6 Plumbing Tips for First-Time Homeowners

Fri, Mar 18, 2016 @ 08:03 AM Guest Blogger Home Maintenance

iStock_000025141000_Medium.jpgWhen you're a first-time homeowner, keeping track of everything that needs to be done or not done to keep your new home in good working order can be tough. 

Your plumbing system, unfortunately, also requires a certain amount of care to continue operating smoothly and effectively. How do you know what needs to be done regularly or how do you make easy repairs when it's not serious enough to call a plumber? Here are a few tips to help keep your plumbing from going down the drain. 

1) Don't go there. If it doesn't belong in the drain, don't put it down the drain. This means that toilet paper and nothing else should go into your toilet, avoid putting stringy vegetables or bones in your garbage disposal, and fats or oils shouldn't go down the drain as they'll get cold and solidify, causing a clog. Anything else should go into your compost bin or in the trash. 

2) Check the aerator if your faucet is slow. On bathroom, kitchen, and some utility sinks, there's a small screen screwed onto the end of the faucet that catches sediment, preventing it from showing up in your lobster boil. On the downside, it catches sediment, which can also slow your water flow. Unscrew it carefully, using a bit of cloth or duct tape between the aerator and the wrench or pliers to prevent scraping the finish. Then disassemble it, tap a few times to remove the sediment, and reassemble. If you have the time and have hard water, let it soak in vinegar for a few minutes to remove any lime scale and improve flow even further. 

3) Fix those leaks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a faucet that leaks one drip per second wastes 3,000 gallons of water every year, the equivalent of a shower every other day. A leaky sink can often be fixed by simply replacing the valve. Don't give in to the temptation to crank the valve tighter, as this can break the valve or make the leak even worse. 


4) Before it goes down the drain, check the trap. The curved bit of pipe directly under a drain is designed to hold water, which prevents sewer gasses from being released into your home. It also is the first place rings or other items will stop before they're flushed into the system. Usually, you can either unscrew the cleanout and allow it to drain, or remove the trap, dumping it into a bucket or basin. 

5) Toilet clogged? Don't flush it. If it's heading toward overflowing or won't stop filling, turn off the shutoff valve, typically located where the water feeds into the supply line for the toilet. Using a toilet plunger (there are also sink plungers on the market, so make sure you have the right one), alternate between gentle and sharp motions to clear the line.

Hint to avoid a nastier mess: allow the plunger to fill with water from the bowl as much as possible before plunging, otherwise the escaping air will splash toilet water all over you.

6) Clean the shower drain. This can be as simple as using a tool to hook the hair in the drain to remove it and keep your drain flowing smoothly (one suggestion is a crochet hook). You'll be surprised just how much difference this one tip makes. 

By keeping these simple tips in mind, you can avoid calling a plumber for easy fixes that you can do yourself, while preventing further damage to your home. Of course, if you're not comfortable with any of these steps or have a more complex problem, calling a plumber may be the best way to avoid extensive complications down the road. 

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About the author: Patricia Bonacorda has been helping first time homeowners for years, as the President of Spartan Plumbing. Spartan Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning is a leading plumbing/HVAC company that assists all types of businesses and residences since 1964. Spartan is licensed, bonded, and insured.