You don’t need to be a plumber to practice daily plumbing maintenance. Like other aspects of home improvement, a little regular attention to your the pipes in your home can save a lot of money—not to mention stress—in the long haul.
A burst pipe can permanently damage the structure of a home, destroy personal property, and create a costly clean-up situation. Many floods caused by burst pipes are easily avoidable, but people don’t know what to watch for or fail to put in the time and effort.
Here are five easy tips for daily pipe maintenance.
1. When it freezes, put a drip on
It’s an old-school tip, but starting a small drip on every faucet when temperatures are freezing outside (or threatening to) can avoid frozen and burst pipes.
This is nearly second nature for people who live in notoriously cold regions, but not for folks who don’t regularly deal with freezing weather. Check the forecast and temperature, and if frost is coming, put on a drip. Remind everyone in the family to do the same.
2. Invest in quality pipe sleeves
Pipe sleeves are a very affordable investment, but not something many people think about. When people buy a home, they expect the pipes to be in good working order.
However, pipe sleeves wear out and it’s possible the person who put them on before didn’t get the right ones. It’s also possible the pipes are naked. Ask a professional at a home improvement store which sleeves are best for different regions.
3. Boiling water solves a lot
Too many times, plumbers are called for issues that homeowners can fix themselves. Don’t depend on a drain cleaner by itself.
Most of the time, the best (and most natural) way to clean gunk like hair and sticky shampoo from the pipes is with boiling water. Slowly pour it down the pipes and check to see if that alone works. A few gallons may be in order. A follow-up with drain cleaner can be the final fix.
4. Check the walls
A lot of pipes, particularly in the basement, run right against the walls. Prior to a big burst, many pipes leak slowly and it will be evident against the walls.
Unfortunately, most people don’t pay much attention to the walls in their basement. It’s dark, it can be creepy, and people tend to get in and out for laundry or storage as quickly as possible.
Spend some time examining the walls that are adjacent to pipes and look for tiny signs of water that can indicate a disaster on the way.
5. When the plunger doesn’t work …
Everyone has a trusty toilet plunger by the toilet, but they don’t always work. Don’t panic (or get embarrassed) if the plunger doesn’t do the trick with a clogged toilet. Most of the time, the simple addition of more water will force a flush and get the toilet back into full working order.
Fill a bucket or vase with water, start pouring it directly into the bowl and try flushing it when the water nears the top. It’s a trick that plumbers use to avoid getting messy, and it works the majority of the time.
While these are simple daily fixes and preventive measures, the most important thing a person can do is hire a contractor to take a look at the pipes every year. You may have minor leaks that only a professional can see. Catching these early is the best way to avoid a flooded home.
Autumn is the best time for annual maintenance. It’s just before the freezing winter months and can be considered “autumn cleaning.” The cost of an inspection will always be cheaper than the cost of an emergency cleanup, so schedule it in.