DIY plumbing disasters are common. Typically plumbing disasters start out with a DIY attempt at correcting a simple plumbing problem.
The internet is rife with DIY plumbing disasters that could largely be avoided. DIY plumbing disasters can be costly. Taking some precautions can help to ensure that you never wind up going viral because of DIY plumbing disasters.
Know When You Are In Over Your Head
Most DIY plumbing disasters start with a homeowner that does not realize that they are in over their heads. Simple plumbing tasks like changing out a faucet is something that most people can do with a little instruction, but other things should really be left to the pros.
Residential plumbing is a very important system to your home that has many different working parts that come together to bring water in and take the waste out. Some of those working parts require specialty equipment and a specialized skill set to care for.
For example, there is a huge difference between a clogged sink and a full-blown sewer line stoppage. If your sink is clogged and plunging it and using boiling water to try to clear it, and you notice other drains are starting to back up, the problem is very likely more than some hair and gunk in the kitchen drain.
You have to know when to call for help to avoid those DIY plumbing disasters. The amount of damage the can ensue from DIY plumbing disasters can be tremendous. Water damage repair can get expensive. Avoiding the problem by knowing when you are in over your head with DIY plumbing repairs is the best way to prevent additional costs.
How do you know when you are in over your head? Knowing when to call for plumbing services starts with recognizing when the DIY plumbing project is a bit out of your league. Here are some tips for knowing when you should call for help:
- The cost of investing in the tools is comparable to the cost of professional plumbing services. Some plumbing tools can be very expensive. If the cost of the tools is close to the cost of hiring the professional, go with the pro.
- You have watched the tutorial several times and still feel like you are not getting it. Plumbers go to school for formal training, and they usually spend time as an apprentice. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a couple of tutorials is going to teach you all you need to know. If after watching the tutorial you are still not sure if you can manage the problem, call a plumber.
- Do a risk assessment. Some plumbing mishaps are no big deal when they go wrong. Other mishaps can be critical errors. Due to the risk assessment. Do you mind having to spend time doing water clean up if things go south? How much damage can really be caused if the project goes wrong?
A lot of DIY committed homeowners have a problem “giving up” and calling for plumbing services. They just really like doing things themselves and find it difficult to admit defeat. Don’t be one of those homeowners.
Sticking with the DIY plan long after you realize that maybe it was not the best plan will result in having to reach out for 24 hour emergency plumbing service to get the water flowing again. It will also add some costs to the project that you did not plan for.
Know when to say uncle and turn the job over to the pros. You will reduce the risk of damage, and ultimately save money.
What Could Go Wrong?
DIY plumbing disasters often start off with that one question that goes unanswered. The “what could go wrong” question is often ignored. Plumbing seems like a pretty straight forward system. There are pipes, joints, connectors, and valves. Unfortunately, if something seems too good to be true it usually is, and this is true with DIY plumbing repairs.
Here are a few things that can and have gone wrong for DIY plumbing repairs:
- Craig in Natchez MS set out to replace his main drain that fed his septic. All went well, no obvious issues, that is until someone flushed and the waste wound up in the washing machine. He looped the pipe back into the house.
- Dave and Carol, replaced their commode but left out the wax seal. The toilet leaked all over their new bathroom floor causing some of the wood to buckle up. It got worse, trying to remove the toilet to reseat it, Dave dropped it and cracked in half.
- Tom and Laura had a terrible time with their huge DIY plumbing project. They were rehabbing an older home and decided to upgrade all the plumbing on their own. Unfortunately, not only did they make some mistakes along the way but they also failed to follow their county code. The inspection had them rip out all of the work that they did.
There are plenty of horror stories out there when it comes to DIY plumbing disasters, many of them involve wastewater backing up, broken or burst pipes, and a lot of costs. One family in Indiana was so eager to get their inground swimming pool open for the season that they decided to manage their plumbing swimming pool service on their own. They wound up with a foot and a half of water in their basement, and a pool they could not use anyway.
When it comes to the big jobs like setting up hot tubs or connecting water using appliances let the plumbers handle it. Besides avoiding disaster you can also protect your warranty by letting the professionals do the install.
Besides getting in over your head there are other common mistakes that are made when trying out DIY plumbing repairs. Avoiding these mistakes can help you avoid the most common DIY plumbing disasters.
