Imagine waking up tomorrow to a lake where your basement was. Several boxes of old family photos and high school yearbooks are destroyed. Suddenly, you realize you are not dreaming. It’s real life, and your water heater has leaked overnight.

A plumbing disaster may seem dramatic on the surface, but it happens every day. There are many pipes, drains, and appliances within the home that all work together to make your life easier.

We tend to forget about things we cannot see, and plumbing systems mostly work out of sight. Plumbing systems wear and tear just like everything else in your home. A good understanding of basic plumbing problems and solutions is the best way to avoid disaster.

As a homeowner, you should master these 12 plumbing tips.

#1. Get to know your water main

Water enters your home through the water main first. The water heater is usually located near the main water line. A shutoff valve is located on the water main (either a lever or a wheel). Closing this valve will prevent water from entering your house.

Turning off the water main is going to be the first step you take whenever you have to do a major plumbing project, have a leak, or if you have a burst pipe.

#2. Learn how to deal with clogged drains 

Someday, you’re going to have a clogged drain. Taking a shower causes us to lose our hair, which builds up over time. If you encounter a clog, your first instinct might be to use a liquid drain cleaner. Don’t do that.

Yes, liquid drain cleaners should be avoided like the plague. It may seem like an easy fix for an annoying problem. But the chemicals in Liquid Plumber and other similar products can harm your plumbing infrastructure. If your sink or tub keeps backing up, get a snake or similar tool that can pull out any debris blocking your pipes.

#3. Keep tabs on water pressure

A healthy plumbing system is so dependent on it. As we get our blood pressure checked every time we visit the doctor, you should regularly check your home’s water pressure. A simple pressure gauge can be purchased at any hardware or home improvement store for a relatively low price.

Install a smart home water monitoring system like the Flo by Moen if you want an accurate, modern solution. So you can track your water usage, detect leaks and monitor your water pressure in real time.

#4. Have a working pressure reducing valve 

You’ll need to lower your water pressure if you have high water pressure in your home. A pressure reducing valve, or PRV, can be installed (or replaced) for this purpose. PRVs are essential for homes that rely on municipal water supplies. Due to fire hydrants, high-elevation homes, and high-rise buildings, municipal water companies must pump water at high pressures. In contrast, your home (and all of its plumbing fixtures) are designed to handle pressures within the 50-60 psi range.

#5. Take care of your toilet

Start by flushing only toilet paper and your own waste down the toilet. Among the things that can clog your pipes are cotton swabs, baby wipes, paper towels, and others. Pick up a plunger the next time you’re out (we all get clogs eventually).

Ensure that your toilet works properly as well. Running toilets are a sign that you need to replace one or more components in the tank. Sometimes, however, toilet leaks are so small they don’t make a sound. You can check for invisible leaks in the toilet tank by putting food colouring in it. Check the water in the toilet bowl after half an hour. There is a leak if there is any colour in the water.

#6. Respect your garbage disposal 

Even though garbage disposals are amazing tools for your home, they can’t handle everything. Don’t pour fats, oils, or grease down the drain. If these cool down, they will solidify and cause buildup in your pipes.

Run some cold water into the drain for a few seconds before running your garbage disposal. Keep running cold water for a few seconds after you stop. Maintain the blades of your garbage disposal by periodically putting some ice cubes in it.

#7. Clean out your gutters as often as you need to 

Gutter systems aren’t technically part of your plumbing system, but they’re important for keeping water out of your home. As a result of clogged gutters, water pools on the roof, eventually compromising the structure. Water damage is something that every homeowner wants to avoid. You should have these cleaned out at least at the beginning and end of each season. Consider having your pine trees cleaned more frequently if you have a lot of them (which shed like crazy).

#8. Protect your pipes from the cold

A frozen pipe burst can easily lead to a five-figure repair bill. Your pipes need to be winterized if you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter. Ensure that your home is properly insulated and that any exterior pipes and fixtures are protected from cold weather.

The most common cause of pipe bursts is when people are away from their homes for extended periods of time and their thermostats are set too low. When you’re on a winter vacation, keep your house at around 60 degrees, even if you’re tempted to try to save a few dollars on your heating bills.

#9. Know when to replace your water heater

A water heater has a lifespan. When yours has reached the double digits, it’s probably time for a replacement. You don’t want to procrastinate in this area. The water heater tank holds 50 gallons or more. A leak in that tank would cause a great deal of damage. If you are going to replace your water heater, you might as well replace your sump pump as well.

#10. Look for signs of water leaks

There are many places in your home where water leaks can occur. Often, small water leaks fly under the radar despite being in plain sight. Check your walls and ceilings for discoloration.

A musty, mildew smell in basements, attics or crawl spaces is often a sign of mold growth, which is caused by leaky water pipes. Check for leaks around water fixtures and appliances on a regular basis.

#11. Fix dripping faucets

The sound of dripping faucets is annoying. Water is wasted as well. Even a drop or two every minute adds up to thousands of gallons a year (and extra money on your water bill). The two most common causes of dripping faucets are high water pressure, or a faulty component in the fixture. Probability is that you have the latter if your PRV works.

You can repair most faucets yourself. Determine what kind of fixture you have first. Kitchen sinks usually have ball faucets. Bathrooms are more likely to have cartridge or disc faucets. On the internet, you can find DIY repair videos for all three.

#12. Find a local plumber and get an inspection 

You’ll reap the benefits of adding a local plumber to your rolodex, unless you’re a professional yourself. Not all plumbing problems can be solved on your own. Having someone on speed-dial you know by first name will make life easier if you encounter a plumbing disaster down the road.

Compare prices. Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers for recommendations. Get in touch with a reputable plumber.

An inspection of your home is the best way to start a new relationship with a plumber. Plumbers can give you a report on the state of your entire plumbing system, recommend repairs and help you develop a preventative maintenance program.

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