The 29 Secrets a Plumber Won’t Tell You

Updated: Apr. 14, 2024

These secrets could save you a lot of time and money. Get the scoop on things a plumber will never tell you.

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Monday is Our Busiest Day

That’s the day many call us to correct whatever DIY plumbing project went south over the weekend. Another crazy busy day is the day after Thanksgiving, aka Brown Friday. Thanks to the big meal enjoyed at large family gatherings, sink and toilet pipes take a beating — and plumbers are often called in the next day.

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A Burst Washing Machine Hose is a Top Homeowner-Insurance Claim

If your washing machine is connected to bare rubber hoses, you’re risking thousands of dollars’ worth of water damage. Under constant water pressure, these hoses are prone to leaks or even bursting.

It’s a good idea to replace them with no-burst washing machine water hoses which are encased in a woven metal sleeve that prevents weak spots in the rubber from developing into leaks.

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Call a Plumbing-Supply or Fixture Store for a Plumber Recommendation

These types of stores don’t tolerate bad plumbers, so you know they’ll send you to the best of the best. Another great resource is to check with local general contractors, they work with a lot of different vendors so they can help you find a handyman you can trust.

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FH02SEP_02732_003@141% fix a running toilet
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No Bricks in the Toilet Tank

Putting a brick in the toilet tank to save water is one of the most common plumbing myths out there, but don’t fall for this outdated tip. The brick can disintegrate over time, and the debris damages the flush mechanism.

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Know the Location of the Main Turnoff Source

There’s nothing worse than a major water leak in your home. Flowing water can cause panic, so make sure you know ahead of time how to turn it off. The location of the main turnoff source is one of the most critical things a homeowner should know to save money and prevent damage.

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wet dry vacuum drain clogs
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Watch Out for Long or Shedding Hair

If you’ve got a Rapunzel at home, buy a drain strainer or a hair snare to keep your drain free of hair clogs. If you do run into a hairy obstruction, these affordable drain snakes work great at removing it. Fixing a clog is one of several DIY plumbing fixes you can do.

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Baby Wipes for Small Messes
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Don’t Use “Flushable” Wipes

Those “flushable” wipes are one of the main culprits for clogging pipes. They don’t break down the way toilet paper does.

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plumbing pipes
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You Have a Choice with Parts

Some parts cost more than others to do the same job. If a plumber doesn’t give you an option, ask — or better yet, do your own research if you have the time. Chances are, you can use PVC pipe instead of copper and save some money.

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You Won’t Know Until You Ask

Most plumbers want to fix your plumbing problem as quickly and easily as possible so they can move on to their next money-making job. But, they might be willing to do an extra task or install a specialty item if you ask. For example, technically plumbers are not supposed to remove flow inhibitors from shower heads — but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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“I’m a Plumber”

A plumber is not a babysitter, a mover or an auto mechanic. Don’t ask for advice on things that aren’t in their job description.

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The Toilet Handle Is an Easy Fix

Always jiggling the toilet handle? Don’t call the plumber just yet, you can fix a toilet handle yourself. All you need to do is replace the flap valve. The part costs $4, and it’s an easy fix; a plumber is going to charge you a lot more than that.

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You Can Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal Yourself

A jammed garbage disposal is one of the more common causes of a clogged kitchen sink drain. But when that happens, it’s an easy fix, and you don’t need to call a plumber to take care of it. There’s often an Allen wrench that comes with the garbage disposal. Keep it under the sink. When the disposal jams, follow the directions in the manual. That’s it!

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how to fix leaky outdoor faucet
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Turn Off Outdoor Faucets for the Winter

Want to avoid frozen pipes? Prevent them easily (and an expensive call to a plumber) by disconnecting your outside hoses in the fall.

Make sure to shut off the water from the inside as well. Drain the hoses and store them until the following spring.

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Frozen and cracked pipes
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Don’t Hang Things From Your Pipes

Don’t hang clothes on those exposed pipes in your basement. Even if you think a light weight item won’t hurt, plumbers we’ve talked to have seen them break and flood a basement. Definitely not something you want to deal with.

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Gerber Ultra Flush Toilet
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Old Toilet Seats are Harder to Remove Than You Think

If you have an older toilet with metal bolts, don’t bother replacing the toilet seat; it’s a tough job — you’re probably better off just getting a whole new toilet.

