes are only an issue for homes in typically cold climates. The homes that are most at risk are those in typically warmer climates because pipes may not be properly insulated against freezing temperatures.
Pipes in basements, attics, crawlspaces, and other unheated areas need extra protection from freezing temperatures. Exposed pipes can be fitted with inexpensive pipe insulation sleeves to help decrease the chances of freezing. Inground sprinkler systems, swimming pools, and hot tubs should also be properly winterized and insulated to avoid damage from freezing temperatures.
8. Check Your Water Pressure
Most home plumbing systems should have a water pressure of around 40 to 50 psi. If your water pressure is too high, it creates a strain on your plumbing system. High water pressure weakens pipe joints and makes them prone to bursting. Low water pressure is often a sign of a leak somewhere in the plumbing system.
There are a variety of water pressure gauges available that allow DIYers to test their home’s water pressure. If you discover your water pressure is too high, call a professional plumber to install a regulator.
9. Regularly Inspect Exposed Pipes
Many causes of plumbing leaks, like corroded or rusted-out pipes, don’t happen suddenly. Time and constant use take a toll on pipes.
Sometimes homeowners hang clothing or other objects from exposed pipes in basements or utility rooms which can weaken pipes. Plumbing pipes are not designed to support the weight of even a few shirts or pants.
Regularly inspect any exposed pipes in your home for signs of damage or decay. Rust, warping, and drops of water on the outside of pipes indicate a problem that a plumber needs to address quickly.
10. Know How to Shut Off Your Water
Whenever you notice or suspect a leak, the first crucial step is to shut off the water supply line. An overflowing toilet or busted washing machine hose can quickly cause hundreds of gallons of water to flow into your home.
Knowing where the shut-off valves are and how to operate them is important. Individual shut-off valves on toilets and sinks should be regularly inspected and replaced if they aren’t working properly. Having an easy-to-access and operate main water shut-off valve is also a good investment.
When to Call a Plumber
While these tips can help prevent problems, most homeowners will experience a plumbing problem at some point that requires the services of a licensed plumber. If you discover a leak or broken pipe in your home, having it professionally repaired quickly is the best way to prevent costly water damage.
For all of your plumbing needs in the Los Gatos area, call Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter at (408) 716-1686, or contact us online to schedule an appointment. Our Los Gatos technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience and they are ready to help you with all of your plumbing problems no matter how big or small.
We understand that plumbing problems can happen anytime and need to be handled quickly. That’s why Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter offers emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.