When your toilet is overflowing, or a pipe is leaking (a LOT), wouldn’t it be nice to know how to stop the onslaught of water? Read on to learn this and other essential tips about household plumbing.
Shut It ALL Off
Do you know where your main shut off valve is? In the event of an emergency, shutting it off will stop the water flow to your entire home. Make sure you and your family members know where the main shutoff valve is, and how to turn it off, because even a half-inch of standing water can cause structural damage. If you know nothing else about plumbing, this will at least prevent further flood damage until a plumber can get there. It’s also your first step for major plumbing repairs.
Main shutoff valves can be found in a couple of places, depending on your home, its location, and your water source. Yours may have a handle you can manually turn clockwise to shut off, or you may have a bolt, which will need a wrench or other tool to grip and turn. If you aren’t able to locate the main shutoff yourself, take a look at your property inspection report; it should include the location and a photo. If you find you need a tool for the job, your local hardware store can help. Keep the tool near that main shutoff valve—just in case.
Keep It Localized
Household water supply sources (sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc.) typically have shutoff valves very close to where the water comes out, allowing you to stop the water flow in one place without stopping your entire home’s water supply (handy if someone is taking a shower but your leak is by the washing machine). When you first move in, go through the house and locate all of these valves. They will typically have brightly colored handles made out of plastic or chrome, located on the exposed piping leading to the source. Turn the handles clockwise to shut off the immediate water supply in the event of a leak or overflow.
Avoid blocking these valves with furniture or accessories, which can delay access when you need it most. You may want to invest in a set of slip-joint pliers as well, to make shutting these valves easier as handles can sometimes be in difficult locations to reach and turn.
Defend Your Pipes!
Whether it’s food in your kitchen sink or hair in the bathtub drain, most people immediately reach for the drain cleaner—but you may want to consider an alternative. Drain cleaner is highly caustic and can wear away your pipes over time, particularly if you experience clogs often.
Pour baking soda down the drain and follow it up with vinegar. This combination creates a substance that eats away at only organic matter and is much kinder to your pipes. Finish it off by pouring boiling water down the drain. Use drain cleaner only as a last resort, and be sure to follow the instructions to avoid unnecessary damage.
There’s still plenty to learn about plumbing, but if you know at least these things, you can save yourself a lot of hassle, and a LOT of money.