Plumbing emergencies always seem to happen late at night, first thing in the morning before you’re rushing off to work, or on weekends, when fees are twice as high as normal. Also, let’s face it. Your plumber probably doesn’t want to hear from you on a Sunday evening either.
Many plumbing problems are preventable or can be fixed temporarily (removing the “emergency” aspect of your problem) if addressed early on. Knowing what they are will ensure that you’re never caught off-guard.
1. Don’t pour grease down the sink
Grease from bacon or frying oil coagulates as it cools. So after you dump it down the sink, it will solidify in the pipes, causing heavy clogs that can disrupt your house’s plumbing. Set the grease aside after you’re done cooking and wait for it to cool. Scrape it into a container and put it in the garbage.
2. Don’t clean old sinks with caustic cleaners
If you live in an old house with old fixtures, be careful about the tools or material you use to maintain them. For example, caustic cleaners contain oxidizing chemicals that put pressure on old drain pipes, causing corrosion and leaks. Try using a natural drain cleaner instead. It doesn’t work as quickly, but it’s gentler and safer and will put less strain on your pipes.
3. Let the tap drip when it’s freezing
If your pipes froze last winter, chances are they’ll freeze next winter as well, exposing you to the danger of busted pipes and leaving you without water. If there is a sudden drop in temperature overnight, open the tap slightly to create a steady trip. It’s an amazingly simple fix.
4. Don’t cram stuff under the sink
The drain traps under the sink prevent sewer gases from entering your home and allow waste water to pass. They also catch items like jewelry or debris that may fall into the sink. These traps connect to surrounding pipes with screw-on joints. If those joints come loose, you’ll be stuck with an under-sink leak. By keeping the area clutter-free, you prevent household essentials from bumping into the pipes and knocking something loose.
5. Going on vacation? Shut off the water valve.
Turning off the main water valve protects your home from leaks (and subsequent flooding) while you’re away. You can open up a couple of faucets to bleed the pressure off the lines. It’s a simple precaution that could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
6. Flush your water heater every year
Over time, lime and mineral deposits build up in water heaters, impairing how effectively they function. Getting your heater “flushed” once a year is essentially a maintenance tip that will keep it working well for many years. You might want to call a plumber in for this though. Don’t attempt it yourself unless you have some plumbing experience of your own.
7. Learn how to check for leaks
If your monthly water bill is higher than normal but you have no clue why because you didn’t do anything different, check for a leak before making an angry phone call to the water company. How do you check for a leak? First, turn off all faucets and any water-using appliances (like your dishwasher). Second, watch the water meter. If it’s moving, water is flowing somewhere in your house which means it’s got a leak. Shut off the main water valve and pick up your phone: it’s time to call the plumber.