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3 Plumbing Repairs You Can Complete On Your Own

Not every residential plumbing problem requires the assistance of a master plumber. Here are three repairs you can complete on your own, and here are a few tips to help you determine when it’s best to call for some professional assistance.

Leaking faucets: Leaking faucets are prime DIY candidates. Faucets can leak for a variety of reasons, and most often, the repair requires only common hand tools, the replacement part, some Teflon tape and less than an hour of time. Faucets can leak because the seals, O-rings or washers have gone bad. Your faucet might also develop leaks if a ceramic disk inside the fixture has cracked or broken. Diagnosing the cause of the leak requires you to turn off the water to the fixture, disassemble the fixture and replace the defective part. Reassemble the fixture and ensure that your connections are tight.

When to ask for help: Consider calling for help if your leaking fixture doesn’t have separate shut-off valves on the water lines that feed the fixture, or if the shut-off valve is stuck or broken. Also consider calling in back-up if the feed lines are hidden in the wall, or soldered to the fixture.

Running toilets: Water can “leak” into the bowl if the valve at the bottom of your toilet tank doesn’t seal properly, or if the tank is adjusted to overfill after a flush. Water can also leak from a tank that is cracked. The flapper valve at the bottom of the tank is usually just a large piece of rubber that covers the drain hole at the bottom of the tank. Over time, the valve deteriorates and allows water to leak from the tank to the bowl, causing the bowl to periodically discharge the extra water.
If your tank simply overfills after a flush, adjust the float to shut off the water sooner. It’s usually just a screw-type adjustment, so there are no parts needed here. If the tank leaks water because it’s cracked or broken, the only fix for this is to get a new tank.

Replacing the flapper valve involves a quick trip to the hardware store to get a new valve. If you’re feeling adventurous or you don’t have a lot of confidence in the remaining parts of your toilet tank, you can buy an entire kit and replace everything inside the tank at once. Again, just a few hand tools are all that’s needed, and your toilet will be in business again.

When to ask for help: Consider calling for help if your toilet doesn’t have a separate shut-off valve on the water line that feeds it, or if the shut-off valve is stuck or broken. Also consider calling a pro if the toilet bowl needs to be replaced, or wastewater is leaking out onto the floor from underneath the toilet.

Clogged drains: Every homeowner should invest in a drain snake, and an enzymatic drain cleaner, like Bio-Clean. Clogs are usually made of organic materials like hair and food particles that combine with soap residue. Biological organisms can also grow in drains and eventually shut them down altogether. A drain snake is a long piece of loosely coiled metal that can be used to catch a clog and withdraw it from the drain. To clear out a drain, you’ll need to open the trap and drain the pipe to the best of your ability. Introduce the snake into the drain until you encounter the clog. Once you’ve got the clog trapped in the snake, pull the snake back out and your drain should be clear.

Snaking a drain isn’t anyone’s favorite job, so be prepared for a lot of muck, a nasty-looking clog and some unpleasant odors. When the clog has been removed, reassemble the drain and check for leaks. To prevent clogs or to break up a clog without tearing the drain apart, try an enzymatic drain cleaner like BioClean. The enzymes in BioClean will literally eat their way through the clog and open up a slow drain overnight. There is no potential risk to you or your pipes when you use BioClean because it contains no harsh chemicals – just natural enzymes that will gladly gobble up a nasty clog.

When to ask for help: Sometimes a drainpipe clogs because it has calcified and just needs to be replaced. This can be a “worst-case” scenario for homeowners. If you have a drain that repeatedly clogs or always runs slowly, and snaking the drain hasn’t improved its performance, contact a plumber for an evaluation.

You can always count on Boston Standard Plumbing for assistance with all of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs. Call us anytime at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment, or to help out with a plumbing, heating or cooling emergency. We’re available 24 hours a day, and a licensed plumber always answers your after-hours calls.

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When Should You Call A Plumber?

For some plumbing repairs in Boston, homeowners can effectively service and maintain their own systems. In other cases, the repair may be too large, complicated or dangerous to attempt on your own. In addition, some repairs require special tools or skills to complete. Today, we’ll focus on the difference between repairs homeowners can do without assistance and help you to determine those repairs that should be evaluated or completed by a trained plumbing professional.

Leaking or dripping faucets, faucet replacements, cracked or leaking toilets and faucet/fixture valve shutoffs are four great examples of repairs that can be completed by the average homeowner and without the need for specialized tools. On the other end of the spectrum, repairs that involve sewer lines and drains (other than a clogged drain) may require special equipment and expertise to complete.

As a general rule, repairs that involve the “clean” side of your plumbing system – that is, the clean water supply – are good candidates for a DIY repair, as long as the fixtures and supply lines are reasonably accessible. Repairs that involve sewer lines, or those that involve specialized equipment like hot water heaters or boilers, are much less likely to be completed successfully by a homeowner, partially because these repairs may involve health and safety hazards, or require specialized tools and skills to successfully complete the repairs. In addition, these repairs may also require interaction with municipal water and sewer authorities, dig permits and other special handling.

For basic plumbing repairs, you’ll want to assemble a “kit” or collection of tools that will assist you in completing basic maintenance and repair tasks. This kit should include one or more adjustable wrenches; a pipe wrench; flat and Phillip’s head screw drivers (including a set of short handled drivers for tight workspaces); vice grips and/or channel locks; a hacksaw; a small diameter pipe cutter; teflon tape; plumbers’ putty; a large capacity bucket; rags or towels; safety glasses and neoprene or heavy rubber gloves; a sink plunger; a toilet plunger and a flashlight or portable/battery powered light source.

Also, as a rule of thumb, if you’re working with older fixtures like sinks or toilets that do not have their own shut-off valves, please do yourself a favor and add one when you do your next repair. All fixtures that use fresh water should have separate local shut-off valves for each water supply line. These valves are generally not expensive. After you’ve installed them, please be aware that they sometimes break in-line. Check the operation of your valves often and replace those that seem difficult to turn or turn with no resistance at all.

Before you begin any plumbing repair, know exactly where your main shut-off valves are and make sure any local shut-off valves work properly. If you’re dealing with a leak or break in a pipe that’s embedded in a wall, you’ll have to open up the wall to get access to the break or leak, and to dry out the area.

Don’t try to cut corners when it comes to drying out the damage. If you re-enclose a wet wall, you’ll soon end up with mold in that space, and that’s a much more difficult problem to deal with. Occasionally, your initial impression of the problem may be wrong. As you dig into the problem, you find that you’re dealing with something much more complex than you’d initially thought. That’s ok; it actually happens all the time. Boston Standard Plumbing can assist, no matter what the nature or size of your problem is. If your problem has gotten bigger along the way, or you need assistance with completing a repair, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing at (617)-288-2911 and we’ll be happy to evaluate your situation.