DIY or Hire a Pro? How to Determine When You Need a Plumber


Plumbing is a big industry and one of the most in-demand trades in Canada. This is because plumbing will always be needed and is relied on to work 24/7.

For as long as plumbing has existed, there have also been keen homeowners who tried to DIY things and ended up making them worse.

This brings up a very important question: when do you need a plumber? Admittedly, many of us aren't masters at fixing things, but we can (or at least believe we can) learn to tackle some of the smaller things.

When do smaller things become larger things, though? When does the problem become big enough that you're better off hiring a plumber?

We intend to give you some advice on that in this article.

1. Know Your Limits

You can look up DIY tutorials as much as you want, but if you're still not entirely sure what you're doing, don't try to fix anything. For plumbing jobs, the trial-by-fire approach should be avoided.

The idea that we can figure out how to solve any problem, and therefore don't need a plumber, is one of the biggest myths of home maintenance out there. Don't assume that taking a toilet apart and examining its components is going to teach you anything about installing a new one.

If you are confident and have some experience fixing things, feel free to give it a shot. Chances are, many of the smaller problems will be easy for you.

If you're an expert handyman, you may be able to tackle a few of the more advanced jobs. Replacing a toilet, for instance, maybe something to try for you.

However, there are certain jobs you shouldn't do yourself, regardless of how skilled you are. Moving pipes around or attempting to remodel your plumbing system, for example, is not something you should attempt. Not only is this difficult and incredibly complicated, but it's also very risky.

Plumbing, electricity, and most other major home renovations will often require a permit. A plumber needs to get a permit for major projects to ensure the installation complies with the local plumbing code.

Doing some DIY plumbing work may cause problems in the event of an insurance claim for plumbing-related damage in a home. If plumbing work was not done by a licensed plumber your insurance company may not proceed with a claim.

2. Understand the Cost

Depending on the job at hand, hiring a plumber can be costly and many people use this as an excuse to try to do the job themselves. All too often this is a costly mistake.

As mentioned, if you are handy, you might not need a plumber for smaller issues, like a leaky faucet. In these cases, you may be able to fix it by yourself and save money at the same time.

Larger issues are going to be more difficult, and fixing them yourself may end up costing you more than hiring a plumber. A lot goes into a DIY repair, especially a big one.

Do you have the right tools, for instance? Do you know what the right tools are and how to use them? Can you honestly look at the long list of different plumbing tools available and still say that hiring a plumber is more expensive?

That doesn't even include the money spent on materials and anything else you might need for the job.

3. Understand the Time Commitment

Another major factor in deciding whether or not you need a plumber is the time commitment. Sure, you might be able to fix that leaky faucet but do you have the time?

It depends on your situation. For many of us, the current answer is yes, because the COVID-19 outbreak that started earlier this year has caused us to spend a lot more time inside.

However, in those instances where we aren't experiencing a major pandemic, our lives tend to be busy. The economy isn't great, and debt is rising faster than wages. Many of us find ourselves working longer hours just to make ends meet.

This means that you need to think before deciding between hiring an Edmonton plumber or trying to do the job yourself. Are you willing to give up your free time? How much time are you willing to spend on this project?

4. When to Call an Edmonton Plumber: External Repairs

There are many instances where you'd need to hire a plumber, and we'll discuss some of them in detail. External plumbing repairs are one of the most important.

Outdoor sewer and water repairs refer to repairing the buried sewer and water lines in your yard. You need a plumber for this because it tends to be complex and can lead to very serious issues if done incorrectly.

Your property line is where your home’s plumbing connects to the city's plumbing. Damaging another person's property, accidentally or otherwise, is never a good thing. Damaging government property is a legal and bureaucratic nightmare.

Common issues in these outdoor sewer lines are root infiltration, grade issues, and structural issues. Because it is so cold here in Edmonton, our sewers and water lines are buried very deep which makes digging them up dangerous. Sewer and water line repairs should always be left to the professionals.

After your sewer crosses your property line it becomes the property of the local municipality (or their designate, in Edmonton they are owned by EPCOR). At your property line, there is a buried valve on your water line that can be used to shut off the water supply to your home. Remember, the water pipes and sewage pipes on the city property are not your responsibility. These can occasionally require maintenance or repair, largely due to natural disasters or the basic changing and shifting of the land over time. Perhaps there was an earthquake or more likely in Edmonton, the water froze in the winter and cracked the pipe.

5. Internal Repairs

This may seem confusing at first. After all, doesn't internal and external cover everything? Are there truly no repairs we can do on our own?

