Quick fixes for your plumbing checklist:
Avoid chemical drain-clearing products
Clogged drains are the most common home plumbing problem, and you can buy chemicals to clear them. But these products sometimes do more harm than good. They can actually erode cast-iron drainpipes.
And because they typically don’t remove the entire clog, the problem is likely to recur, causing you to re-use the chemicals repeatedly.
Better to hire a plumber to snake the drain and completely remove the chunk of hair or grease that’s plugging the line. Or you can pick up a snake of your own, for around $20 at the hardware store, and try clearing the drain yourself.
Prevent future clogging
Clogs aren’t just nuisances. Backed-up water puts added pressure on your wastepipes, stressing them and shortening their lifespan. So avoid plug-ups by watching what goes down your drains. That means keeping food scraps out of kitchen drains, hair out of bathroom drains, and anything but sewage and toilet paper out of toilets.
Install screens over drains in showers and tubs, and pull out what hair you can every few weeks to prevent buildups. Scrape food into the trash before doing dishes—even if you have a disposal—and never put liquid grease down the drain; pour it into a sealable container to put in the garbage after it cools.
Grease is only liquid when it’s hot, when you pour it down the drain, it cools and becomes solid. Do that enough, and just like a clogged artery, your drains won’t work anymore.
Reduce the pressure
As nice as high water pressure can be when you’re taking a shower or filling a stockpot, it stresses your pipes, increasing the likelihood of a leak. This drastically reduces the life of your plumbing, it makes your pipe joints, faucets, and appliance valves work harder.
You can measure your water pressure with a hose bib gauge, available at the hardware store for under $10. Attach it to an outside spigot and open the line. Normal pressure will register between 40 and 85 psi. If it’s above that range, consider hiring a plumber to install a pressure reducer.
Adding a low-flow showerhead won’t affect pressure in the pipes. It only affects the amount of water coming out of the showerhead itself.
Soften the water
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, although hard water can occur anywhere, it’s common in the Central Bucks area.
A white buildup on showerheads and faucets is a telltale sign of hard water. Or, if your house receives municipal water service, you can easily find out how hard it is. By law, every municipality must file an annual water quality report with the Environmental Protection Agency. If you have a well, check your most recent water test report for hardness information. You’ll need a plumber to install a traditional, sodium-based softener
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 a little to the to the job. And not only will it give you cleaner drinking water by removing particulates and chlorine, it’ll extend the lifespan of your softener.
Other ways to avoid trouble
Learn where your home’s main water shut off valve is—so if there’s ever a leak, you can go straight there and quickly turn off the water to the entire house. Remove hoses from outdoor spigots in winter to prevent frozen water from cracking the pipes and causing a flood.
Add pipe insulation to the plumbing in cold parts of your house—such as garages, basements, and crawl spaces—to avoid frozen pipes (and to shorten the wait for hot water).
Never use an exposed pipe as a hanger rod for laundry. Doing so can loosen joints and fasteners.
Fix problems quickly. Even small leaks can make pipes corrode more quickly, and cause significant water damage or mold.