Some of the most exasperating home repair problems crop up when something goes wrong with the plumbing. And serious difficulties can lead to costly repair bills. Planning for plumbing emergencies now can save you money and headaches later.
Fortunately, a properly installed system should not cause you many problems. Better yet, some common minor plumbing hassles, such as clogged drains and leaky faucets, probably can be treated successfully by those industrious homeowners looking to save a few dollars.
All you need is a little knowledge, a few tools and a common-sense approach to problem solving. I might add that the successful home plumber also knows when it's time to call in a professional. After all, there's no room for pride when you have a basement full of water.
Your first step should be to do a little homework on the subject of plumbing. Browse through home repair books at the library or book store. Most will offer easy-to-follow advice on how to fix a variety of things around the house. Books containing detailed diagrams and user friendly instructions are the best. With so many "do-it-yourself" books on the shelves, picking out only one or two suitable volumes may be your biggest dilemma.
Now it's time to tour your home and become acquainted with the plumbing system. Learn the location of all shutoff valves, particularly the main shutoff valve. A good place to look for the main valve is near the water meter.
Shutoff valves for sinks, commodes and other fixtures ordinarily are located beneath the fixture in question. However, in some homes, they might be found in the basement or crawl space. Use these valves -- when accessible -- to cut off the water supply to malfunctioning fixtures.
Make sure that adults in the family know the location of the main shutoff value since it controls water to the entire house. It could mean the difference between a dry and a flooded basement.
Of course, if your home has a septic tank buried in the yard, you should know where it is in the case of an emergency. Your yard may suffer considerable damage in a plumbing emergency if not found quickly.
You can locate a septic tank with the help of the blueprints for your home. If the blueprints are unavailable, check with the builder or previous owner.
What type of tools should you have on hand for plumbing emergencies? A plunger, an adjustable wrench, an auger and a screwdriver will be enough for most drain problems. For leaky faucets, you'll also need assorted washers, a reseating tool and some packing thread.
A reliable hardware or plumbing supply dealer is a good source for tools and for answers to your specific questions.
While you won't be able to handle every plumbing emergency yourself, armed with a little knowledge, a few tools and common sense, you should be able to trim costs for minor repairs. But in a real emergency, call in the professionals to avoid even bigger and more costly plumbing repair costs down the road.