Plumbing issues come up all the time. But does this mean that you should be picking up the phone to call your plumber every single time? If you’re particularly unlucky and it’s a huge issue every single time, then you might need to. But chances are, some of the problems you’ll encounter in your home are small issues that you can troubleshoot on your own before calling in the big guns. In order to do that, however, you’ll need to invest in a few tools to help you pull it off. Here’s a list of all the tools that you should have in your home in order to tackle (and maintain) the small stuff.
Drain snakes come in all shapes and sizes. Your plumber will have a professional, heavy-duty tool costing a few thousand dollars to use for drain cleaning. You on the other hand, probably won’t be using the tool on a daily basis and can invest in a hand snake (also called a plumbing snake) that’s small but mighty - and should cost you under a hundred dollars, not thousands. Some simpler models can even be purchased under $50.
When you should use a plumbing snake
A hand snake is fantastic for when you suspect you might be experiencing a blockage due to hair, food and other solid items that may have clumped together in your pipes. A plumbing snake can be used on a clogged drain in the kitchen sink, bathroom drains and even down your toilet.
Here are a few signs that you might need the help of a plumbing snake:
Bad odours - unpleasant smells coming from your drain might mean that a clog hasn’t formed so much as to block the passage of water, but it does usually mean that a clog is forming and that the drain should be snaked as a preventative measure.
Gurgling - you might hear it coming from the walls or the drain itself. It means that water is having trouble making it down the pipe because something is shrinking the width of the drain. Snaking the pipe can help you remove the obstruction.
Slowly draining water - if your sink is taking a very long time to send water down the drain, it’s screaming for help. At this point, your drain is very close to a bad clog and demands some TLC. Snaking a slowly draining pipe can prevent a much worse issue from occurring. Do not leave this problem neglected.
How to use a plumbing snake
Although small steps may vary between different types of snakes, the general idea behind the mechanism is the same. Each snake for home use comes with a long cable, generally around 25 feet in length. The cable is actually a spiral or spring which when spun, allows the pointy end of the spiral to penetrate the clog and tangle itself into it. Once it has latched onto whatever it is that’s clogging the pipe, it gets reeled back by the operator, loosening and lifting out the obstruction with it.
You’ll have to place the end of the cable into the drain that you would like to unclog. Most plumbing snakes for homeowner use have a canister style spinning device that allows you to unravel the cable manually (kind of like a fishing reel).
Once you’ve inserted the cable a few feet into your drain, keep spinning into the problematic pipe until you’re met with some resistance - this means that the cable has met the clog.
Reel out another foot or so and press the lock on the device so that when you spin, it’s forced to enter the clog. If you reel out a foot and there’s too much slack the cable might just coil into itself, in which case you’ll need to reel out shorter amounts. This step requires some patience so don’t lose heart, it’ll be worth it. Keep going until you feel confident that you’ve made it through to the other end of the clog (usually this is the case when you’re beginning to feel less resistance).
It’s time to reel it back. The cable will coil back into the canister and might have all sorts of blockage culprits attached to its wires so have some rubber gloves handy as you’ll need to pick these off.
If your cable comes back with nothing on it, it’s possible that you may have to repeat steps 1-4. Sometimes it takes a few times and that’s okay - you’ll be glad you gave it another go.
If you have given the problem your best effort and it just isn’t clearing it might be time to call for professional help. For some blockages a small drain snake just won’t cut it so don’t feel too bad.
Additional maintenance tip: When a drain is used often and has water moving through it regularly, unwanted particles are more likely to get flushed away. If you have a drain in your home that is used rarely, flush some water through it occasionally. This will prevent any obstructions from drying up and becoming hard/attached to the walls of your pipes. Add this as a regular part of your plumbing maintenance routine in your home.
Water leak detectors are able to catch leaking pipes and related problems before you notice them. Having a leg up on leaks relieves an incredible amount of stress in owning a home. If you’ve ever experienced the pain, costs and frustration of a flooded basement you’ll be even more grateful to have a device that can warn you that a flood is around the corner before it even happens. This lets you step in or call for help before the damage has become extensive.
