Plumbing is at the forefront of my mind this week as we celebrated the first World Plumbing Day on the 11th March. Synonymous with drainage, water supply, heating systems and quite simply, pipes, good plumbing is essential to both our own wellbeing and that of our home.
Sometimes you need the help of a professional plumber, but there are things that you can do at home to keep your pipework healthy and reduce the need for a callout.
Clean your drains
Turn on the taps in your sinks, showers and bathtubs and check to see how the water drains. If the process is slow, you might need to clean out the p-traps (the u-shaped pipes underneath the sink or behind the bath panel). Spotting signs of moisture underneath the traps may indicate a leak. In that case, you need to check that the pipe connections aren’t loose. If they are, it’s time to replace them.
The culprit for most pipe blockages is hair – mainly in the shower or bathtub. Drain guards can help prevent this but it’s good practice to get into the habit of cleaning your drains. In the sink, pull up the stopper and remove any hair surrounding the rod. Sometimes you’ll need to disconnect it by unscrewing the nut holding the sink and the rod together. It’ll only take a minute but it’s a minute well spent in home maintenance!
Test your toilet
A leaky toilet isn’t good news. It can make your bathroom smell and waste water, along with being visually unattractive to look at. Most leaks are down to the wax seal, the supply tube or the bowl to tank connection. If you notice a puddle of water on the floor, or the room seems dry although the ceiling below is leaking, all signs point to a leak in the wax seal, which you’ll need to replace by installing a new wax ring and t-bolts. Check your supply tube for signs of cracking and moisture and pay special attention to where it comes into contact with the wall and the toilet bowl.
Should your toilet be leaking regardless of whether you’ve flushed it or otherwise, you could be dealing with a crack in the tank. Begin by patting it dry with a towel and inspect it for tiny cracks. These will mean a new toilet (bad luck) or a new toilet tank at the least but if there aren’t any present, chances are you’re suffering from condensation and will just need to insulate the tank with a Syrofoam lining – easy to find at your local home improvement store.
Most common of all is that leak which results in a continuous flow of water from the tank to the bowl – usually in drips. This is the leak most likely to impact on your water bill and it’s caused by a faulty seal, termed a flapper in plumber’s terms. You can test this by dropping five or six drops of food colouring into your toilet tank until it has changed colour. Wait 30 minutes and check the water in the bowl. If it’s coloured, you have a slow leak between the toilet and the tank and will need to call in a plumber to help.
Prevent buildup in your sewer line
Your bathroom toilet and sink, along with your washing machine, have connections to your sewer line in order to get rid of your waste. Avoid a blockage by paying attention to the items that you throw away. We all know that we should avoid placing paper and wipes down our toilets but it’s easy to forget that washing grease and oil from our plates after a meal, can also cause damage. The same goes for coffee granules.
The outside of your home can offer another warning sign for a potential blockage. You may spot a capped pipe in the ground around 20 feet from your house. This will flag up where your sewer line runs. If you can’t see this cleanout line, look at where your sewer line meets your home on your ground floor. The line will tend to run in the same direction. When tree roots or rocks are allowed to break into your pipework, you’ll run into problems so clear the sewer path every two to three years with a root killer to stop the roots from spreading and causing permanent damage. A similar problem occurs in public parks. Tell-tale signs include cracked and raised pavements beside trees.
If you need help from a professional plumber, post your job and up to three local plumbers will get in touch to quote. You’ll be emailed links to their personal profile pages, complete with previous customer ratings and recommendations, to help you decide who to hire.