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How Much Materials Cost

It’s true plumbers are notoriously expensive, but for good reason. Don’t get too hung up on how much materials cost, if you’ve hired a quality plumber.

“Sure, my material cost is different than the guy who runs his business out of his garage,” says Bill Stevens, owner of Berkey’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Texas. “But it’s not the copper you’re paying for, it’s the experience.”

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Family With Luggage Leaving House For Vacation
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Turn Off Your Water When Away on Vacation

If you’re going away for any length of time, like on vacation, turn off your water. It’s the best way to avoid serious water damage due to a plumbing failure while you’re away.

If on any of those days the temperature drops below freezing, have someone check in on your house to check for burst pipes.

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You Get What You Pay For

A plumber with a good reputation might charge a little more up-front, but you’ll save in the long run by avoiding call-backs and extra charges. Look for a company that warranties its service for up to a year for major installations or repairs.

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Don’t Ignore Drips and Running Toilets

Small drips can waste over eight gallons of water a day, and a continuously running toilet can waste more than 200 gallons of water daily.

If you ignore them, you’ll pay for it when your water bill arrives.

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You Can Ask for Additional Advice

While a plumber is at your home working, he or she will probably be happy to check an additional plumbing problem you’re having — just ask.

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Find a Licensed Plumber

If you have a major fix to deal with in your home, shop around for a licensed plumber to do the work. Obtaining at least three bids helps you determine the range of the project, so you can weigh the pros and cons of price and the reputation of the plumbers. Get references and check that their licensing is up to date with your local state registrar.

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Check with Your Neighbors

A plumber who does sketchy work probably doesn’t want you to know this tip — check with your neighbors for a plumber referral. Almost everyone has to hire a plumber at some point, and your neighbors will tell you both the good and bad experiences they’ve had, so you can make an informed decision.

A trusted plumber that consistently delivers quality service does not remain a secret for very long.

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Be Wary of Off-the-Chart Price Quotes

Get a minimum of three bids. Estimates for an average-sized job should be within a few hundred dollars.

Be suspicious of anything that is substantially lower or double the price of the rest, and watch out for hidden fees, like charges for travel expenses. They could be signs of a home improvement scam. A good plumber will not nickel and dime you, and many will offer free estimates.

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garbage disposal
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Perform Regular Maintenance

Plumbing requires upkeep. Avoid calling a plumber as often by performing some preventative maintenance like consistently checking pipes for leaks, avoid putting the wrong things down the drain, flushing your water heater, and regularly cleaning your showerhead.

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There are Some Job Risks Specific to Plumbers

A plumbing forum posed the question of whether people had gotten sick from drain cleaning and the responses shed light on the dangers plumbers face on the job.

The illnesses ran from stomach problems to staph infections to chemical burns. There’s a reason why plumbers don’t like people who use chemicals to clear clogged drains.

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New Tools Don’t Mean Anything

You might have heard to check out a contractor’s tools to judge how experienced he or she is. But this is an old myth, shiny new tools aren’t always indicative of a plumber’s lack of experience or competency. New tools can just mean a plumber needed a new tool.

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clogged sink drains
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Where to Find Your Ring

Don’t panic if your ring goes down the sink, there’s a quick retrieval option. Set a bucket below the P-trap and remove the clean-out. It could save you a call to the plumber.

But if it isn’t there, you might need to call the plumber to prevent compounding the problem by trying to fish it out.

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Toilet clogged - bathroom - Plunger
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The Really Weird Stuff That Gets Flushed Down the Toilet

Plumbers will tell you that cell phones have known to get flushed down the toilet but they might not tell you about the other weird stuff. We’ve heard about dentures, video game systems, beer cans and even live animals like snakes.

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Stop a Running Toilet

A common cause of a toilet running is a flapper that doesn’t seal. If water from the tank seeps around the flapper and into the bowl, the flapper is probably shot.

Flush the toilet and look for a fill valve leak. Lift up on the toilet float arm when the tank is filling to see if the water stops. Bend or adjust the toilet float arm so the tank stops filling when the water level is 1/2- to 1-in. below the top of the overflow pipe. If the fill valve still leaks, replace it.