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10 DIY Plumbing Mistakes: How NOT to Plumb

When faced with the prospect of saving a little more of your hard-earned cash, the idea of taking on a repair or maintenance DIY project can be appealing. However, the most urgent repairs resulting from plumbing disasters often evolve from small mistakes by someone with less than adequate experience. 

There certainly are several mistakes that DIY enthusiasts often make, and from our experience working with the Central Pennsylvania community for over 72 years, here are the top plumbing mistakes that you should avoid. 

1. Not having the appropriate tools

We get it - it sure is tempting to dig out the trusty toolbox with your dad’s old set of mole grips, a bent screwdriver (that doubles as a chisel), and a rusty tape measure to prove to yourself just how handy you really are. Unfortunately, many plumbing projects require tools that are precise and in good condition in order to perform the way you want them to. With incorrect tools, you’ll at best hinder your progress of completing the job in a timely manner, and at worst, cause even more problems that will be even harder to fix. Before you undertake any DIY plumbing projects, make sure you have the correct tools that are in decent condition. 

2. Using chemical drain unblocker as a first choice

We’ve heard it from folks hundreds of times - the first solution people think of when their drain is blocked is to head to the grocery store and buy some chemical drain cleaner. While it does indeed work as easily as it sounds, it is actually much easier and quicker to remove and clear the trap, and use a drain snake, cleaning tool, or plunger to unblock the pipes. 

Chemicals used in drain unblockers are harsh on your pipes and highly toxic to the environment. The last thing you want from a repair is for your pipes and fittings to corrode and cause damage to your community. Next time your drain is clogged, consider using the right tools for the job. 

3. You don’t use sink strainers

Interconnected with the above point is that very few people use sink strainers. If you do, you get a gold star. But if you don’t, well, the chances are high that you’ve had your fair share of drains being clogged. Whether it’s your kitchen sink or shower drain, you can prevent an overwhelming majority of impurities from getting into your drain that would otherwise cause it to clog. Perhaps this will even drop the number of DIY plumbing jobs you undertake. 

4. Overtightening fittings and connections

We have seen serious damage caused when plumbing fittings are overtightened. Whether plastic, brass, copper, or iron, overtightening a fitting can cause the nut to slip and overtightening the thread can cause the fitting to split. Both mistakes will result in leaks as well as damage to the pipe and fittings, leading to replacements. 

5. Not replacing the chemical inhibitor after draining a heating system

Do you live in an older home with radiator heating? Central heating inhibitor is a chemical liquid necessary for protecting your heating system - it keeps your heating system running efficiently while simultaneously prolonging its lifespan. While your radiator runs day in and day out, sludge (black and brown) will build up at the bottom of your pipes and radiator, causing the water to stop running properly and putting strain on the rest of the heating system. Chemical inhibitors help break down the sludge which prevents it from building up in the first place, therefore, if it is not replaced, you can expect future inefficiencies and a short lifespan for your heating system.

6. Not using plastic pipe inserts

Pipe inserts play an especially important role in providing extra support to plastic pipework minimizing any loss of shape that can occur when cutting. Pipe inserts maintain the structural shape of the pipework, facilitating a more effective seal between the outside diameter of the pipe and the O-ring. In turn, this helps to make the pipe more rigid when a fitting is applied.

Many people make the mistake of not using inserts. Without them, there’s a chance that the siding of the pipe can cave in. 

7. Incorrectly Installing fixtures

Incorrectly installing fixtures is a very common mistake. Many people who are inexperienced with plumbing work either do not use the correct tools, improperly tighten, or do not seal their work. A good tip is to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions with each installed piece to minimize the chance of making a mistake. 

8. Trying to solder

Soldering can be very dangerous for individuals who aren’t experienced or well-trained. We believe that anyone can learn this skill if they put their mind to it, but it usually takes practice, time, and patience to learn it properly. The problem is that numerous house fires have been caused by inexperienced people attempting a soldering job. We recommend keeping a fire extinguisher close at hand and removing any flammable materials from the area if you insist on trying it. However, it is usually best to leave this to professionals. 

9. Trying to tackle complex projects alone

Plumbing projects are often complex by nature - tasks such as replacing drain piping, fixing water heaters, or adjusting the location of a toilet require several skills along with many different tools to get the job done right. While some of these projects sound simple, mistakes can easily happen which causes more damage. Furthermore, some projects require heavy lifting or using difficult tools that can make the DIY project dangerous for inexperienced individuals. We do not recommend taking on complex projects alone! 

10. Knowing when to call a professional 

As we’ve said, we understand the drive to save some money by attempting a plumbing project on your own instead of hiring the help of a professional. The unfortunate thing is that more mistakes can happen than we can realistically cover in this article, and mistakes almost always lead to further damage and even higher costs. 
Sometimes, one of the biggest mistakes someone can make is to not know when it’s time to call a professional. If you have a big renovation project coming up or have recently run into a plumbing emergency, consider contacting a plumber in Harrisburg who can help. Call WM Buffington and get the job done right the first time!

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