6 Ways to Prevent a Plumbing Catastrophe

If you’re a homeowner, you’re a learner. Within a few months of ownership, most homeowners have gotten a taste for a variety of home repairs and maintenance. Some of these are more simple and may put you in the realm of interior decorators or even landscapers. Some of them are difficult and potentially dangerous and may have you feeling ready to take an electrician’s trade exam.

But what about plumbing? I mean plumbing is safe to try on your own, correct?

It’s just water at varying speeds and pressures being pumped through your house where you store your valuables and belongings and things that can get ruined if a cup of water is poured on them, much less 25 gallons every five minutes…

You get the idea. Plumbing is one of the few areas of home improvement that you really won’t find much DIY information because it’s a trade that people spend years and years learning how to do well as plumbers. Becoming a master plumber takes 8 years, in fact. That’s as much as a doctor.

experts and master plumbers

There’s no prescription like “Peace of mind”

So when it comes to dealing with plumbing emergencies, prevention is the name of the game. Here are six ways to prevent a plumbing catastrophe:


1. Know where your main water shutoff valve is and if it works

It is important to know where your main water shutoff valve is. If any plumbing problems arise, this will allow you to quickly stop the incoming flow of water into your house. It is also a great thing to know about if you will be doing any minor DIY work.


2. Freeze-proof your pipes

Winter in the midwest could be a little more fun. Just like you wouldn’t send your child outside without his or her coat on, your plumbing also needs to be fitted for the winter. On abnormally cold days, cabinets containing plumbing should be left open toward the heated room, and rooms with exterior plumbing should be kept no cooler than 60 degrees fahrenheit.

Winterize your outside faucet by closing the valve in the basement and opening it outside to drain all the water out.

bryant park new york frozen fountain

This could be your bathroom | Image credit to Diana Robinson

3. Only use matching components

If you need to replace a connector or a pipe fitting, you should always make sure you are using matching components. Size and materials are both important. We see a lot of damage done by people connecting the wrong types of pipes in attempted DIY work.


4. Check plumbing fixtures

Regularly checking your toilets, tubs, sinks, valves and other fixtures will help to ensure problems aren’t being discovered the wet way. Every 2-3 months, making a lap around your house inspecting your fixtures for any damage. Check the place where the fixture meets the drain. If anything looks wrong or broken, get some professional help.

Toilet in fancy bathrom

Because a break in this fixture, for instance, could leave you up a certain creek | Image credit to Roberta Romero

5. Test your sump pump

Sump pump systems keep pesky ground water from seeping into your house through the basement. Every 3-4 months, test your sump pump system by pouring enough water into the pit to trip the float and make the pump run. The pump should remove the water.

If it doesn’t, make sure it’s plugged in and connected to electricity. If it properly plugged in and still doesn’t work, then…


6. Call a professional

Ultimately, plumbing is not really a DIY activity. Attempting to “learn by doing” with the stuff under your house and in your walls could damage both your house and your walls. In situations where you are unsure, call a professional to offer their advice.

It may cost a little extra, but could end up saving you tens of thousands of dollars in plumbing damage because a plastic pipe was attached to a copper pipe with a piece of garden hose.

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