We rely on the plumbing and electrical systems in our homes every day, yet the average homeowner doesn’t know what a wye or an ohm is. When something goes wrong, we call a plumber or an electrician—which is an expensive call—and dutifully pay for the solution suggested by the guy who comes to our house.
Because of our general lack of knowledge, many of us do things that make those calls more likely—especially the call to the plumber. Here are six of the most common ways that homeowners shorten the life cycle of their plumbing without even knowing it.
1. Failing to protect against a freeze
Frozen pipes cause property damage worth hundreds of millions of dollars every year, as well as creating other potential problems for homeowners and their neighbors. In most cases, proper insulation of exposed outdoor pipes and the home’s crawl space can prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, few homeowners check their pipe insulation on a regular basis.
2. Faulty installation
We may not be professional plumbers, but that doesn’t stop many of us from tackling home improvement projects on our own. Just go to your local Home Depot and walk down the plumbing aisle. Odds are you’ll observe someone talking to the store’s plumbing expert about a job he doesn’t know how to do.
While doing it yourself is a great way to save money, it’s also a great way to create problems. You should only take on plumbing projects you absolutely know how to complete.
3. Debris buildup
Most of us have a pretty straightforward definition of working plumbing. If the water goes away, then the drain works. If the water comes out, then the faucet works.
We tend to have a pretty high tolerance for slack flow, especially when it comes to faucet pressure. But tolerating decreased water pressure in a faucet amounts to ignoring debris buildup in a supply pipe, and that can herald a disaster.
Remember that in most cases, when the water pressure is lower at the faucet, it’s probably building up in the pipe just before an obstruction.
4. Not knowing pipe materials
Ask the average homeowner what material the pipes in his house are made of, and he’ll hesitate, then suggest they’re made of copper. Then he’ll ask what the difference is between PVC and CPVC.
Most pipes in stick-built homes are indeed made of PVC or copper, but the pipes in mobile homes may consist of a variety of materials. Plus, new homes are often built or repaired with Pex piping.
Each material has different properties. Not knowing the material that’s used in a home means not knowing what is safe and unsafe for the pipes.
5. Perpetual clogging
Drains operate on one of two principles—either gravity or the siphon effect—and they have to be open in order to work. Unfortunately, most of us are incredibly careless about what we put down a drain.
Whether we send too much junk through the kitchen disposer, mix hair and toothpaste in a bathroom drain, or dump a forest worth of toilet paper down the commode every time we flush, our carelessness leads to clogging. And constant clogging damages pipes.
6. Using corrosive chemicals
As mentioned earlier, homeowners tend to have a high tolerance for reduced flow, but when a drain clogs we may jump at a solution that amounts to tossing an atomic bomb down a rabbit hole. This is especially true for toilets.
Although most chemical drain decloggers explicitly say they shouldn’t be used in toilets, many of us go ahead and pour them in, causing damage to the toilet and the pipes below. What makes this even more unfortunate is that there are plenty of ways to unclog a toilet without using harsh chemicals.