When to Do It Yourself and When to Call a Plumber

PlumberA “do it yourself” project, or DIY for short, can be very satisfying to many homeowners. Once you have fixed a couple things, the house may feel more like yours, and you may feel more legitimate, more grown-up. In many cases, you can save some money!

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Fortunately, most failures don’t get to quite that scale. More likely is the case of the destroyed valve or cross-threaded pipe that you were trying to fix, or not having the right part after going into a wall and taking things apart. But these failures can still be frustrating and expensive, especially when you started off trying to save a little money.

Some Plumbing Projects are Perfect for DIY

These are some common plumbing projects that are well within the capabilities of many homeowners. They can be completed with generally available plumbing tools, and can be completed without breaking through walls or floors. If basic precautions are followed, the risk of disaster is minimal.

  • Cleaning a clogged drain
  • Fixing a leaky faucet
  • Fixing leaky faucet
  • Fix a running toilet
  • Replacing a faucet
  • Installing a shower head
  • Simple pipe repair

A good way to get started and test yourself as a DIY plumber is to try some of our projects. We provide detailed instructions that will walk you through the process and help you get a taste for the process. These projects include:

 A simple toilet leak testToilet. A leaky toilet flapper can cost a homeowner up to $2,000 a year. The test will take just a few minutes and requires no special tools.

Bathroom Faucet DIYReplacing the faucet in your bathroom sink is a bit more complex, but still fairly basic. It takes about an hour, and there are no special tools required.

Toilet Replacing the toilet floor flange seal. This task seems a little more daunting because you actually have to remove the toilet. However, with the proper parts and precautions, the rest of the procedure is simple enough.

Toilet Rebuilding the toilet sounds difficult, and it is a bit more complex than the other tasks we have listed. However, if you are comfortable with tools you should be able to handle this easily enough. Of course, if you encounter any difficulties, contact us for more help.

Before You Decide

There are many stories out there about someone who decided to save money on plumbing repairs by doing it themselves, who ran into trouble and ended spending far more than they would have had if they hired a plumber in the first place. A few examples from around the Internet suggest these disasters are common. Searching on YouTube brings up over 2,000 videos about DIY plumbing disasters, for instance.

Flooding can be a problem, but more often homeowners run into unexpected complications and find they can’t turn the water back on, or they damage parts with improper tool use, or they uncover additional problems that are beyond their ability to handle.

Even if a project goes smoothly, the savings may not be as great as anticipated. While often general tools may be used, there are some specialized plumbing tools that must be factored into the cost of the job. Also, the time of the homeowner is not exactly free. Whatever hourly rate the homeowner would charge for that free time should be compared against the cost of hiring someone to do it. For complex jobs, the inexperienced homeowner may spend much more time accomplishing the same task as the knowledgeable plumber.

There can also be legal issues. Many plumbing projects require permits, the exact rules vary by state and municipality. Repairs are usually safe, but making major changes will probably require permits. Your plumber will know when permitting is required.

A good plumber will notice other issues that need attention as well. Plumb Pro provides a free plumbing inspection with every repair. This can give you peace of mind and possibly save you money in the future.

Before You Begin

If you are still convinced you would like to tackle a plumbing project on your own, there are a few things you should do to get ready.

Make sure you know all the places to turn the water off and on. You should be able to isolate the project, of course, but also know where to turn off the water for the whole house, if necessary.

Have a good general knowledge of how your system works as a whole. If everything goes right, you may only need to understand the system you are working on. But if there is a problem, you can handle it better if you understand the whole picture.

Put together a complete basic toolkit. Having the right tools on hand not only makes things go more smoothly, it also reduces the chances of damaging parts and components when trying to force things. A typical homeowner plumbing toolkit should include:

  • Channellock plyers, both 10 inch and 12 inch.
  • Basin wrench. A wrench with a swivel jaw can get those hard-to-reach nuts.
  • Pipe wrench. The big wrench that says ¨plumber¨ You should get two, a 10 inch and a 14-inch model.
  • Adjustable wrench, at least two: 6 inch and 10 inch. Locking pliers are a common alternative.
  • Needle nosed pliers.
  • Hacksaw, with extra blades.
  • Metal files, both a half-round and a rat-tail file.
  • Tubing Cutter: the best tool for cutting pipe.
  • Plunger. The most basic tool for clearing drains.
  • Plumber’s snake. A long flexible cable used to clear drains when the plunger fails.
  • Plumbers tape, or Teflon tape.
  • Plumbers putty, used to seal unpressurized joints.
  • Caulk and caulk gun.

No matter how good a DIY plumber you are, even the best planned project can run into unexpected snags, and once you start taking things apart, you can’t be sure everything will go back together properly. Having a back-up plan just makes sense.

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