The 29 Secrets a Plumber Won’t Tell You
These secrets could save you a lot of time and money. Get the scoop on things a plumber will never tell you.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
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. 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.
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.
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 know who will get the job done right.
No Bricks in the Toilet Tank
You might have heard that putting a brick in the toilet tank can save water, but don’t fall for this outdated tip. The brick can disintegrate over time, and the debris damages the flush mechanism.
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 125 things every homeowner should know to save money and prevent damage.
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, theses affordable drain snakes work great at removing it. Fixing a clog is one of several DIY plumbing fixes you can do.
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. See the 12 other things you should never flush down the toilet.
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. If you’re DIYing, here’s how to connect a PVC pipe to ABS pipe.
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.
Check out the showerheads that will leave you with a far more satisfying experience.
“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. Plus, check out these top 10 plumbing fixes.
The Toilet Handle is an Easy Fix
Always jiggling the toilet handle? Don’t call the plumber just yet, 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.
Get a complete education on the parts of the toilet so you don’t get ripped off.
You Can Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal Yourself
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; and you won’t need a plumber.
Find out how to replace a garbage disposal and the 15 things you should never put down a disposal.
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.
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. Find out how to solder copper pipes yourself.
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.
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.”
If you decide to tackle a job yourself, here are 13 tips for the weekend plumber.
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.
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.
Check out these six things professional plumbers never do in their own homes.
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. Here are more tips to save on every household bill.
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. If you decide to fix something yourself instead, be sure to avoid these common bathroom plumbing mistakes.
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.
Also, a good plumber knows his craft and won’t nickel and dime you. For the smaller jobs, check out these 11 plumbing tricks.
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. Check out more tips on how to find and hire a good contractor.
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.
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.
Make sure to stay on top of these things all smart homeowners do once a year.
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.
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.
View the 20 things DIYers should always buy at Harbor Freight.
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. Check out everything to know about clearing a clogged sink.
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.
Pretty scary right? Just about as scary as some of these home inspector finds.
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.