We get it, some homeowners are more confident with DIY projects than others. Many can feel especially intimidated when it comes to plumbing maintenance. But not every plumbing problem requires experience to fix it, just some “know-how.”
So let’s talk about some routine plumbing maintenance tips and easy repairs to get you started.
In this PlumbingNav guide, we’ll cover:
- The 7 most common plumbing maintenance items
- How to prevent future problems for your plumbing system
- Some helpful tips when things do occur
7 Common Plumbing Maintenance Items:
Remember, you’re not the first person to embark on regular plumbing maintenance. The history of America’s plumbing system dates back to the 1800s. So many homeowners have gone before you.
As a plumbing blog, we’re familiar with common FAQs related to a home’s plumbing system.
Top Common Items Requiring Plumbing Maintenance:
- Water heater
- Dripping / Leaky Faucet
- Clogged Drain
- Garbage Disposal
- Frozen Pipe
- Outdoor Faucet / Hose Spigot
- Replacing Plumbing Fixtures
Now, let’s explore preventative maintenance and basic repairs that arise.
#1 Water Heater Maintenance
Your water heater needs routine maintenance. It’s an important part of your plumbing system, so keep it happy. It represents 14-20% of your monthly energy bill, so regular plumbing maintenance can reduce operating costs.
These water heater maintenance items can be handled without calling a plumber.
First, your anode rod should be checked and replaced every 3 to 5 years. (See this post to learn what an anode rod is and does.)
Flushing isn’t just for traditional units. You should also flush your tankless water heater every 2-3 years.
#2 Leaky Faucet / Dripping Faucet
Odds are you’ll face a leaking faucet at some point. A dripping faucet is actually caused by a faulty washer, gasket, or valve inside the handle. You can fix the water leak by replacing the dripping faucet disc or cartridge.
This video illustrates this DIY plumbing repair and shows each faucet component type.
#3 Clogged Drain
Avoid pouring cooking grease down the kitchen sink drain. Once grease hardens it builds up in pipe drains. Instead, pour cooking grease into an empty food container. Let it cool, then toss it. Also, consider making a homemade grease trap.
For bathroom drains, ladies can avoid brushing long hair while standing over the sink. Men who shave can rinse the razor in a shaving cup instead of using the faucet.
For beard trimming, close the stopper and wipe out hair with a damp paper towel when finished to avoid regular clogs. Toss the hair in the garbage vs rinsing it all down the drain. (This also gives your sewer line system a break, too.)
Drain already clogged? If a clogged toilet bowl, try hot water and soap. Give it time, then plunge it.
Also, see this complete guide to how to unclog a sink drain.
#4 Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposals don’t need much maintenance but do recognize their limitations.
Always use the disposal while running water. Don’t send wet coffee grounds down, and avoid grinding potato peelings, celery, cabbage, eggshells, bones, or chicken skin.
Make sure you run the disposal at least every 2 weeks. You can also grind ice with coarse salt to clean the blades and remove debris.
You can also freshen up the smell with these inexpensive drain sticks.
Have a jam? Look for the small “jam buster” wrench that came with your unit. Insert it under the bottom, and turn in the opposite direction. This will dislodge the most basic problems. See this article if your garbage disposal has a more serious clog.
#5 Frozen Pipe
Northern homes have insulation due to freezing temps, but many southern homes do not. However, every state experiences sharp temperature drops you should be prepared for. Pipes located along exterior walls can freeze, becoming an expensive plumbing emergency.
In cold weather, leave your cabinets open to expose pipes to warm air in the house. This works for kitchen sinks and bathroom vanities located against a cold wall. To help prevent underground water pipes from freezing, consider leaving a slow drip throughout the night as well.
#6 Outdoor Faucet / Hose Spigot
Outdoor faucets can also freeze and burst during Winter. If you don’t have a frost-free exterior hose bib, it’s best to winterize these when temperatures approach freezing. You can go DIY style by wrapping plastic grocery bags thoroughly around the exposed metal, then taping with duct tape.
Too trashy? We get it. Most people buy outdoor faucet freeze covers instead. Install late fall, and get the hard exterior type. (Cheap styrofoam shells break almost every year.)
#7 Replacing Plumbing Fixtures
At the very least, you should periodically remove fixtures for deep cleaning, especially if you have hard water and experience black slime on your faucet. So while they’re off, why not replace those which are overdue?
Here is the easiest and most common fixture change; the showerhead.
Maybe you want a massage or stronger water pressure. Either way, a new showerhead upgrade can work wonders.
Tip #1: Some local energy companies offer credits or discounts toward shower heads that conserve water. Ask.
Tip #2: Use an old t-shirt when loosening / tightening the showerhead. This will help you avoid permanent grip marks on the metal parts. Is it stuck? See this post on how to remove a stuck shower head.
Special Note: While not a maintenance item, we also recommend you take a look at your home’s insurance policy every 1 to 3 years. Ask about specific insurance coverage related to expensive plumbing repairs.
While it may not be possible to add coverage for every unexpected repair such as trenchless sewer repair or water line replacements, you can often add inexpensive riders to cover sewer backups or water damage from pipe bursts.
Events like these happen, and it’s worth confirming where you stand on coverage should they happen to you.
We hope these plumbing maintenance tips come in handy, bring you confidence, and save you money. Regular attention can help you avoid the most common plumbing mistakes.
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About Plumbing Navigator
We’re passionate about all things plumbing, and love sharing tips, “how-to”, and reviewing the latest products to help make your project a success!
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