Maintaining Your Plumbing System

You use your home’s plumbing system every day. Whenever you turn on a sink or flush the toilet, your plumbing is at work. Because you use it so often, it’s easy to take a properly functioning plumbing system for granted. However, performing regular plumbing maintenance is essential for maintaining a comfortable and livable home.

When it comes to the plumbing in your home, drainpipes can clog, and valves and fittings can develop leaks. Plumbing issues can wreak havoc on a home if you go too long before fixing them. One difficulty is that leaks can be hidden within a wall, or clogs can be growing within a pipe buried in your yard, and you won't notice until it completely stops up your drain.

Regular Plumbing Maintenance Can Prevent Big Damage

The key to preventing major plumbing problems? Maintenance. Just as you take your car in for a regular oil change, or visit your doctor for an annual checkup, add plumbing checkups to your routine house maintenance list. Following a good set of preventative plumbing maintenance tips will help keep your house in order.

Set a Plumbing Inspection Schedule

Knowing the state of your home’s plumbing is a big part of plumbing maintenance. Create a schedule for checking your plumbing so it doesn't get missed or forgotten. Plan to do an inspection every six months or so. Set a reminder on your phone or write it down on your calendar or planner. Include it wherever you keep track of your other routine appointments. By doing this, you'll help to ensure that any problem area gets noticed in a reasonable amount of time.

Perform a Plumbing Maintenance Inspection

Think about all of the pipes and drains throughout your home. Take time to understand where the pipes run within your walls and how to access them. Take a look at your drains and be aware of their location as they leave your house and go toward the street to meet up with the larger city pipes. Are there trees that could be growing roots that might interfere with those pipes? If you notice anything out of the ordinary during your inspection, keep an eye on it and consult with a professional if needed. Don't wait to make repairs.

Visually inspecting for leaks regularly is important. You can do this by checking under sinks and around toilets. Look for signs of moisture and leaks, rust (red or brown) or lime deposits (white) which are early signs of trouble brewing. Taking care of minor leaks early will prevent more costly repairs later.

Inspect around your toilet carefully looking for cracks in the toilet, especially where it is bolted to the floor. Even a hairline crack can mean a leak is developing. Look around the inlet pipes and water lines, and on the tank bottom as well.

Prevent Clogs

No list of preventative plumbing maintenance tips would be complete without addressing clogs. Along with regular inspections of your pipes, keep things clean and in optimal working order to help reduce the chances of large problems in the future. One of the most important steps: Don't wash things down the drain that can build up to create a clog.

This can be especially hard in the kitchen. Grease and coffee grounds are two of the most common culprits in kitchen drain clogs. If you have a disposal or just happen to run small pieces of food down the drain while rinsing dishes, make sure to run hot water for an extended period of time to completely rinse everything through the pipes. Many pipes are laid almost flat from the home out to the road, so you want to make sure you run the water long enough to push everything all the way through and out of your pipes.

Turn on your sink before you turn on your garbage disposal and put food in. Once the disposal is clear, keep the water running for several more seconds. Remember to be careful about what you put in the garbage disposal: Fibrous foods (e.g. celery) and bones shouldn’t go down your disposal. You can learn more about preventing clogs in the kitchen with our garbage disposal maintenance guide.

Another plumbing maintenance tip is to use a screen over each drain. Screens over the bathroom drains will collect hair — which can cause massive clogs — and make it easy for you to throw it away instead of washing it down the drain.

Deal with Clogs

Plumbing maintenance isn’t all preventative. Despite taking actions to avoid clogs, you might still find yourself in a clog-related predicament. Dealing with clogs can be a dirty job, but it doesn’t have to be one you leave solely for the plumber.

There are several steps you can take to get rid of a clog. Small clogs, for instance, may go away with a simple cleaning (see below for more on this). More stubborn clogs may require the use of a plunger. You can even rent an auger or plumbing snake from a local hardware store to tackle clogs that are deep in your home’s drainage system. Try to avoid using chemical drain cleaners, as they can damage your pipes and contain dangerous toxins.

For serious clogs, you may be able to disassemble the sink and using a drainage kit to clean out blockages in the pipes or P-trap. If you don’t feel comfortable taking your plumbing apart, consider calling a professional for help.

While dealing with clogs is largely reactive, it is also a task that fits right with other preventative plumbing maintenance tips. Clogs can exert pressure on your drainpipes which may result in serious damage.

Clean Your Drains

You can clean your drains in your sinks and tub by simply running hot water and then pouring a handful of baking soda down each of them. Let the hot water run for a few minutes and then repeat the steps. This helps remove grease and sediments that buildup over time in your pipes. You may want to do this a couple of times a year to avoid clogged pipes and drains.

Fix That Drip

Drippy faucets, leaky shower heads, and toilet flush valves that operate poorly should be changed or fixed. This will save you money on your water bill, and will prevent water damage in your home.

Prep Your Plumbing for the Season

This plumbing maintenance tip is especially important for anyone living in an area that gets very cold. Remember, pipes carry water and water expands when it freezes. That expansion may cause loads of damage to your plumbing and home. Before freezing weather arrives, shut off the water valve to all your outdoor spigots and irrigation, and clear outdoor plumbing of water. Insulate any exposed pipes as well as all the exterior spigots.

Call a Professional

In the case of a major (or even minor) leak, don't be afraid to call a professional plumber. You want to slow and stop leaks before they result in major water damage throughout your house. If you are in over your head, call a plumber immediately. Many offer emergency services to help in cases like this.

Taking a little time to do regular, easy plumbing maintenance and inspections will allow you to catch a potential problem before it turns into a disaster. We hope these plumbing maintenance tips keep everything flowing easily in your home. For more information and for assistance in deciding whether or not you need a home warranty plan, give is a call at 1-888-492-7359.

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