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Home Improvement  /  June 28, 2014

Beginner’s Guide to Plumbing Maintenance

Plumbing problems may seem difficult to solve at first, but with this beginner’s guide you’ll be well on your way to solving the many challenges associated with plumbing maintenance.

If you are a new homeowner or have never had to maintain plumbing, it may seem like performing brain surgery.  Plumbing problems can be challenging for anyone who has never had to repair plumbing before.  And, if you do not know exactly what goes into plumbing maintenance, you may be neglecting your plumbing, creating bigger issues down the road. According to Bankrate, over 500,000 sewer backups happen each year in the United States. Recent excessive rainwater and flooding can make these issues even worse.

The last thing you want to do is create plumbing problems in your new home or, even worse, damage your home because your plumbing breaks.  Below is a beginner’s guide to plumbing maintenance to ensure you keep your house running smoothly.

  • Beginner’s Tip #1:  Do not put anything down your bathroom drains that does not belong down the drain. 
    • For sinks in the bathrooms, do not put anything down your drain other than water.  Hair and other debris should not be brushed down the sink because it will lead to much bigger projects down the road.  If you see hair and debris accumulating down the drain and starting to slow the drain, clean it out immediately.  What starts out as a slow drain quickly leads to a major clog and may require professional assistance to resolve.  For toilets, do not put anything other than water or waste down the drain.  Paper towels, tissues, feminine products and more can cause major problems with toilet plumbing.
  • Beginner’s Tip #2:  Do not put anything down the garbage disposal that  not belong.
    • While food can certainly go down the garbage disposal, you want to be particular about what foods go down the disposal.  Cooking grease should never go into the garbage disposal because, while it may start as a liquid, it will harden and clog the drain.  Things like potato peels, pasta, rice, bones, coffee grinds or fruit pits should never go in the drain because they can cause significant damage.
  • Beginner’s Tip #3:  Clean With Natural Products
    • For the most part, there is no need to use chemical cleaners on your drains and, in fact, they can actually do more harm than good.  To clean your drains, start by pouring 1/4 cup baking soda into the drain then pour 1 cup of white vinegar down the drain.  Let it stand for about 15 minutes then pour warm water down the drain to rinse everything down.
  • Beginner’s Tip #4:  Soften Your Water
    • If you live in a location with hard water, you can install a water softener to improve your water and prevent the build-up that comes from hard water. HouseLogic explains the benefits of a water softener, “If your water has a high mineral content—known as hard water—it can shorten your plumbing’s lifespan. Those naturally occurring minerals, usually magnesium or calcium, build up inside your pipes and restrict flow, increasing the pressure. Plus, they can corrode joints and fittings. Although hard water can occur anywhere, it’s most common in the Southwest and parts of the Northeast. A white buildup on showerheads and faucets is a telltale sign of hard water… The only way to effectively deal with hard water is by installing a water softener. Most use sodium to counteract the minerals in your water, but new electronic softeners use electromagnetic pulses to dissolve minerals, and have the advantage of not adding sodium to your water. You’ll need a plumber to install a traditional, sodium-based softener, for $500 to $1,000. Electronic units start below $200, and because the pipes don’t have to be opened up, you can install one yourself. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need an outlet nearby to power the unit. If you opt for a sodium-based softener, consider installing a whole-house pre-filter at the same time. Since the plumber will already be cutting into your pipes to install the softener, the pre-filter might add only $100 to the job. And not only will it give you cleaner drinking water by removing particulates and chlorine, you’ll reduce stress on your pipes that can occur when those particles clog faucet filters.”

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