For many people, the appeal of being a plumbing DIY homeowner is saving money or having something to show for their efforts. But while small projects like painting or shelf-hanging are usually simple enough, plumbing for dummies is a more significant challenge.
While fixing a leaky faucet or unclogging a toilet may seem like simple plumbing basics, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Of course, we always recommend hiring professional assistance for complex projects. Still, for those who are determined to continue reading, we will discuss all the fundamentals of plumbing for beginners that everyone should learn before attempting any significant repairs. This way, you can avoid causing more harm than good.
The Three Parts Of Your Plumbing System
So how to do plumbing? The basics of plumbing involve three main parts: supply, drainage, and waste. The supply brings fresh water into the home, the drainage gets rid of wastewater, and the waste is used water from around the house that is sent to the sewer.
Your Water Supply – Getting Water Into Your Home
Your home’s water pipes are usually supplied by one of two sources:
Let’s explore the pros and cons of each option.
People who live in areas near cities or suburbs have city water systems. Big pipes, called mains, are buried under the streets and distribute water to neighborhood buildings located in the system.
The water meter is located in front of your home’s plumbing system and measures the water used in your household to send a bill to you from the local utility company. Also, a shut-off valve near the water meter can be turned off to prevent water flow into your home, which comes in handy during emergencies like when pipes break.
Water meters are typically located near the street, and they’re easy to spot because they have a metal cover that’s about the size of a large plate. First, the body will be labeled “water meter.” Once you find it, open up the cover and note where the shut-off valve is located. Then, you can turn the on and off the valve using a large adjustable wrench.
Although some people swear by well water, some benefits come with city water.
If you own property with enough space, you can drill a well. There are some benefits to using wells as a water source.
- With a well, you won’t get monthly water bills. Of course, there are other costs to having a well, such as drilling and pumps. But once you factor in these one-time costs, you’ll have a dependable source of water that doesn’t need recurring payments.
- A well will provide you with water that is not only clean but safe to drink.
- No more water restrictions! Even if your area is in the middle of a drought, you’ll have nothing to fear.
- Not only will owning a well increase your property value, but it will also improve the resale value of your home.
While wells are a great source of water, they are sometimes flawed. For example, if there is increased activity near your well, it could lead to groundwater contamination. To ensure that your water is safe to drink, have it tested yearly and pay attention to any changes in taste.
Distributing Water In Your Home
Once water enters your home, several crucial factors help send it where you need it.
When you have a minor repair, like a leaky faucet, it’s impractical to shut off all the water coming into your home. That’s where stop valves come in handy.
Several stop valves are located throughout your home, including near your water source and under each sink and toilet. By shutting these valves off, you can specify which areas of the house you intend to repair or perform replacement work in. Turning the valve by the water source may be necessary if you’re planning an extended vacation or worry about freezing pipes during cold weather.
Hot and cold water
Hot water gets to our homes through a heater, while cold water comes straight from the tap or toilet tanks. Most homes have one centralized heater for hot water, even though some places may utilize on-demand heaters.
Initially, your central water heater is attached to your main water pipe. Then, the hot water gets delivered to where you need it through a system of pipes. Various types of energy such as electricity, gas or solar can be used to make hot water from water heaters.
Wastewater And Drainage
Basic plumbing knowledge is essential to ensure that wastewater is properly flowing out of your home. Your gutters rely on gravity to take the wastewater away from your home and send it to either a municipal wastewater system or a septic tank. That said, you should be aware of three vital parts of your drain system: vents, traps, and cleanouts.
The next time you see one of those small pipes jutting out of a roof, wonder no more: they’re vents for drains. In short, your drainpipes won’t function as intended without these vents. Likewise, gutters must have proper venting to allow wastewater to flow correctly through the system.
The traps in your home are curved sections of pipe located beneath your sink and built into the base of your toilet. Water stays in the trap, preventing sewer gas from backing into your dwelling. However, due to their shape, clogs can develop in these traps.
Clogged traps can be easily cleaned by removing the plugs that provide access to the trap without needing to disassemble them completely. Sometimes, you can fix a clog by using the clean-out feature.
Tools Every DIY Plumber Needs
The first and foremost tool you will need is a wrench to complete any repair. That is because pipes are connected by fittings rather than soldered. Therefore, to make the necessary repairs, you will have to find a way to disconnect them — and that’s where a wrench comes in handy. There are three types of wrenches that you will need:
- A pipe wrench is used when working with pipe fittings. The curved shape of this wrench allows it to fit into any spot and create a firmer grip on the pipe fitting than other wrenches.
- A basin or sink wrench is used when sink faucets are installed. These long-handled tools allow you to reach tight and distant places that your hand may not be able to fit.
- A faucet wrench is a small, easy-to-use tool that helps you control the water flow of any outdoor faucets, fixtures or hoses. Faucet wrenches come in two types — cross and sillcock — and can be easily carried in a kit.
