Most water supply pipes and drain lines are tucked away behind walls or in under-sink cabinets, so it’s easy to take water lines for granted until something goes wrong. Giving your plumbing system regular attention can prolong its life, prevent leaks and clogs and help avoid costly repairs.
Protect Your Water Lines
There are numerous ways to protect and maintain your home’s water lines and drains. Here are our top suggestions:
1. Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Homeowners often turn to chemical drain openers to deal with frustrating clogs. The chemicals in these products include bleach, lye, and other elements that are harmful to people, plumbing fixtures, and the environment.
These products typically don’t remove the entire clog which means the problem is likely to recur, causing homeowners to use even more chemicals. With repeated use, these chemicals can begin to damage pipes and plumbing fixtures. If you have a clog that can’t be easily cleared with a plunger, call a plumber rather than using chemical drain openers.
2. Prevent Clogs
Frequent clogs aren’t just annoying. Backed-up water puts added pressure on your pipes, stressing them and shortening their lifespan.
You can avoid clogs by watching what goes down your drains. That means keeping food scraps out of kitchen drains, hair out of bathroom drains, and anything but human waste and toilet paper out of toilets. Installing inexpensive mesh drain covers in showers, tubs and sinks help prevent clogs.
3. Use Your Garbage Disposal Correctly
Garbage disposals are designed to handle limited amounts of small food scraps. Certain types of food should never be placed in a garbage disposal, including cooking grease or oils, and fibrous, stringy or hard food scraps.
It’s also important to use plenty of cold water when running a disposal. Running cold water for a few extra seconds after turning off the disposal helps carry any remaining food particles out of the disposal and will more completely flush the pipes.
4. Flush Properly
The only things that should ever be flushed in a toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Feminine hygiene products, diapers, cat litter, and even flushable wipes should never be flushed. Older plumbing systems are particularly susceptible to clogs so it’s important to avoid flushing anything that could cause a backup.
5. Prevent Frozen Pipes
Freezing temperatures are the most common cause of burst pipes. When water freezes, it expands, which can cause the pressure inside the pipe to increase until it bursts. There are several things you can do to prevent frozen pipes:
- Remove and store garden hoses during winter months.
- Insulate both hot and cold water pipes with pipe sleeves or heat tape.
- Winterize swimming pools, hot tubs, and underground sprinkler systems.
- Leave the heat on in your home if you travel during winter months.
6. Schedule Regular Sewer Line Maintenance
If you have municipal sewer lines, hiring a plumber to snake your main sewage cleanout every few years is a good investment. Regular maintenance will remove roots and other buildups that can lead to messy and expensive sewage backups. If you have a septic system, you should have your septic tank pumped on a regular basis.
7. Soften the Water
If your water has a high mineral content - known as hard water - it can shorten your plumbing’s lifespan. Naturally occurring minerals, like magnesium and calcium, can build up inside your pipes and restrict water flow, increasing the pressure on pipes. Over time, these minerals can corrode joints and pipe fittings. The only way to effectively deal with hard water is by installing a water treatment system.
8. Keep Roots Away from Sewer Lines
Problems in underground water and sewer lines are often caused by invasive tree roots. Avoid planting trees and shrubs near underground water lines. If you suspect tree roots have gotten too close to your underground lines, removing a tree is usually far less costly than replacing a broken sewer line.
9. Maintain Correct Water Pressure
Maintaining normal water pressure is vital for your water supply pipes to function properly. A significant increase in water pressure can lead to a burst pipe or a failed plumbing fixture.
If you suspect your water pressure is too high, you can measure it with a hose bib gauge, available at most hardware stores for around $10. Attach it to an outside spigot and open the line. Normal pressure will register between 50 and 80 PSI (pounds per square inch). If your home’s water pressure is too high, a plumber can install a pressure-reducing valve to adjust it down to safer levels.
10. Prevent Water Hammer
If you hear a loud clanging or banging noise when you turn the water on or off in your home, you may be experiencing what’s known as a water hammer effect. These noises aren’t just annoying - the banging can cause major damage as it increases wear and tear on your pipes.
Depending on the age and installation of your pipes, the sudden stop of rushing water can cause pipes to vibrate inside walls. Pipes that are not securely fastened to joists can bang into walls and eventually pipes will crack and begin to leak.
If you have noisy pipes, don’t ignore them. Call a professional plumber to identify the exact cause of the problem and make necessary repairs.
11. Replace Aging Pipes
The average life expectancy for plumbing pipes is between 20-100 years, depending on the type of material used, the installation, and the water composition. Galvanized steel products tend to corrode quickly and may only last about 20 years. Typical pipe lifespans are as follows:
- Brass supply lines: 40-70 years
- Cast Iron drain pipes: up to 100 years
- Copper supply pipes: 50 years
- Galvanized steel supply pipes: 20-50 years
- PEX supply lines: 30-40 years
- PVC lines: 50-80 years
If your home is older than 30 years old, a pipe inspection is a good idea. Replacing pipes before a complete failure will prevent costly damage.
Keep Your Plumbing in Good Condition
Good plumbing maintenance can help avoid serious problems and prolong the life of your plumbing system. But no matter how well you maintain your home’s plumbing system, age eventually takes a toll and problems will develop over time.
As soon as you notice a clog, leak, or other plumbing issues, it's important to have it repaired quickly to minimize property damage.
At Simply Green, Sewer & Rooter, we have the tools and training to diagnose and repair problems in plumbing lines quickly and efficiently. Call us at (408) 716-1686 for all of your plumbing needs.