Tackling a plumbing job on your own is like cooking Christmas lunch for the extended family, single-handedly. You need to know the basic skills, have the right tools on hand and in one simple slip-up – whether burning the roast or breaking the pipes – a disaster could unfold.
Critical DIY plumbing mistakes can end up draining your bank account, as minor concerns spiral into expensive, time-consuming fixes. Below, we discuss how to avoid becoming a culprit of the five most common DIY plumbing mistakes.
- Mismatching the pipes
- Leaving the water on
- Using incorrect tools
- Unclogging with drain cleaner
- Over-tightening your fittings
1. Mismatching the pipes
If you can’t pick a PVC pipe from a line-up of ABS tubes, you’re most likely going to make the plumbing mistake of mismatching pipes. There’s a range of pipes used in plumbing – from galvanized steel to cast iron – and while some can be joined together, others should never meet beneath the sink, unless you don’t mind a risk of leaks (we’re guessing you do!). To avoid mismatching tubes, contact a professional plumber to make the right connections.
2. Leaving the water on
Turning off the water sounds like a straightforward instruction and an obvious starting point for any plumbing work, but this simple step is easily forgotten. If you neglect to shut off the main water supply, don’t be surprised when water floods the floor after a fixture is removed, or sprays from a loosened connection.
Another point experienced plumbers are aware of is that turning off the main source doesn’t instantly clear existing water from the pipes; run your faucets for a few seconds before beginning work. A flooded bathroom, damp carpet and wet walls turns a minor issue into a major problem – not to mention expensive.
3. Using incorrect tools
Your tap is leaking, but it looks like a pretty easy fix for an aspiring DIYer like yourself… Until you realise you don’t have the tools on hand that are readily available in an experienced plumber’s toolkit. It can be tempting to forge ahead with the intention of saving money and the hassle of hiring a professional, but using the wrong tools can create bigger problems than what you started with.
For example, attempting to remove a galvanized pipe from a wall with a simple set of joint pliers or an ordinary pipe wrench can potentially break the pipe and leave the threads in the wall. To avoid damaging the finish on your faucet or ending up with uneven cuts on tubing, invest in the proper tools or hire a professional.
4. Unclogging with drain cleaner
When there’s a clogged drain, one of the first solutions most people reach for is a liquid drain cleaner. While this is a simple fix for a minor block, pouring chemical cleaners down your drain can cause major damage to your pipes and fixtures, especially when used excessively. Chemical cleaners can even worsen the clog by building up around it, which adds pressure to your pipes and causes potential leakages.
Instead, first try to remove the physical block with a drain snake or a barbed drain cleaning tool. Another quick fix? Remove the P-trap to release the obstruction. In this case, keep it simple! If you do resort to flushing out your drains with a liquid cleaner, make it natural. A simple, DIY cleaning solution we recommend is a mixture of vinegar, salt, baking soda and hot water.
5. Over-tightening your fittings
One of the easiest mistakes to make as an aspiring DIY plumber is to over-tighten your fittings, pipes, bolts and supply tubes. You might think the tighter you turn, the more secure your handiwork, right? Think again. By pushing too hard, you risk cracking the fitting.
Most connections already have a watertight seal, and excessive force may actually break the rubber or plastic washes creating that seal. The full effect of a crack could occur weeks after your DIY project, causing a flood. The bottom line? Tighten fittings and pipes until they feel snug, but be careful not to force anything.