December 14, 2020

DIY plumbing can make you flush with confidence

While major plumbing problems are best left to a professional, there are a few repairs around the house pretty much anyone can do.

Mostly maintenance chores, their successful completion can provide a real feeling of self-reliance and go a long way toward avoiding big future bills.

Rule number one for every aspiring DIY plumber: Locate the main shutoff valve. Make sure the route there isn’t obstructed. You could need to get to it quickly someday.

Before starting a plumbing project, do some research. At it’s simplest, plumbing is the science of moving water and waste from one place to another. There’s a wealth of info on the Internet and at the library. Get a sense of your system. More information means less intimidation.

Easy ones first. To unclog a stuck drain, try a plunger. It balances the pressure in the pipe by creating a vacuum on one end to get water going again.

For tougher plugs, chemical compounds from the grocery store are usually effective, or you can try a simpler, safer formula: A cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of vinegar. The resulting fizz should clear out any remaining obstructions.

Another common problem is poor water flow from the faucet. Often, this is the result of a dirty or obstructed aerator screen in the spout. Turn off the water supply under the sink, then use pliers or a vice grip to remove the tip of the spout, called the aerator. Inside is a little washer and a screen.

Clean the screen thoroughly and check the washer for soundness. Replace one or both if needed. Assemble in reverse order.

There are few things more tortuous than the steady “drip-drip-drip” of a leaky faucet. Usually, homeowners try to squash down the faucet handle, which eventually proves futile.

Most every drip can be traced to some failed part of the faucet mechanism. Inexpensive repair kits can be purchased at the home improvement store. Ask a clerk for help if needed.

As always, turn off the water. Turn the set screw that holds the handle in place. Depending on the style, you’ll next remove a ball, a cartridge or a disc, then check the underlying seals and rings, and replace parts as needed. It’s that simple. Reassemble in reverse order.

Hear your toilet running? A leaky tank is a bit more complicated with several separate parts that could be faulty. However, it’s worth learning basic fixes, as a leaky toilet can use up to 26 gallons a day, a real drain on your water bill.

Unclogging drains, fixing drips and cleaning aerators may not make you a plumber, but does help you build a rapport with your home.

Stay within your own confidence level and ability. Plumbing isn't rocket science, but every situation is unique. A good plumber will have lots of experience at tackling many different scenarios and problems.