With so many home improvement shows on TV these days, many people feel motivated and empowered to take on all manner of household maintenance and repairs themselves. While this DIY spirit builds skills and confidence, it is important to know which jobs are DIY-friendly and which may be better left to professionals. When it comes to working with potentially calamitous systems in your home or office building — electric wiring, gas lines, plumbing, etc. — an amateur mistake might end up costing much more than hiring a pro in the first place, and could even lead to extensive property damage, serious injury or death!
Following are five of the most common reasons you might have to decide whether to tackle a plumbing job yourself, or call your friendly local plumber to make sure it’s done safely and correctly the first time.
When faced with a tough clog, a common instinct is to pour chemical drain opener down the drain in hopes that it will eat through whatever is stopping it up. But what happens when it doesn’t? Now you still have the clog — and a pipe full of caustic, toxic goop to deal with, too. Your plumber is well-trained and has years of experience in clearing drains and will do it with a minimum of mess.
In some cases, a drain may not clog altogether, but will over time grow slower and slower. This is typically due to the buildup of sediment such as hair, grease and soap. In this case, you may see improved results with repeated applications of some of the enzyme/bacteria based drain cleaning products. If not, you may wish to call a professional plumbing service to find out what is causing the problem. It may be as simple as a foreign object stuck in a drain pipe or roots growing in your sewer line.
Any time water gets loose in your house or place of business, danger lurks. Leaks can form anywhere in your plumbing system, and when left unchecked, may lead to extensive and very costly water damage, mold, structural disintegration and other ruinous conditions. All drips, seeps and leaks should be considered potentially threatening and taken care of right away. Any competent do-it-yourselfer can easily replace a drippy washer in a bathroom sink faucet, but getting to the bottom of more serious leaks is a job for experienced professionals.
Every person should know the location of their master water shutoff valve — and how to use it. It doesn’t hurt to practice, even, to make sure you and any other people living in the same home or office know how to turn off the flow of municipal water in case of emergency. When you see water someplace it’s not supposed to be, do a visual inspection to see if you can sort out where it’s coming from. If you cannot stop the leak at its source, close the master valve and call your plumber immediately, before inconvenience becomes catastrophe!
WATER HEATER FAILURE
We come to expect our hot water tanks to work faultlessly day in and day out for years on end — it’s only when they suddenly stop heating our water that we realize how much we take for granted our access to instant, on-demand hot water. So what to do when you turn on the tap and there is none to be had?
Unless you are extremely comfortable and experienced working with natural gas and/or electrical wiring, it is almost certainly better for you to leave repair/replacement of your water heater to the pros. Fumbling with the equipment in this case may expose you to risk of electrocution, not to mention the possibility of creating a lethal gas leak. Your plumber can diagnose the problem quickly and either source the parts and repair it or replace the entire unit, usually the same day. They will even haul the old one away for you!
Toilets are simple machines that require little maintenance. That being said, they are prone to clogging —especially the modern low-flow models with smaller exit holes — and their interior flush mechanisms do eventually wear out. Everybody knows how to handle a plunger, but what if a clog just won’t budge? And what to do with a toilet that runs or fails to flush properly?
Most adults with basic hand tool skills should have little trouble replacing the compenents inside the back of their toilet. The parts are available individually and in various kit forms and easy-to-follow instructions are included. There are many how-to videos online to help, too. But not everybody has the confidence to dive into the back of their toilet and start taking things apart. What happens if you put it all back together and it doesn’t work properly?
If you’re not sure of your handiness, a quick call to your plumber will put your mind at ease. He or she will come out and install professional-grade parts in your toilet and guarantee the work, too. And if you have a serious clog, they will be able to deal with that handily without making a mess of your bathroom.
So you’re tearing out that old 1970s bathroom and putting in fabulous new fixtures — are you sure you’re up to the challenge? You’ll be wrenching loose corroded, lime-scaled, decades-old faucet valves and spigots and replacing them with new, unblemished, tasteful (read: expensive) units that must be trusted not to leak when the main water valve is turned back on. It may even be necessary to move pipes around inside the walls. Does this sound like a DIY proposition?
Call a licensed professional plumber and they will be happy to work with you and any designers, contractors or architects you may be working with, in order to better coordinate everyone’s labor and ensure the most professional possible results. Remodeling is an expensive affair, and it’s tempting to cut corners — but remember, you don’t want water damage ruining your brand new kitchen or bathroom. Hiring a professional potentially saves you more money than it costs.