10 Helpful Tips to Avoid Common Plumbing Disasters

The plumbing system of a home is responsible for delivering water and removing waste. Unfortunately, many homeowners experience plumbing disasters that can be costly and frustrating to deal with.

It’s important to know how to prevent common plumbing problems, such as clogged drains and water leaks. This article will provide some helpful tips to avoid these problems.

1. Don’t Turn Off the Water

One of the most common plumbing disasters involves a burst pipe. If this happens and you don’t shut off your water supply right away, gallons of water will spill out into the surrounding areas, costing you money and possibly causing damage to valuables like furniture or artwork.

That’s why it’s important to know where the water valves are located in your home, and how to turn them off when necessary. It’s also a good idea to have someone check on your house while you’re gone, especially in the fall and winter when pipes are more likely to freeze. This will save you a lot of money, stress, and emotional distress. It will also prevent a small problem from turning into a huge catastrophe.

2. Don’t Let Your Pipes Freeze

A burst pipe can cause thousands of dollars in damage and create dangerous leaks that may spread to other areas of your home. These disasters can also be incredibly stressful for homeowners, but they are usually preventable.

During the winter, water pipes can freeze quickly when exposed to low temperatures for an extended period of time. If your pipes freeze, they will likely thaw on their own once the heat returns to your home, but it is important to take steps to protect them from freezing before this happens.

To help avoid this problem, open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. It is also a good idea to keep the thermostat at a consistent temperature during the day and night. Finally, consider adding additional insulation to your pipes in colder climates.

3. Don’t Overfill Your Sinks

When you see (or smell) black gunk clogging your sink drain or overflow hole, don’t just use a plunger—it’s probably time to call a professional plumber. That malodorous buildup is actually a mixture of soap residue, shaving cream, toothpaste, skin cells, hair, and phlegm, all of which can clog pipes if not cleaned promptly.

Avoid clogs by disposing of cooking grease and oil in the trash instead of down the drain, and never flush sanitary products or diapers, even those touted as “flushable”. Periodically clean your sink traps to prevent debris from building up, and use a combination of baking soda and vinegar to clear minor clogs. This will also keep foul odors from coming up through your drains.

4. Don’t Let Grease Build Up

Most people know that grease is not good for your pipes, but a lot of people still pour it down their drains. When oil or grease is poured down a drain, it can solidify and build up in your pipes, leading to clogs and other problems. It can also get into the sewer system, where it can cause raw sewage to back up into homes and businesses.

Instead of pouring cooking grease down your drain, you should either bottle it or put it in an empty can to throw in the trash later. If you must pour it down your drain, be sure to use hot water first so that the grease is liquefied. You can also try using baking soda or vinegar. These solutions may help to break up grease clogs, but they will not clear all clogs.

5. Don’t Overuse Drain Cleaners

If you encounter a slow drain, the first impulse may be to grab a bottle of caustic chemical drain cleaner. But if you haven’t done your homework, these products might actually cause more harm than good.

These chemicals produce harsh fumes that can burn your skin and irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. They also generate heat, which can warp or crack plastic pipes and weaken metal ones.

Instead, try using a hair catcher in your shower or tub and dumping vegetable peelings and other kitchen waste into the trash can. This preventative maintenance can help you avoid major clogs and reduce your reliance on chemical drain cleaners. And if you do need to use one, always follow the instructions carefully. And never mix caustic chemicals with acidic substances, as this can create a dangerous reaction that could damage your pipes.

6. Don’t Dump Anything Down the Drain

Plumbing disasters can cost thousands of dollars to repair and are often completely preventable. Many major problems happen because homeowners don’t think about the things they pour down their drains and garbage disposals.

For example, pouring coffee grounds down the drain might seem harmless enough, but it can cause clogs and lead to costly repair bills. Instead, you can save them for the compost pile or trash can.

Also, dumping oil down the drain is not only a health risk for you and your family, but it can also damage your pipes and the environment. If you have any leftover cooking oil, salad dressing, butter, or margarine, put it in the trash.

You should also avoid pouring any harsh cleaning products like bleach down the drain, because they can cause water pollution and harm your pipes.

7. Don’t Overfill Your Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals are designed to grind up food scraps and certain other organic materials, but they cannot handle everything you throw at them. Putting things into your garbage disposal that it isn’t meant to handle can lead to drain and pipe clogs, which can be expensive and messy to unclog.

Some foods that are commonly thrown into disposals that should not be are coffee grounds (they don’t break down easily) and egg shells (which build up and create blockages). If you notice a clog in your disposal, try pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down the drain, then wait for about thirty minutes before running cold water to flush it out. Alternatively, you can use tongs to grab any visible blockages. You can also use a plunger for more stubborn clogs. Keep in mind that a clogged disposal should not be used as an air freshener; the smell is noxious.

8. Don’t Overuse Drain Cleaners

Many septic systems have warnings in their tank that tell users not to use chemical drain cleaners, as they can eat away at the pipes and make them leak. Chemicals also are bad for the environment and sewage treatment plants.

These chemicals are dangerous, and can lead to chemical burns if splashed on your skin or eyes. Wear rubber gloves and goggles when using caustic drain cleaners to avoid this problem.

Instead, try natural drain cleaners. Some work very quickly to dissolve clogs, with tangible results in as little as 15 minutes. Others require several hours (during which you should not put anything else down the drain) to fully attack grime and grease. These products can be used monthly (overnight or during times of minimal water usage) to prevent clogs from developing. They are particularly effective for toilets, shower and bathtub drains, sinks and garbage disposals.

9. Don’t Let Water Heaters Overheat

Water heaters can overheat for a number of reasons. One common reason is that a thermostat is malfunctioning and not shutting off the heating elements when it should. This can cause the ECO (Electronic Control Overload) switch to repeatedly trip, producing hot water that’s too hot for safety.

Another cause is a loose soldered connection. When a soldered joint fails it allows heat to travel through the copper tubing and can melt plastic parts in the tank.

Leaving a water heater that’s overheating unchecked poses a real risk of scalding people in the household. Elderly and young children are especially susceptible to third-degree burns within seconds. If your water heater is overheating, it’s time to call a professional Provo plumber right away. Here are a few signs to look for:

10. Don’t Overpay for Plumbing Services

It is important to do your homework on plumbing companies. This includes checking out their website and researching customer reviews and background checks. It is also important to make sure that they are transparent about their rates.

If a plumber quotes one price over the phone and another when they arrive to do the work, it is likely that you are getting ripped off. Also be wary of any plumber who says they will finish a job in 10 hours, unless you have that in writing.

Many homeowners attempt to do DIY plumbing repairs because they want to save money on labor costs. But, in reality, most plumbing disasters are preventable and could be avoided with a little time spent learning about the repair before getting started. It is important to have the proper knowledge and tools before beginning any plumbing project at home.