Knowing Your Limits
If you are handy and able to work methodically, most plumbing projects are within your reach. However, some are time-consuming and involve skills beyond plumbing. Understanding your limits and the constraints of time can assure an enjoyable, safe project.
Plan your time carefully; your family will not be able to use a plumbing fixture until you have finished the repair or installation. The checklist at the beginning of each project will help you gather the needed tools and estimate the time needed to complete the project.
Even a well-planned project can run into unforeseen problems. You may find yourself in need of tools or parts, so work while stores are open.
Working safely and comfortably
Before attempting any plumbing project, turn off the water. Then turn on a faucet to confirm the water supply is off.
Take care not to touch nearby electrical outlets, especially if you are wet.
Plumbing can be physically demanding because you often have to work in cramped areas. Make the work site as comfortable as possible. Spread towels as cushions, use a drop cloth to catch water and grime, and illuminate the area with a stand-up flashlight.
Hiring a pro
Even if you believe you are competent to do the work, you may not have the time. Rather than forcing your family to live in a work site for months, it may be worth the extra money to hire someone who can get the job done quickly. More importantly, local codes may require that only licensed contractors perform certain types of work. Some types of work call for the expertise of a qualified plumbing contractor.
Choosing a plumber
For a major job, obtain quotes from two or three plumbers. Ask for references and talk to former customers to see if they were satisfied. Make sure the plumbing contractor is licensed and bonded to work in your area and has liability and worker's compensation insurance so you will be protected in case of a mishap.
Levels of plumber involvement
Most professional plumbers would rather do all the work themselves. However, if you feel confident that you can work on a project and need only a bit of reassurance that you're installing things correctly, a plumber may agree to work as a consultant. Often an hour spent with a pro can save you plenty in materials and labor.
You might hire a plumber to do only the rough-in work of running supply and DWV (drain-waste-vent) pipes. Once the rough plumbing is installed, have a local inspector approve it before you finish paying the plumber. Then you can close up the walls and install the fixtures.
Working with a plumber
If you are dissatisfied with a plumber's work, or if you do not understand what the plumber is doing, don't hesitate to ask questions.
Be firm but polite. Whenever possible, save all your questions for the end of the day, so you won't be a nuisance. If you feel the work is shoddy or the plumber is shrugging off your concerns, make it clear that you will not pay until you are satisfied. Have all work inspected.Safety First: Tools That Protect
Most plumbing projects do not put you in harm's way. However, use common sense and take precautions to protect yourself and your home.
- For most jobs, rule No. 1 is: Shut off the water, then run water until it stops flowing to make sure it has been shut off.
- If a job will cause you to get wet, keep away from any live electrical receptacles or fixtures. To be sure, first shut off the power at the service panel.
- Be sure you know which pipes are which. In addition to plumbing pipes, your home may have gas pipes and pipes that carry hot water for the heating system.
- When working with or near gas pipes, shut off the gas at a point prior to where you are working and open doors or windows to provide ventilation. Do not ignite any sparks or flames and avoid touching electrical devices.
- Drain lines may contain gases, smelly or odorless, that are hazardous. Temporarily seal pipes with a rag and keep the area ventilated.
- If at any point you are unsure of what you are doing, stop work. Consult other resources or call in a professional for advice.
- When soldering copper pipe, protect all flammable surfaces that may be touched by the flame. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Use the tool that's designed for the job.
- Wear eye protection to guard your eyes from metal fragments and debris. Wear long sleeves and use gloves when necessary. Use GFCI-protected extension cords.
- Blocked Pipes: Fixing Clogged Drain Pipes
- Faucets: How to Fix Leaky Faucets or Install a New Faucet
- Toilets: How to Repair a Toilet, Fix a Clogged Toilet, Stop Running Water & More
- Pipe: How to Repair Pipes, Thaw Frozen Water Pipes & More
- Working with Pipe: Copper, Plastic, CPVC, PEX, Steal, Cast Iron & More
- Plumbing System Repairs & Upgrades
- Bathtubs: How to Remove, Repair or Replace a Bathtub
- Installing a New Bathroom
- Kitchen Plumbing: How to Plan & Install Kitchen Plumbing & Appliances
- HVAC: How to Install or Repair Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Systems
- Utility Rooms & Basements: How to Upgrade Your Utility Room or Basement
- Outdoor Plumbing Projects: Sprinklers & Irrigation, Hose Bibs, Ponds & Fountains, More