Although an entire house operates on a simple plumbing system, there always seems to be some unexpected plumbing problem and solution need. Many of these problems are simple and easily fixed, while others are quite large and expensive to repair. Water damage to surrounding areas also increases the repair time and costs; however, routine maintenance reduces these occurrences.
Materials to Keep on Hand
Keep a few materials ready for emergency use on your plumbing problems. Determine the pipe sizes throughout the house, and keep an extra piece ready to fix sudden holes or breaks. Extras items such as couplings and O-rings come available in bulk packages, so keep any extras for emergencies. Keep extra rolls of Teflon tape, commonly referred to as plumber's tape, to wrap threaded joints. For plastic pipes, keep a sharp hacksaw blade and jar of glue available. For copper, have ready a can of flux, small brushes for applying flux, solder for plumbing applications, metal pipe cutters and a full propane tank for a propane torch.
Leaky or Busted Pipes
When it comes to leaky or busted pipes, it is simply a matter of turning the water off at the nearest shutoff valve, cutting out the damaged section and allowing the pipes to dry completely. When they are dry, cut the replacement pipe to fit and attach couplings to the ends. For PVC use glue, coating one end at a time, and insert the cut ends of the existing plumbing into the coupling on the new plumbing. For copper, coat with flux and heat the pipes with the propane torch. Allow the pipes to heat for a moment, then touch the joints with solder. The solder will suck up into the spaces between the couplings and seal them shut. If there are no emergency parts available, and the leak is a result from a small hole, take a section of garden hose, slicing it lengthwise, and attach it over the leaky pipe with adjustable clamps.
For faulty fixtures, such as faucets, toilets, drains and shower heads, take a moment to examine the seals. If there are any signs of deterioration, replacing them may stop the leak. Also, be sure to tighten the fixtures or clamps, replacing any worn Teflon tape. If these tips do not help, consider replacing the entire unit. For leaky faucets, shut off water, disconnect the old unit and replace with the new one. Fill the joints of threaded pipes with plumber's tape or a specialized plumber's putty.
Solutions for frozen pipes are also quite easy. Acting quickly will prevent the pipes from bursting, making more repairs necessary. Before the cold seasons arrive, wrap pipes in specialized insulation, or use heater tape that plugs into an outlet and keeps the pipes warm. Insulate basements and garages where heating is not sufficient. If pipes do freeze, place space heaters in a safe location near the frozen section. A blow dryer provides a source of heat where space is limited.
Clogs are also common plumbing problems, yet these solutions often are trickier. Use a store-bought drain cleaner on clogs associated with food and hair. A home remedy consists of dumping boiling hot water and salt directly into the drain. Remove any traps to check manually for clogs above ground. For clogs due to foreign objects or in hard-to-reach areas, consider renting a power auger or snake. If it is necessary to replace drainpipes, the process is the same as replacing the water supply. Check with local building codes to determine the type of pipe to use for this application.
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