10 Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Needs to Know

Whether you’re a new home owner or a veteran, there are some plumbing basics that will make your life a whole lot easier.

#10 – Most problems can be avoided by simply watching what you flush.

An incredible amount of plumbing mishaps occur because we try to flush things that shouldn’t be flushed. These include, but are not limited to: hygiene products, medications (legal or otherwise), cotton balls, dead fish, cooking grease, baby wipes, dental floss, Q-tips, paper towels, and cigarette butts.

A simple rule: unless it’s toilet paper or came out of your body, it shouldn’t be flushed.

#9 – A strainer today will save you strain tomorrow

When it comes to drains, almost all problems can be avoided by simply using a strainer: from your kitchen sink to the shower, strainers are a great way to catch things before they clog up your pipes. (They’ll also save you from losing your jewellery.)

#8 – Keep the path to your main water valve clear and easily accessible

Most home owners eventually have a horror story involving a burst pipe. When you need to quickly stop the water from spilling everywhere or causing a flood, you need to know where your main water valve is located, and you need to be able to get to it fast. Don’t make the mistake of burying under boxes or hiding it behind a storage shelf.

#7 – That goes double for your main sewer drain

Here’s a fun fact about sewage plumbing: By design, small pipes lead to bigger pipes. The small pipe from your kitchen sink drains into the bigger main sewer drain, which eventually flows to the city’s sewer. The reason is simple: If something can pass through a smaller pipe, it shouldn’t have any problem with the bigger one.

But things don’t always work out that way. Every now and then, especially if you’ve been ignoring tip #10 above, a large clog will form.

When that happens, sewage can backup into your home. When your plumber arrives to deal with the situation, this is not the time to be wondering where the main sewer drain is located, or to realize you’ve got last year’s Christmas decorations to move out of the way to access it.

Keep the path clear. Hopefully you’ll never have to thank us for this one.

#6 – Check your toilet flush valve seals

This trick will save you money on the water bill: Once a year or so, drop a few drops of food coloring into your toilet’s water tank. An hour or two later, take a look to see if the coloring has made its way into your toilet bowl. If it has, you’ve got a leak and your toilet is slowly (and quietly) draining your bank account.

#5 – Stop pouring oil and grease down the drain

All liquids go down the drain, right? Wrong! Oils and fats will, sooner or later, clog up your plumbing. It’s not a matter of “if”, but of “when”. They’re sticky, they attract particles of food and other things to form clogs, and are difficult to clean without a plumber or the use of a chemical agent to dissolve them. Which brings us to:

#4 – Don’t use chemical drain cleaners

This one is such a big issue, we wrote a whole article about it.

#3 – Install shut-off valves on all of your fixtures

Most homes today follow this rule, but make sure every one of your sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, and other fixtures have separate shut-off valves. That way, if you have a problem with any of them, you can turn off the water to them without shutting off the water to the whole house.

#2 – Don’t force your taps closed

This is a hard one to put into practice, but if you can get in the right habit, your taps will last a lot longer. Simply put: be gentle with your taps. The more force you use, the more wear and tear you’re putting onto the seal. Eventually, you won’t be able to stop the dripping no matter how hard you close the tap. So take it easy.

#1 – Be ice aware.

We live in Northern Ontario. It gets mighty cold up here in the winter. When pipes freeze, one of two things can happen:

  1. The water won’t flow well. This is inconvenient.
  2. The pipes will burst. This can be disastrous.

Pay attention to where your pipes run. Do they run along any outside walls? In rooms that get bitterly cold in the winter? Into unheated basements or crawl spaces? If so, you might be at risk of frozen pipes.

In that case, you’ll need to look into fixing air circulation and heating problems. Insulating your pipes can also help.

Be sure to also drain and shut off any outside taps in the winter.