There are certain maintenance and improvement projects that most homeowners feel comfortable tackling. For example, plenty of people replace filters in their HVAC system, clean their own gutters and downspouts in the fall, and paint walls and cabinets. Some even put in carpeting or other flooring, if they happen to be daring. But one area that many homeowners tend to steer clear of is plumbing. It could have something to do with the learning curve associated with plumbing, or the damage that can result when you foul it up, so to speak. Whatever the reason, most people prefer to call in a professional to deal with plumbing concerns. But if you’re looking to save some money and you’re an intrepid DIYer, you’ll be happy to hear that there are several plumbing tasks (short of welding pipes) that you can probably manage on your own. Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Get a home repair guide. This tome of household maintenance and repairs can offer step-by-step instructions for everything from changing the washer in your faucet to replacing the wax ring under your toilet. And with plenty of photos and lots of helpful hints (place your toilet in a trash bag so it doesn’t drip on the floor), you’ll have your household plumbing projects underway and successfully completed before you know it. If you’re a card-carrying member of the internet generation, you can always opt for online tutorials instead, including video tutorials.
- Get the right tools. Generally speaking, plumbing tends to require a lot of wrenches and a few screwdrivers. So make sure you have at least one Phillips and one flat-head screwdriver on hand, and then think about getting a basic set of crescent wrenches or a standard socket set. An adjustable wrench could also be handy, as could a vice grip and channel lock pliers. These tools should suffice for simple household plumbing jobs, although you may need more specific items for certain jobs. Flushing the water heater, for example, will require a length of hose or tubing.
- Unclogging or snaking drains. This can be a messy job, but most homeowners can do it. You can use natural methods for keeping your pipes clean (regular administration of hot water, baking soda, or vinegar, for example) or you can use products like Drano or Liquid Plumr to tackle tough clogs. But you might also want to rent a snake at your local hardware store and snake the drains annually, especially if you suffer frequent clogs related to hair, grease, and other products in the drains. Of course, preventive measures like catch grates can also help.
- Flushing the water heater. This is not a particularly difficult task, but it can be messy and dangerous considering you’re flushing 40+ gallons of 120 degree water from your tank. Just make sure to practice safety first and follow instructions to the letter. If at all possible, allow water to drain through tubing directly to a bathtub or outdoor drainage (depending on where your water heater is located).
- Changing fixtures. There’s really not much to swapping out old plumbing fixtures in your sinks, showers, and tubs. It’s not as if you’ve considered water conditioning system benefits and decided to add upscale filters to your home. In most cases, all you have to do is unscrew various pieces, peel away old caulking, clean the surface, and then screw in your new fixture. Easy breezy! You’ll have to pay attention to details (wind plumber’s tape clockwise on the threads), but this is actually one of the easiest plumbing jobs you can tackle, and the aesthetic payoff is immediate.