Devices are getting smarter and smarter. Water alarms are no different. More basic models allow you to place a sensor in problematic or leak-prone areas and they’ll sound an alarm when they sense water. What’s great about these detectors is that there is no installation required. Just set it down and forget about it until you hear the alarm sound.
The more advanced water alarms are wifi capable and can connect to your phone so that if you’re out at the grocery store or even on vacation you’ll know what’s happening in your home. These are strongly recommended simply due to the control they give you over your home no matter where you are. If you’re a fan of smart gadgets and already have a few in your home, some water alarms are able to connect to your smart devices for seamless usage. Most water alarms should be able to last 2 to 4 years on two AA batteries.
Adjustable crescent wrench
Although this multipurpose tool is useful for the various other needs of your home, it’s especially useful in your plumbing maintenance. Particularly for unscrewing pipes. Because a crescent wrench is adjustable, you can use it on the different sized pipes in your home without any hassle. This comes in handy when you’re installing any water filtering devices, sump pumps or even when fixing an emergency clog. You’ll be ready to take apart the pipe under your kitchen sink that’s clogging the drain instead of immediately calling for help.
You can have multiple screwdrivers, each with a different bit on the end or you could have one screwdriver conveniently holding multiple bits in one place. Because plumbing jobs tend to be in small, tight spaces, you’ll want to keep your toolbox as clean and simple as possible.
Adjustable (tongue and groove) pliers
These pliers are especially useful for plumbing, every plumber always has a couple of sets within reach. Various small plumbing repairs in your Edmonton home (and even emergencies) might require the use of adjustable pliers. They’re typically used for tightening nuts or clamping materials but what’s great is that no matter the shape of the item, their grooves allow them to tightly hold it in place.
This one seems kind of obvious but you’d be surprised how many homeowners don’t have a plunger or can’t find it when the time comes to put it to use. A plunger works magic on a clogged toilet, certainly but it can even help push away a clog in your kitchen sink and any other drain hole in your home. Never underestimate the importance of this basic tool in your home!
When to Call in a Pro
So as much as you might like to, you probably won’t be able to repair every single plumbing issue you encounter in your home. Although the above tools are extremely helpful in resolving smaller problems that don’t require extensive training, there are tasks that you should entrust only to your certified plumber.
Gas line problems
Did you know that many certified plumbers install and maintain gas lines? Your plumbing and gas lines are strongly correlated and come together in the function of your home. If ever you detect any issues with your gas lines, it’s very important that you do not try to repair the issue on your own. Because of the volatility of gas, it can be very unpredictable and even fatal in your home. For this reason, gas line issues should be handled by trained professionals alone. Signs that you might be experiencing problems with your gas lines include
A sulfuric (eggy) odour
Bubbles in the water coming out of your drain
An audible hissing noises coming from the gas line area
Your house plants are drying out
You’re feeling nauseous and dizzy whenever you’re at home
Faucets and shower cartridges
Another type of repair that might be best to leave in the hands of professionals are faucet and shower cartridge repairs. Although they seem like an easy DIY job, they are actually often more complicated and the process may require specialized tools. If you suspect any complications in this type of repair or replacement, it’s better to play it safe and have it handled by a professional with the necessary skills and technology. This is especially important if you are only looking to repair your faucet or shower. If you accidentally damage any of the parts, you may now be looking at a full replacement where before it might have been a simpler fix.
How to Make the Decision
Deciding whether something in your home is a DIY repair project or something that should be handled by a professional can be tricky. The general rule is that if you feel any hesitation, it’s probably because you haven’t had the training necessary to understand the intricacies of the project. If you’re uncomfortable with the plumbing maintenance that needs to be performed in your home, call a certified plumber. At Mr. Rooter Plumbing Edmonton, we’re staffed with only the highest quality, licensed professionals and local emergency plumbers that will attend to your home’s needs any time you need them. That’s right, we’re ready for your call 24/7, even on holidays. What’s best is that our highly skilled plumbers guarantee all the work they do in your home, including all the parts that they use. This allows you to have absolute peace of mind. If in doubt, don’t risk it - hand it off to the pros that’ll get the job done right!