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Your essential homeowner plumbing guide

An array of pipes and piping joints are joined by 2 wrenches on top of a black-and-white blueprint

From overflowing toilets to leaky pipes, plumbing problems can be tricky, messy, and complicated—but America’s Preferred Home Warranty (APHW) is here to help. Arming yourself with these easy homeowner plumbing tips can help you stay dry and save a bundle when a plumbing crisis strikes.

Use your home’s shut-off valve to prevent water damage

Homes tend to have two main shut-off valves: One inside the home, and one where your lot meets the street. Do you know where the one for your home is? Using this valve in an emergency will stop the water flow to your entire house.

Since even a half-inch of standing water can cause structural damage, make sure everyone in your household knows where the main shut-off valve for your home is, and how to turn it off. This essential piece of plumbing knowledge is your first step for major plumbing repairs, as it can help you avoid additional flood damage until a licensed plumber arrives!

Find your main water shut-off valve

Most homes’ main shut-off valves can be found in a couple of places around your home, depending on its design, location, and water source. Many can be found in the garage, crawlspace, basement, or by the water heater. If it's not in any of these places, yours may be near a faucet just outside your home.

If you’re not sure where to begin, find your home’s property inspection report; it should include the water shut-off valve location and a photo. If you find you need a tool to operate your home’s main shut-off valve, your local hardware store can help. Keep the tool near that main shut-off valve—just in case.

Once you’ve located your main shut-off valve, you can turn it off in two ways:

  • Turn the handle or knob clockwise until the water shuts off
  • Use a wrench or other tool to grip and turn the bolt clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on your home’s setup

Find each of your home water supply shut-off valve

Household water supply sources (sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc.) typically have shut-off valves very close to where the water comes out, allowing you to stop the water flow in one place without affecting your entire home water supply. This is ideal for situations like addressing a washing machine leak while someone is taking a shower.

Whether you’ve just moved in or you’ve lived in your home for decades, take the time to go through every room in your house that uses water and locate all of these valves (they typically have brightly-colored chrome or plastic handles on the exposed pipe leading to the source).

Practice turning the handles clockwise, so you’ll be ready to shut off the main and each local home water supply valve in the event of a leak or overflow.

Avoid blocking these valves with furniture or other items, which can delay access when you need it most. You can also invest in a set of slip-joint pliers to make shutting these valves easier, as handles can be in hard-to-reach places with little room for the valves to turn.

Homeowner Bonus: How to fix a clogged pipe without chemicals

When a drain gets clogged by food, hair, or other common household byproducts, reaching for the drain cleaner is many homeowners’ safe bet. But drain cleaner is highly caustic and can eat away at your pipes over time, especially if you experience clogs often.

Our House Simple video shares a less damaging, safer, and more environmentally-friendly way to send those clogs packing and maintain other aspects of your home’s plumbing! We’ve also included a written tutorial on how to unclog a pipe below.

How to unclog a pipe

  • Pour boiling water down the drain
  • Follow it with 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar, letting them combine in the drain
  • Plug the drain and wait 15 minutes for the solution to activate
  • Pour boiling water down a second time
  • Enjoy your clear pipes!

This combination of baking soda and vinegar creates a substance that eats away at only organic matter and is much kinder to your pipes. Drain cleaner should only be used as a last resort, and according to instructions.

With so many systems and appliances in your home, it’s important to get coverage against unexpected expenses when one of them fails. Learn how to have your preferred contractor picked out when a plumbing emergency strikes by exploring our contractor selection guide today.

Have you tried this chemical-free way to unclog your pipes? Visit us on Facebook or Instagram to tell us your thoughts!