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These 5 DIY Pitfalls Can Lead To Plumbing Disasters

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Last Updated on: January 9, 2024

Performing a “DIY” repair or installation at home can be a smart way to save money while tackling a satisfying project. However, many projects require specialized knowledge and tools, and that can make DIY plumbing projects risky for a beginner.

Before jumping headfirst into a plumbing project without a professional, make sure you avoid these amateur mistakes (that plumbers typically end up repairing).

1. Using Plumber’s Tape Incorrectly

Plumber’s tape (aka. thread seal tape, PTFE tape, or Teflon tape) is what you wrap around pipe threads to keep water from seeping through the tiny gaps between the threads. If you don’t wrap the tape correctly, it can’t form a waterproof seal, and you could end up with a leak.

When applying plumber’s tape, you always want to start with clean, dry pipes, and you want to wrap the tape snugly around the pipe in the direction opposite of how the pipe will turn into the fitting. That way, when you start to rotate the pipe into the fitting, the threads will work with the tape, rather than against it.

2. Not Shutting Off the Water

This might seem like a pretty elementary step, but it can be easy to forget when you’re so focused instead on tackling a new repair or installation. Before you do any sort of plumbing work, either shut the water off at the fixture or shut off your home’s water at the main shut-off supply valve. If you skip or forget this step, you could suddenly have water flooding the room before you’re prepared to stop it–and when you’re already concerned with a plumbing repair, you don’t want to deal with water damage costs on top of that.

3. Over-Tightening Plumbing and Pipe Connections

Plumbing connections need to be tight enough to prevent leaks–but not too tight. Applying excessive force can strip the threads that are going to hold the connection in place and help provide a watertight seal. Furthermore, if you ever need to unfasten the connection down the road for a repair, you might not even be able to without causing damage. This will force you to cut the pipe, and then you’ll need to replace what’s missing.

4. Using the Wrong Tools

The chances are if you’ve never performed professional plumbing work before, you probably don’t have all the tools you need in your tool box right now. Because you’ll be dealing with a lot of different materials during a project, you need to apply the right tools to avoid causing damage–which would defeat the purpose of money-saving DIY work. Even if it costs more money to buy additional tools, don’t cut corners by making do with that same wrench you’ve been using for everything up to now. Trust us on this one.

5. Using Chemical Drain Cleaners for Every Clog

If you can’t clear a clog with a plunger, cabling the clog out of your drain will be your next best bet. Corrosive chemical drain cleaners are not effective at clearing stubborn clogs deep in your plumbing, and they can actually cause harm, rather than providing a safe solution.

Here is why we recommend plunging, DIY manual cabling (aka. snaking), or professional drain cleaning over chemical drain cleaners, corrosive and otherwise:

  • Many store-bought drain cleaners contain concentrated sulfuric acid, which can cause chemical burns and blindness. In fact, an estimated 3,000 drain cleaner-related injuries occur every year in the U.S., and about one-third of those involve cutaneous burns (burns caused by heat).
  • Chemical drain cleaners are also frequently a source of toxic fumes, which are harmful for your family and pets.
  • Corrosive drain cleaners can also weaken your pipes. This typically occurs when the cleaner isn’t successful at eating all the way through a clog. Instead, the cleaner is allowed to sit in standing water inside your pipe, and the corrosive mixture slowly breaks down the pipe material.

Bottom line: if you know how to use a manual plumber’s cable or drain snake, it might take a little more elbow grease, but the solution is safer and more effective. When it comes to electric drain snakes, we recommend leaving those to the professionals to avoid damaging your pipes.

Feeling “iffy” about your DIY plumbing skills? Our courteous plumbers at Service Specialties are ready to assist you and meet your plumbing repair and installation needs. Give us a call today at (703) 968-0606 or contact us online.

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