The following plumbing tips and tricks are intended to help you solve some of the most common plumbing problems that can occur in the home.
Whether you need to repair a valve, solder a pipe, clean a gurgling water heater, get rid of a sewage smell, insulate pipes, prevent frozen pipes, or clean drains to prevent obstruction, this article gives you all the advice you need.
Before dismantling a leaking or defective faucet, make sure to tightly close the faucet's supply valve. If there is no nearby shut-off valve, go to the home's main water supply and turn this off. Place a bucket or large container under the sink to catch water run-off. To keep track of which part is which, have a plate or sheet of wood handy on which you can place each component in the order that you dismantle them. Reassembling the faucet with the replacement parts will be so much easier!
If you're having trouble undoing a soldered pipe joint, the cause is often water in the pipe, which prevents the solder from heating up to a high enough temperature for it to melt.
First, make sure that the water supply is completely closed off. (You may need to follow the pipe back past the shut-off valve to the main water supply.) On the underside of the pipe, close to the solder joint, drill a small hole to allow the water to drain. When the water is gone, you will be able to undo the pipe and make the repairs, then plug the hole and re-solder the pipe joint.
In many parts of the country, the water supply contains sediment. Over time, these minute particles tend to build up on the bottom of a hot water tank and make it less efficient. In many types of oil- or gas-fired water heaters, odd gurgling sounds will be a sign of such build-up. To fix the problem, turn off the tank at the main control panel and attach a long garden hose to the outlet. Let the water run out. In areas where the sediment content is high, it may be necessary to flush out the tank by refilling it and repeating the emptying process.
A home water drainage system is connected to a vent on the roof called a stack. If not checked regularly, the stack can become blocked by animal nests, ice or other debris. If this venting system becomes blocked, water will drain more slowly and air will be trapped, resulting in odours that come up through the sink or the shower drain. The best way to avoid such a problem is to cover the end of the stack with a screen or install a roof vent with a cover.
Copper pipes are great thermal conductors, but they do cause hot water to lose heat as it is transported. By covering these pipes with polystyrene insulating tubing, the pipe will retain its warmth and hot water will stay hotter much longer. In the summer, it will also help cold water to stay cold. Cover as much pipework as possible, including pipes in walls and floors.
If using a plunger to clear a blocked sink drain, take a wet cloth and plug up the overflow. This will provide more pressure to help clear the clog.
To prevent drains from clogging, pour a litre or two of boiling water into them every month. This preventative measure will dissolve grease, and your pipes will be less likely to clog at the first opportunity.
Pour a small amount of graphite into sink and bath drains. It's an efficient cleaner, as it picks up much of the residue that accumulates in pipes.
To solder a pipe that has a few drops of water left inside, stuff it with some soft bread; the bread will absorb the water and you'll be able to finish the soldering. The heated bread will dissolve when the water is turned back on.
A sudden cold snap can cause exposed pipes to freeze. If this happens, open the valve (often a faucet) closest to the blockage and leave it open. Next, warm the pipe with a hair dryer or heat lamp. If this is not possible, wrap the blocked section of pipe with rags and pour boiling water onto the rags. Once thawed, leave the valve or faucet open for a while, so that the water can flow again and will not re-freeze.