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Prevent Plumbing Problems – A Home Owner Perspective

At Sal’s Plumbing – Beach Cities we care about our Redondo homeowners and their needs. This is an excerpt from an article that gives a unique perspective on how to care for your home’s plumbing. Not only will it help you be more knowledgeable of your plumbing but also help in keeping the value of your home up!

1. Don’t go galvanic. You often see copper and galvanized-steel plumbing mixed in residential water systems with nothing separating them other than a little thread sealant or Teflon plumbing tape. The galvanic connection (copper to steel) can be trouble-free for years, or the steel plumbing can begin to corrode almost as soon as the connection is tight.

What to do: Use a plumbing fitting called a dielectric union to connect copper pipe to galvanized steel. The fitting uses a steel collar on the steel side and a copper collar on the copper side and isolation bushings to keep the parts separate.

2. Flow out, not back. Back flow occurs in municipal water systems (or within a house) when there’s a sudden and severe drop in water pressure that causes water to flow back through pipes in the opposite direction than it normally flows. When a runaway car severs a fire hydrant, for example, parts of a municipal system will see a flow reversal as water gushes out the hole where the hydrant once stood. The same thing can happen if there’s a massive leak within your house.

What to do: If your house’s water is supplied by a municipal water system and you do a lot of work outside with a garden hose, use a vacuum-breaker fitting threaded onto the end of the hose bib (the valve mounted on the outside of the house). These fittings prevent back flow from a garden hose and attachments in the event of a massive shift in pressure. Some municipalities require their use, and they’re not a bad idea even if you have a well. Suppose you’ve left a garden hose in a bucket of sudsy water and the severed-fire-hydrant scenario occurs. The vacuum breaker prevents water from being pulled out of the hose and bucket and into the municipal water system. If you’re replacing a hose bib, use a freeze-proof type with a built-in vacuum breaker. Common-sense measures apply, too. For example, don’t leave a hose unattended in a bucket and don’t leave a hose in a puddle on the lawn.

Likewise, if you replace or repair the main supply and valves entering the house, you may likely be required to install a back-flow preventer.

3. Use the right connector. Don’t forget, gas lines count as plumbing, too. Connecting a new gas range or dryer to an existing gas line seems simple, but the job can quickly go awry when you try to hook up a flexible gas connector to the line and find that the connector doesn’t fit or you can’t make the connection gas-tight, no matter how tight you make the connection.

What to do: This is a thread-compatibility problem usually brought about by a mismatch between the iron pipe supplying gas and the fitting on the end of the flexible connector you intend to use to bring the fuel to the appliance. The simplest solution is to buy a universal connection kit for a dryer or for a gas range. The kit will come with a variety of adapters to help you make the transition from the pipe and fitting supplying the gas to whatever appliance will be using it.

4. Know where your pipes are.Pounding nails and driving screws is all well and good, until you puncture a copper or plastic supply or drain.

What to do: Buy a stud sensor that also detects pipes and wiring. You can also look around in the attic or the basement (if it’s unfinished) to get a sense of where pipes are hiding. Finally, if the wall will be covered by whatever you’re building or installing, you can always carefully cut a test hatch to find plumbing lurking in the walls.

5. Know the code. Plumbing is a tricky business, with rules that dictate how far you can place a fixture from the home’s drain-waste-vent line based on the pipe diameter and other arcane matters. The only way you can handle a big job yourself is to know the code and what it calls for in pipe sizing, fixture spacing and related matters.

What to do: There’s lots of reference for ambitious do-it-yourselfers. Buy a copy of the International Plumbing Code or the Uniform Plumbing Code. One of the best references that we’ve used here over the years is Code Check, a handbook that’s updated as building codes are updated. One of its best features is that it’s written to cover common problems and things that even professionals get wrong.

6. Cut right, fit tight. You can’t make a neat water or gas connection tight unless the parts are neatly cut.

What to do: Buy pro-level tubing cutters, reciprocating-saw blades, hacksaw blades and a plastic pipe saw. For example, you’ll be amazed by the difference between a professional tubing cutter from Ridgid, say, and the $5 special from the home center. Likewise, it seems silly to spend $20 for a plastic pipe saw when a standard handsaw works pretty well. The thing is, the plastic pipe saw works better and leaves less of a burr, since its teeth have very little set compared with a saw meant for cutting wood.

Remove burrs from plastic and copper and thoroughly clean both types of plumbing materials before soldering or gluing. Copper is best abraded with plumber’s cloth (aluminum-oxide sandpaper on a spool), and plastic requires material-specific primer that softens the plastic so that the adhesive can create an optimal bond. When pipe feels greasy or dirty, use pipe cleaner before applying primer.

7. Seal the deal. Only a soldered or glued joint doesn’t require sealant; everything else does.

What to do: There are two types of sealant tapes in hardware stores and home centers: tape for sealing water connections, in a blue spool, and tape for sealing gas, in a yellow spool. Yet there’s no need for you to be satisfied with just those choices. Pros often carry brushable sealant, with variations specially formulated for threaded plastic or galvanized steel. Visit a plumbing supply house or shop online to find these varieties. Professional varieties have a higher percentage of gap-filling solids and better ensure a tight joint — no small matter, given the lack of thread engagement that you often find today with badly made plumbing materials, valves and fixtures.

8. Don’t overtighten. If seal is good, really tight must be better, right? Wrong.

What to do: Given what I just said about the hit-or-miss quality of many plumbing components today, you’d think that a generous application of wrench torque is called for. Not so. A clean, properly cut and fitted joint that’s been sealed just doesn’t need to be massively tightened. In many cases, after bringing the parts together firmly hand-tight or using a wrench, often all it takes is another half a turn. Brass–copper gas fittings are particularly vulnerable to wrench damage from over-tightening, while steel pipe is more forgiving.

For more tips on Plumbing and Homecare stay tuned to our blogs & social media outlets on Facebook and Google Plus .  Or simply give us a call in Redondo – (310) 618-8476

Thanks For Reading!