DIY Plumbing Basics: How To Fix Common Plumbing Issues
Having plumbing 101 issues? You’re not alone. Here are a few ways to fix some of the most common problems, from leaky pipes to running toilets.
Fixing A Clogged Drain
A minor clog often causes a slow-draining sink near the trap, usually composed of hair, food, or other debris that builds up over time. Luckily, this problem is easy to fix without Drano or harsh chemicals.
To clear a minor clog, mix 1/4 cup baking soda with one cup white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes, then run hot water from the tap until it runs through. You may need to repeat this process, but if the clog persists, you can try using a drain snake.
Use your drain auger (snake) to clear out the clog in your pipe by feeding it down the pipe until you hit resistance. Next, turn the crank on the snake to move through whatever is causing a blockage. Keep cranking until everything blocking up your pipes has been cleared away. Test if your drains are working again by running hot water for a few minutes, and then place your drain or sink stopper back into its rightful place.
How To Fix A Running Toilet
Have you ever had a toilet run? It may sound like the tank is not completing its filling process. This continuous running noise could be due to a broken or loose toilet flapper, fill valve, or even an overflow pipe that isn’t set. We’ve all tried the “jiggle the handle” method at some point, but unfortunately, this usually does not entirely fix the problem. If your toilets are giving you grief, use these steps as a plumbing guide to troubleshoot and solve your issue.
- The first thing you should do is check the fill valve.
- A potential cause of your running toilet is an idle fill valve. Check if there’s a float ball inside that needs fixing or adjusting. If required, try tightening the nut on top of the water level inlet and see if that does the trick — if so, congratulations, you fixed it!
- If the problem persists, you might have a faulty fill valve. Fortunately, replacing it is an easy fix.
If the water continues running after you flush, there might be a problem with the flapper. First, check if it’s open when water flows through. If not, adjust or replace it. Lastly, check the overflow pipe’s height to ensure it’s in the correct position.
Signs You Have A Water Leak
Never underestimate the power of a water leak. Left unattended, it can damage your plumbing system beyond repair and cause mold and mildew. Follow these steps to know how to spot a water leak early on and save yourself time, money, and energy in the future.
If you hear a gurgling noise emanating from an unfamiliar place, see water pooling where it never has, or notice stains on the ceiling, this could be due to a roof leak. Another possibility is if you find puddles around your basement — this might mean a leak in an underground pipe. Finally, low water pressure, high water bills, and lukewarm showers are potential signs of leaks.
Basic Plumber Tips For Beginners
Before continuing, you should understand a few basic plumbing tips for the beginner to help avoid future damage to your home’s plumbing system.
- Two types of piping in your home bring clean water inside, and the other takes wastewater outside. Make sure you know which is which so you don’t mix them up.
- Make sure you know the location of your main water shutoff valve. In case of a plumbing emergency or flood, this valve will quickly stop the water flow and prevent further damage. The shutoff valve is typically located near appliances that use water (e.g., refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine) or in the basement.
- Porcelain-specific augers are less likely to scratch the toilet bowl than regular snakes, and they’re shorter for trap clogs where a full snake isn’t necessary.
- Caustic oxidizing chemicals in store-bought drain cleaners will corrode and damage old metal pipes. Instead, mix baking soda, vinegar, and hot water for minor sink clogs.
- Pouring grease down your kitchen drain is a huge NO-NO. Some might say it’s okay to do as long as you run hot water afterwards, but they would be sorely mistaken. The grease will still make its way through your pipes, where it can transform into one big clog and cause backups galore. To avoid this potential headache, pour the used grease or cooking oil into a glass jar or aluminium can, then let it cool before throwing it in the trash.
When In Doubt, Call The Pros!
Now that you understand the basics of plumbing, we hope you can take better care of your plumbing and identify problems early. However, if you ever feel stuck or like the job is too complicated, give us a call at 5-star Plumbing for a free estimate! No matter how big or small the task may be, our team of professional plumbers will be able to provide you with leak detection and repair services
What Is The Most Common Plumbing Problem?
The most common plumbing problem is a water leak. A water leak can occur in various places, including the faucet, showerhead, water heater, and pipes. If you suspect a water leak in your home, it is best to call a professional plumber to help identify the source and repair the leak.
What Are The 3 Types Of Plumbing Systems?
There are three plumbing systems: underground, municipal, and private. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks.
Does Rain Affect Plumbing?
THeavy rain can cause problems for your plumbing if it’s not properly prepared, such as backups and cracks in your system. If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, it’s best to consult a professional plumber to make sure your system is prepared.
How Do I Winterize My House Plumbing?
If you live in a colder climate, it is essential to winterize your house’s plumbing system to prevent any damage from occurring. One way to do this is by shutting off the water supply to your home. To do this, locate the main water shutoff valve and turn it off. Another way to winterize your plumbing is by draining the system. That can be done by opening the faucets in your home and letting the water run until it slows down or stops. Once the taps have been opened, you can open the drain valves (usually located at the bottom of the sink or tub) to let the water flow.