No, this doesn't cover everything and there are still plumbing jobs you can do yourself. Internal repair is a bit of a misleading term.

When somebody says 'internal repairs,' they mean literally internal repairs. This refers to the inner parts of the house related to its very structure. This includes anything that runs through the walls or beneath the floor.

Since these types of repairs involve tearing away part of the wall or floor, you'll need a plumber. While they're not experts in construction or home repair, they've probably dealt with enough internal plumbing issues to know how to get the job done without causing too much damage.

We suggest talking to your plumber beforehand to figure out which wall or spot of the floor they'll need to get into, how much they'll need to take out, and how much work will be required to fix it.

In some cases, so much of the wall is broken through that you'll need to contact another professional to get the damage fixed. This isn't pleasant, but it isn't always avoidable.

6. Renovations

We've discussed understanding building codes and getting permits already, but there's often more to major renovation than that. It's not just what you're legally allowed to do, but also what you're capable of doing.

You may be a lawyer who specializes in local law. You may have memorized every city ordinance, building code, and zoning law ever created.

The next question is whether or not you know how to build a bathroom. Chances are you're like the majority of us who have absolutely no idea. We may know a bit about plumbing, and maybe even a lot, but setting up plumbing for an entirely new room is a different matter.

Even if you're not adding another room, any major renovation can require a lot of advanced work, so it's best to hire a plumber.

7. Cleaning Clogged Drains

Clogged drains are really common. This is something that can be tried for smaller drains in the home but isn’t recommended for larger drains.

For a clog in a smaller drain (1-¼” to 2”) you can try a small hand snake in the drain to get it to clear. Depending on what is clogging your pipe, this may work or it may not. Regardless of your success or not, NEVER use drain cleaning chemicals to clear a clogged drain. Drain cleaning chemicals are extremely corrosive and dangerous, they will corrode your pipes and can eat through skin extremely fast. Imagine dumping a bottle of drain cleaner into a clogged sink, but it doesn’t work. NOW WHAT?!?! What can you do with this sink full of acid??? This really complicates any further attempts to snake the drain safely. These products have resulted in so many emergency room visits, trust us, don’t use them.

Some homeowners are often tempted to rent larger drain cleaning equipment when the small equipment doesn’t cut it. While we admire your ambition, please don’t if you aren’t familiar with this equipment. These power augers are famous for breaking fingers and hands and are very unforgiving.

8. Shutting Off your Main Water Valve

Even if you've never used your main water valve before, hopefully, you know where it is. It is so important that this valve works, isn’t leaking, and everyone in the home knows where it is and how to use it!

Imagine a water leak spraying from a pipe in your wall. How do you stop it? Easy! Just close the Main Water Valve! This is often where the story goes bad because the valve hasn’t been turned in 30 years and is seized stiff. Maybe when your plumber gets there, they may be able to turn it with a wrench, but maybe not. You might have to call the local utility to come and close the valve at your property line (which sometimes has the same problem!).

People also turn their water off for home remodels and when going on vacation. This is done to prevent a leak from filling their basement or wasting water through leaky toilets or faucets. This isn't likely to happen, but it's always best to err on the side of caution because when it does happen it is horrible.

Another common reason people turn off their water valves is that they're trying to figure out what the valve does. Even if you suspect you've found the water valve, there's only one way to know for sure.

People also show house sitters how to shut off the water. We always recommend that your home’s Main Water Valve be shut off when your home will be unattended for any amount of time beyond 24 hours, however, feel free to be even more cautious.

There are new smart devices that monitor water use and detect leaks. Some of them have the ability to shut off your water supply automatically when a leak is detected which provides an additional piece of mind.

9. Things to Know When Shutting Off the Water

There are always things to consider when shutting off the main water valve. The main water valve and water heater have a very cooperative relationship. If the valve is turned off and the water heater isn't, the heated water can expand without anywhere to go. It is recommended to turn your water heater to vacation mode while shutting the main water valve for any amount of time. The other option is to install an expansion tank. Most Edmonton area homes do not have an expansion tank so this would be an extra cost to consider.

After you turn your water back on it may spit and sputter a bit, but this is relatively normal. It should fix itself right away. If it doesn’t though, it's time to call a plumber.

How to Tell if You Need a Plumber

There are many situations where you might need a plumber and a few where you might not. However, the best bet is to always trust an expert to do the job.

Not only will a professional plumber have the tools and experience, but the right plumbing company, like Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton, provides expert service from fully insured and licensed technicians who provide workmanship and part guarantees. With us, you can rest easy knowing that you are covered!

Contact us if you want to know more about what our Edmonton plumbers can do for you.