DIY projects can be a big point of pride for many homeowners. From remodeling your own kitchen to knocking down a wall to fixing your own leaky faucet: the sense of satisfaction it brings is unmatched. However, when it comes to your plumbing system, you want to be very diligent about making sure you’re doing things right.
Fortunately for savvy homeowners, we have a handy plumbing basics guide for you to follow. It’ll include everything from the basic parts of your home’s plumbing system to important dos and don’ts, plus how to fix the most basic and common plumbing issues yourself. We recommend reading this guide before you begin any DIY plumbing projects!
The Basic Parts of a Plumbing System
Obviously, you know your sinks and toilet are a part of your plumbing system, but it’s so much more than that. While the two main plumbing-focused areas are the kitchen and bathroom, there are intricacies in your basement and throughout your home that all make up your plumbing system. Here are some of the basic parts you’ll need to know in your plumbing system and what each one does.
Water Supply System
This is the system that brings water into your home, a.k.a. supplies your home with drinkable and usable water. It can be done with a well and pump, or most often, it’s done through a municipal water supply. This is different from your sewer system, which takes out wastewater. When you hear about a main water line bursting, it’s referring to this.
This system is what takes wastewater away from your home and keeps it separate from the fresh water that comes in. It works by having a network of pipes with two main types: drain pipes and vent pipes. The drainpipe carries wastewater away while the vent pipes release sewer gasses and allow air in so that the drain pipes can function properly.
You may not think of them as part of your plumbing system but fixtures like sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines are all connected to your plumbing system. Fixtures use valves, traps, and vents to operate correctly when used.
Your pipes are the most important part of your plumbing system as they set up the pathways for water to move in and out of your home. Your home may have copper pipes, though it’s not as common practice as it once was due to how they can corrode and rust easily. PVC is by far the best and longest-lasting type of pipe for your home.
10 Handy Tools Every DIY Plumber Needs
Let’s jump right into the helpful list of tools that every homeowner and DIY plumber must have. These items will help you address basic repairs, replacements, and simple jobs quickly and with ease. It’s important to note that while these tools can help you fix leaks or swap out a cracked pipe for more intricate jobs beyond your abilities, we always recommend hiring a professional.
- Basin wrench: This is used to loosen and tighten fixtures and pipes underneath your kitchen or bathroom sink. They’re designed to turn easier in tight spaces.
- Drain auger (snake): When you have a clogged drain or toilet, a snake is vital to help get it unstuck. While these can be a quick fix to clogs, they can also risk damaging your fixtures if you don’t use it carefully. And if they don’t clear the drain, you may have a bigger issue on your hands. Still, nice to have on hand!
- Hacksaw: A hacksaw can be used to quickly and easily cut through small pipes for minor pipe replacements.
- Pipe cutter: Pipe cutters are slightly different from a hacksaw in that they can offer much more precise and clean cuts through PVC pipes and are suited for smaller pipes. Hacksaws, on the other hand, leave a rougher edge but are ideal for larger or thicker pipes.
- Pipe wrench: A pipe wrench is a vital tool every homeowner should have, whether they’re DIY savvy or not. They have a serrated jaw that helps with increased grip strength to turn any type of pipe, particularly helpful for stuck or stubborn pipes and bolts you need to adjust or remove.
- Plumber’s tape: This is also known as Teflon tape and it’s used to fill in any gaps between pipe connections, which helps prevent water leakage.
- Plunger: No explanation is needed, but a good plunger is important to clear any toilet clogs. Also, did you know there are actually different types of plungers for different types of clogs? See for yourself! And make sure you get the right one.
- Safety goggles and gloves: When cutting through pipes or doing any work under sinks and basements, safety goggles and gloves are very important. The last thing you want is to get tiny metal or plastic shavings in your eyes or skin when doing a minor plumbing repair.
- Strap wrench: This is a specialized wrench used to loosen and tighten around round objects, like pipes. Its rubber-coated strap helps you grip the object without slipping or damaging it.
- Tongue and groove pliers: Lastly, tongue and groove pliers are vital to have on hand. They have a unique head design that helps you loosen and tighten pipes to the exact size needed, making them great for those tight spaces around fixtures and under sinks.
We hope this list of tools helped you better understand why it’s important to employ professional plumbers when necessary but also to help you in any minor plumbing jobs you can take on yourself. Remember, safety first!
DIY Plumbing Basics: How-To Fix Common Plumbing Issues
We get it, it can be a pain to have to call a plumber for the most minor plumbing repairs. So we’re going to share a few quick tips on how to fix two very common repairs on your own: a clogged drain and a running toilet. 🚽
Fixing a Clogged Drain
Step 1: Try a solution of hot water, baking soda, and vinegar first. Don’t use store-bought products like Drano because they are highly corrosive and can just cause more damage, especially if you have older copper pipes.
Step 2: If that doesn’t work, remove the drain if able, and take a look. Do you see any immediate clogs near the surface? Use a small snake or pliers to gently remove the clog that is likely hair or food buildup.
Step 3: If you need to, use your drain auger, a.k.a. snake, to carefully navigate down the drain to get the clog and pull it out.
Step 4: If you need to get under your sink to remove the p-trap to release the clog, you can do so with some of the tools we mentioned above. First, you’ll want to put a bucket underneath the area to catch any water, but then you can easily loosen the fittings and remove your p or s-trap to reveal any clogs there. It’s very common for things to get stuck in that curved part of the pipe.
Step 5: If none of the above remedy your situation, you have a much deeper clog further down the line that a professional plumber will need to assess.
How to Fix a Running Toilet
A running toilet is often caused by a faulty flapper or other part in your toilet’s tank. It’s easy enough to fix, but also if you leave it unattended, a running toilet can waste a ton of water. So it’s important to get it fixed ASAP.
Step 1: Open the back of the toilet tank and see if you notice the flapper having a loose seal, or that the arm is still attached and the chain has enough slack.
Step 2: Determine the issue. If the water is constantly running in the back of the tank, it’s likely a fill valve issue. If the water fills in the tank but then slowly seeps out, it’s likely a toilet flapper issue. Both of which are easy to fix.
Step 3: Shut off the water supply valve at the back of the toilet.
Step 4: Flush the toilet to release all remaining water in the back of the toilet tank. This will make it easy to work with.
Step 5: Remove the culprit piece (flapper or fill valve) and purchase a replacement at your local hardware store.
Step 6: Carefully replace your replacement part and reattach the chain, flush arm, and any other components. Turn your water supply valve back on and let the toilet tank fill up with water.
Step 7: Flush a few times to ensure the toilet no longer runs.
When to Call a Professional Plumber
We applaud any homeowner who can quickly and easily remedy a minor issue like swapping out a fixture or getting their toilet to stop running. But we still recommend hiring a pro like Aquarius Home Services for the big jobs like sump pump maintenance, repiping your home, and installing or repairing your water heater.
The last thing you want is to make matters worse. So when you’re facing an issue beyond your expertise, please give Aquarius a call. We’ll be there to inspect, diagnose, and fix any issue you may have in no time at all.