Here are some of the common mistakes that are definitely a no-no:
- Size matters. The size of the pipe matters, the size of the couplings matters, the size of every part of the system matters. Trying to make something fit that does not fit will cause a problem. You cannot cut corners when it comes to size.
- If it says do not do something, do not do it. Some appliances and fixtures come with clear instructions not to do something and yet a crafty DIY’er will still do it. Don’t force things, don’t add things, and don’t try to make things do stuff they are not designed to do.
- Don’t substitute one part for another. If you need to replace a valve, replace the valve, don’t remove the valve and replace it with straight piping. Plumbing is designed with fine-tuned specifications. If you tamper with the specifications you likely will have problems down the road.
Use the right tool for the job is another important tip. In other words, don’t use a hammer to free a pipe that is seized up, you will only cause further damage. The right tools will make the project easier and keep you from damaging your plumbing.
Following directions is another important way to avoid DIY plumbing disasters. Staying the course and doing things the right way will pay off, even when the right way is frustrating and requires extra work. There are no short cuts in plumbing. Either a repair is done right or it is done wrong. If it is done wrong because a short cut was taken, you may not know it early on, but you can guarantee down the road it will fail and the mess will be legendary.
Another thing you should do when you are considering major plumbing changes as a DIY project is to check with the building code in your area. You do not want to learn after the project is done that you did not follow code and you have to rip it all out and start again.
Voiding A Warranty With DIY Repairs
Bob in Semi-Valley CA, learned the hard way that not every DIY plumbing disaster ends up with just clean up costs. He purchased a brand new on-demand water heating system. He was so excited about the potential of saving money, that he decided he would save a little more and not pay to have it professionally installed.
Bob did the job himself and in the process damaged the system when he cross-wired the system. He figured he would just return it and get a new system, but unfortunately, it did not work out that way. As it turns out in the documentation for the on-demand water heater, it clearly stated, that manufacturer-recommended professional installation and if the professional installation was not used, and the unit was damaged, then the warranty would not be honored. That was a hard lesson for Bob and should be a tale of caution for you.
There are plenty of stories about the failure to honor a warranty because the owner decided to do the installation on their own. Stan in SC, lost a dishwasher that way, and a couple of his lower cupboards as well.
There are a lot of water-using appliances that may have that same type of disclosure about professional installation and voiding the warranty if it is not used. Consider the cost if you mess up your new appliance and the warranty won’t cover it.
Pools are another thing you want to make sure you get professional support for during the installation phase. If you are running plumbing to your pool, let the plumbers do it. In some cases, it is not so much averting disaster but more of having peace of mind that the job is done right.
It is easy to laugh at other people’s misery. Pipes that burst and get everything and everyone wet is an expensive annoyance but it is not the end of the world but some DIY plumbing disasters can end in serious injury and are not funny at all.
Avoiding DIY plumbing disasters that result in injury means avoiding DIY projects that include appliances that generate risk like your hot water heater. Hot water heaters especially come to mind because they are full of danger. They generate heat either by electricity or by gas, and of course contain scalding water.
Typically the combination of electricity and water is never a good combination nor is working with gas lines. You can put yourself and anyone in your home at the time at risk. If you do not know what you are doing with this type of DIY project just avoid it altogether.
Another potential for very serious DIY plumbing disasters are furnaces. Gas furnaces and oil furnaces need the attention of a professional. They can be temperamental and things can really go wrong when DIY goes bad. They can cause tremendous property damage and severe injuries.
Each year fires are reported because of faulty heating systems, although statistics are not typically kept to identify how many of those heating systems were faulty because of DIY repairs, there is a good chance that there is a high percentage.
Avoiding serious personal injuries has to be a priority no matter how dedicated you are to do it all yourself. If your furnace or water heater needs service, repair or replacement let a plumber manage it and you won’t wind up as a cautionary tale for other DIY homeowners.
Most DIY plumbing disasters are stressful, and they do cause damage, but they can also be lessons well learned. If you make the mistakes once and have to pay for the cleanup, you very likely will never make the mistakes again.
DIY can save you money even DIY plumbing, but follow the tips and do a risk assessment so you know what you are getting into. No one is saying you should be banned from plumbing DIY, just be careful.
There is a time and a place for everything including plumbing DIY projects, so go ahead change out that shower head, replace those faucets, and even switch out that cold water line, but make sure you find the balance and call the pros in when the risk of damage is just too great.