The internet features a lot of construction and repair information aimed at do-it-yourselfers. YouTube tutorials are perfect for straightforward jobs like replacing a garbage disposal. However, things can go wrong quickly when homeowners looking to save a buck attempt to tackle plumbing projects with a tablet in hand, but no real knowledge. In the long run, these homegrown repairs may end up costing more money if the work must be redone or brought up to code. We’ve compiled a list of DIY mistakes that plumbers in the upper Midwest are most often called on to fix.
Pipes That Don’t Match
To a DIYer, pipes may look pretty much the same, so finding a size and shape that fits might take precedence over matching pipe materials. In newer homes, this isn’t necessarily a problem, but in older homes, it is often necessary to transition from older pipe materials to the pipe materials used in modern construction. A common DIY mistake occurs when well-meaning homeowners connect zinc-galvanized steel pipes with copper fittings. Of course, a professional knows that the combination of these two materials will create a corrosive chemical reaction that will cause the connection to leak leading to water supply problems and moisture damage.
Local Ordinances Ignored
Plumbing professionals are well-versed in the local laws and ordinances that apply to their work, but these same building codes may be completely unknown to a do-it-yourselfer. Unfortunately, plumbing changes made without a permit can lower the resale value of a house and make it more difficult to sell. Plumbers are often brought in to bring DIY plumbing jobs and water heater installations up to code to fulfill insurance and lender qualifications.
Connections Too Tight
Bigger isn’t always better – the same goes for tighter. A common mistake for beginners is to think that adding extra torque to connections will create a better seal. Unfortunately, this overtightening can damage the threads and even break the washers being used to secure the seal. Over-enthusiastic tightening can also crack plastic fittings.
Plumbing vents and traps are often misunderstood by DIYers. Vents and traps use air pressure and water to maintain a separation between a sewage system and living spaces. Without a trap in place, there is nothing to stop gas from a sewer line from entering a home. In addition to smelling bad, this gas could be flammable and/or contain harmful organisms. S-traps may seem like an easy and inexpensive choice a do-it-yourselfer. Unfortunately, S-traps traps aren’t vented which can result in water from the trap being siphoned out of the water line, thereby removing the protections provided by the water barrier. Switching out unvented S-traps for vented P-traps is a common job for plumbers.
Plumbing fixtures in a busy household will likely become clogged on occasion. But how the clog is cleared can make a big difference to the health of a plumbing system. Many people instinctively reach for commercially available, drain cleaners when they experience a plumbing problem. However, the use of these products can cause long term damage by corroding pipes. This damage may require line repairs and expensive pipe replacement.
An Ounce of Prevention
The best way for a homeowner to avoid costly rework is to hire a licensed plumber when problems surface or updates are required. As with many things, when it comes to plumbing service an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.