Planning Your Plumbing Project: The Basics

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Some homeowners avoid plumbing chores because they see them as difficult and messy. As a result they call in a plumber for minor problems they could easily handle themselves. Others tackle the most complex plumbing projects, often with disastrous results.

Projects in Planning & Prep

Scoping out the job
Armed with this site you can determine which projects you are comfortable with doing yourself and which are best left to pros. The complete step-by-step instructions will help you satisfactorily complete those projects you choose to do.

Typically any plumbing that is exposed (not hidden in walls) is easy to work on for a handy person with no special knowledge or skills. Faucets and traps can be dismantled, unclogged, and repaired or replaced using inexpensive tools. Trips to the hardware store for replacement parts are usually more time-consuming than the chore itself.

The work becomes more challenging when the fixtures get heftier and more complex. You can replace a bathroom sink quickly but a kitchen sink, with its mass of plumbing underneath, is a bigger job. Plumbing and fittings that are partially hidden, such as a shower faucet and its supply lines, may require carpentry, tiling, and other skills.

Anytime you install a plumbing fixture where there was none before -- in other words whenever you need to run new pipes -- you enter a new arena. New plumbing must conform to codes and must be inspected by a local building department.

Getting the work done
Often the most difficult part of a job is not the actual plumbing but dealing with obstacles. You may have to squeeze into cramped quarters. Use a kneeling pad, a drop cloth, or even an old pillow to make the worksite as comfortable as possible. Position a flashlight or work light so you can see clearly.

There is one basic rule for most plumbing projects: Shut off the water and test to make sure the water is off. Keep a bucket and some old towels handy to catch the small amounts of water that may dribble out of pipes.

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