The American journalist and humorist Arthur Baer once said, “A plumber is an adventurer who traces leaky pipes to their source.” Truthfully, plumbing repair is quite an adventure if you do not know what you are doing. While Baer’s quote was given in jest, his definition is not far from the mark.
Plumbing is a little more complicated, but the basic idea is there. What Baer’s quote fails to touch upon, along with every other famous plumbing quote, is how necessary these skills are. It doesn’t matter if you want to learn how to become a plumber or simply how to repair plumbing for your own personal use. Plumbing skills can save you time, money, and frustration.
Before you get started on plumbing repair, you must first realize that it is something that takes attention, patience, and time. Once you are mentally prepared, it’s time to diagnose your problem, determine the proper tools for the job, and engage the appropriate actions.
Step 1: Diagnose the Problem
There are a number of issues that can arise with plumbing repair that you need to be aware of before attempting to fix it yourself. Plumbing repair can be expensive in the hands of a professional, but you should only proceed if you are confident enough to do so, as it can end up costing even more if you tackle a project for which you are ill-equipped. Following are some of the most common plumbing issues you may face:
- Drain clogs: This is usually a very simple problem to diagnose. Whenever you use your tub, shower, or kitchen and bathroom sinks, pay attention to how quickly the water drains out. Just because it is able to empty on its own does not mean that your plumbing is free from issues that need to be addressed. In fact, tackling slow drainage can often prevent greater time and money expenditures down the road.
- Faucet repair and pipe repair: As certainly as drains are subject to obstructions and clogging, faucets and pipes come with their own set of problems. Whether it’s a non-stop leak or flow pressure, faucet and pipe repairs are necessary for value, comfort and convenience, and can be diagnosed through simple observation.
- Other appliance issues: Garbage disposals, water heaters, wells, septic systems, and sump pumps, all require specialized attention based on their parts and actions. Seek quality [plumbing advice through either do-it-yourself manuals or asking a professional before proceeding with your own fix.
Step 2: Determine the Proper Tools for the Job
Once you have diagnosed the problem, you should prepare your tools for battle. The plumbing tools that you need vary based on the problem. A basic toolkit is always good to have around, but in this section, let’s focus on specially designed tools that can help you easily beat two of the most common plumbing issues: clogs and leaks.
- For clogs, a plunger forces air into the drain, then creates a vacuum upon release that will break up the obstructions.
- For clogs in toilets, you may wish to use a water closet auger. This pushes out the clog through the use of a cable that slides down into the trap, and is then operated by a hand crank on the non-submerged end.
- Chemicals, such as Drano, are effective because they eat away obstructions. However, these can be harmful or even deadly if not handled with care.
- Water pressure tools provide a unique, “green” way to unclog a drain by simply using the force of water to break up obstructions.
- A quick fix for a leaky pipe or faucet is through the use of extreme tape. Extreme tape will stick only to itself, creating a watertight seal around the affected area that will be good for weeks.
- Shark-bite fittings offer more permanent solutions to leaks. These are simple and safe. After removing the damaged pipe, simply connect one to the remaining pipes by sliding it on the end. The internal teeth will then grab on to the pipe, creating a watertight seal that will not come off.
Step 3: Engage the Appropriate Actions
You know what the problem is. You know what tools you will need. Now it’s time for action:
- Clogs are usually easy problems to fix. Just determine the appropriate tool you wish to use from step two, and apply it to the affected drain.
- Leaks and damaged pipes require a little more savvy. Start by turning off the water. You will first have to find your shutoff valve. It is generally located where the main water pipe connects to the exterior of your house. Turn clockwise until you can no longer do so. Sometimes you may need the assistance of a water meter key.
- Determine the severity of the affected area. Before you move on to the next step, make note of any damage, rot, or decay, and take appropriate action to guard against nasty spills that may occur before you open pipes or remove damaged pieces.
- Open the pipes. Once you’ve found the affected area and guarded against spillage, pay attention to where the pipes connect. Remove any cracked, decayed, or damaged pieces, and replace.
- Seal the deal. In order to do so, you need to make sure that any new pieces are of sound quality, and that your plumbing connections are watertight. This is where pieces such as the shark-bite fittings from step two come in to play.