Common Plumbing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Many handy and not-so-handy homeowners choose to take some plumbing maintenance and repairs into their own hands. While it’s great to know you can rely on yourself when it comes to small problems, it’s important to make sure you steer clear of common plumbing mistakes that could end up costing you time (and money) in the long run. Here are six common plumbing mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

Using liquid chemical drain cleaners

When you’re faced with a clog or a slow drain, your first instinct may be to reach for a jug of liquid chemical drain cleaner, like Drano. While chemical drain cleaners can get the job done in a pinch, they do a ton of damage to your plumbing in the process. The caustic main ingredients can wreak havoc on plastic or PVC pipes, leading to corrosion that can ultimately cause plumbing emergencies like burst pipes or large leaks.

Safe clog-busting alternatives

Instead of harsh chemicals, these drain cleaning methods use gentle ingredients and techniques to save your pipes from costly damage.

Baking soda and vinegar

When it comes to removing clogs, the tried-and-true combo of baking soda and vinegar can get the job done naturally. Add one cup of baking soda to the clogged or slow drain, then follow with two cups of vinegar. Listen for sizzling noises that indicate that the mixture is working and wait a few minutes before running water down the drain. If the issue hasn’t resolved, repeat the steps again.

Enzyme-based drain cleaners

Enzyme-based drain cleaners use bacteria cultures and powerful enzymes to naturally eat away at organic matter. After consuming whatever blocked your pipes, these organisms proceed to reproduce and spread “good” bacteria throughout your plumbing system, preventing future clogs. Enzyme-based cleaners may not be the best solution in a pinch, as they need to sit overnight in order to work, but they’re much safer and beneficial in the long run than traditional liquid chemical drain cleaners.

Professional drain cleaning

Got a clog you can’t seem to fix? Or a stubborn slow drain that won’t clear, no matter what you do? It might be time for a professional drain cleaning. With the help of a video inspection, our plumbers can accurately identify all sorts of blockages and help determine what method is necessary to remedy it.

Not turning off the water

It may seem obvious, but turning off the water is a necessary first step before starting any plumbing project. If you don’t, you’re putting yourself at risk of costly flooding and water damage. Fixtures like sinks and toilets have shutoff valves located either behind or next to the fixture. You can stop the flow of water by turning the valve clockwise. Since valves can rust or corrode over time, you may need tools like pliers to help you turn them.

In some cases, you may need to turn the water off to your entire house. You can find your home’s main shut off valve outdoors, or near your hot water heater, in the garage, or in a crawlspace. The exact location differs according to your home’s design. You can contact the city, or your home builder, to find out exactly where it is.

Attempting a job without the proper tools

If you don’t have the right tools, you could very well make the problem you’re trying to fix much worse. Even a relatively simple plumbing task like plunging a toilet can go wrong if you don’t have the right kind of plunger—toilet plungers have a soft rubber flap, also called a flange, that fits over the toilet to create suction, while sink plungers have the traditional rubber cup design. Here are the main tools we recommend every homeowner have on hand if you plan to take on any sort of plumbing jobs on your own:

  • Five-gallon bucket
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Split-joint pliers
  • Screwdriver set
  • Allen wrench
  • Duct tape
  • Pipe clamps
  • Drain snake or hand auger
  • Protective eyewear
  • Toilet plunger
  • Sink plunger

Having the right tools is only half the battle—you’ll need to know how to use them correctly too. Thankfully, the internet has a wealth of detailed tutorials and helpful how-tos from knowledgeable sources to make learning easy. Our guide to the 3 Plumbing Fixes Every Homeowner Should Know can also help you with common plumbing tasks.

Mismatching pipes

If the wrong pipes, joints, or connectors are used, the pipes could leak or even break, causing potentially catastrophic water damage. For example, attempting to connect galvanized and copper pipes is a recipe for corrosion. Well-meaning homeowners taking it upon themselves to repair a leak may not realize this until it’s too late. Instead of trying to “make it work” with mismatched pipes and connections held together by duct tape, either make sure and always connect the same types of pipes together or leave major pipework to the experts.

Performing work without a permit

Planning a plumbing renovation? Relocating a toilet, expanding a bathroom, or putting in a soaking tub? Performing any sort of major plumbing change to your home without a permit could seriously tank its resale value. While regulations differ county by county, as a general rule, the plumbing jobs listed below always require a permit.

  • Replacing a water heater
  • Moving existing plumbing fixtures from one place to another
  • Replacing a drain line
  • Altering the piping in the walls, ceiling, or beneath the floor

To get a permit for your plumbing project, or see if you need one in the first place, you’ll need to contact your local municipal government office. Some permits can be issued immediately, while others may require an inspection of your plans.

Not hiring a plumber for major jobs

There are many plumbing jobs you can take care of on your own. But, many others require the experience of a professional plumber. While the upfront costs may put you off the idea, you’ll save money in the long run by eliminating the risk of major damage from a job done incorrectly.

If the plumbing job involves any of the following, it’s best to put the toolbox down and call a professional.

  • Cutting into the walls or floors
  • Accessing main water lines
  • Replacing a toilet
  • Frozen pipes
  • Broken pipes
  • Installing a water heater
  • Renovations

Remember, plumbers are trained to know more about your home’s plumbing than you could likely learn on your own. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to hire a plumber. Our guide to choosing the right plumber can help you avoid common scams in the plumbing industry, so you can rest assured that you’re making the right choice for your home.

Avoid plumbing mistakes with Chas Roberts

This article covers several common plumbing mistakes—and you can avoid all of them by trusting Chas Roberts with your next plumbing job. From inspections and leak repair to emergency fixes and custom installations, our expert plumbers can do it all. Contact us for all your plumbing needs.