Keep Your Plumbing in Tip-Top Shape

While it might not require the level of maintenance your lawn demands, for example, your home’s plumbing system DOES require a bit of attention throughout the year if you want to avoid a costly, destructive or potentially embarrassing situation – overflowing toilet in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, anyone? While major plumbing issues call for a professional, the simple tips given here are a good way to prevent future trouble.

Watch Your Drains

One of the most common plumbing problems is a slow or completely clogged drain, and almost always, the cause is a pipe filled with food scraps, hair, grease or other grungies that shouldn’t have been going down the drain to begin with. Use a strainer over your kitchen sink drain, a hair trap in the shower, and collect cooking grease, fat and oil in a coffee can to be disposed of when full.

Look for Leaks

The last thing you want is a slow leak that’s undiscovered until it causes extensive water damage. Make it a weekly habit to check pipes underneath the sink, in the garage, at the hot water heater, behind the washing machine and dishwasher, and around the garden hose for any signs of leaks. Replace cracked or worn plumbing parts right away if you notice unusual moisture or leaking water.

Maintain Your Water Heater

If unnoticed, a leaky water heater can progress to a flood across your garage or closet floor. To help control the sediment that leads to water heater failure, drain out a gallon or two of water from the appliance each season.

Check the Water Pressure

The water pressure in your home should ideally be between 40 and 85 psi. Much above that range is like high blood pressure for your plumbing, creating too much strain on pipes, faucets and fittings, and greatly increasing the likelihood of a leak or a burst pipe. You’ll find inexpensive gauges for checking water pressure at home improvement centers.

Be Careful with Caustic Chemicals

It might be tempting to pour that bottle of caustic drain cleaner down your sink or toilet whenever things start running slowly, but watch out. Most such products slowly eat away at your pipes, and can eventually lead to a leak – a worse problem than the original clog. Instead, learn the correct use of a plunger to remove a simple clog, or call for a professional plumber if it’s a stubborn or recurring problem.

Toughen Up Appliance Hoses

The soft rubber hose that’s common to most dishwashers or washing machines is a leak – or even worse, complete explosion – waiting to happen. Replace such hoses with stainless steel braided hoses. You’ll find them at home improvement centers.

Where’s the Water Main?

In the unhappy event a plumbing problem strikes, you need to know how to turn off the water. That means being familiar not only with the valves serving each toilet and sink in your home, but also knowing where to find the water main serving the entire house. It’s a good idea to inspect this valve seasonally. Make sure it’s not rusted or frozen in position and there are no signs of leaks or excessive wear. And if you’re going away on an extended vacation, consider shutting the water off to prevent any unpleasant surprises upon your return.