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The 30 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.

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Monday is Our Busiest Day

That’s the day wives call us to correct the “work” their husbands did over the weekend. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone attempt these home improvement projects you should never DIY.

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

I’d replace those flimsy rubber hoses with stainless steel ones. That way, you only need to worry about these other costly mistakes that could ruin you.

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If You Need a Recommendation, Call a Plumbing-Supply or Fixture Store

They don’t tolerate bad plumbers, so you know they’ll send you to the best of the best. If these plumbing tips are helpful, you’ll also want to know these secrets to getting the most out of a home inspection.

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No Bricks in the Toilet Tank

Some allege that putting a brick in the toilet tank can save water, but doing that can keep your toilet from flushing correctly. Another plumbing tip, avoid liquid drain cleaners. Liquid drain cleaners are sometimes bad news—they eat away at the pipes. Try a plunger or, better yet, a $30 auger. Don’t have either? Here’s how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

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Know Where the Main Turnoff Source Is

I can’t tell you how many calls I get from people screaming and crying that their house is flooding and they don’t know what to do. The location of the main turnoff source is one of the 125 things every homeowner should know to save money and prevent big screw-ups.

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Watch Out for Long or Shedding Hair

If you’ve got a Rapunzel at home (or even a rapidly balding man), buy a drain strainer or a hair snare or tell her to use a paper towel to clear the drain. Soap can gum up the pipes, too, so use as little of that as you can. Fixing a clog is one of several DIY plumbing fixes you can do.

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Don’t Use ‘Flushable’ Wipes

Those “flushable” baby 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 that should never get flushed down the toilet.

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When it Comes to Pay…

Pay me by the job, not by the hour. This is one of the most important plumbing tips you can remember. Every home is hiding some kind of secret, but find out what secrets these homes are hiding.

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We Might, if You Ask

Yes, it’s against the rules to remove flow inhibitors from your shower heads, but some of us will do it if you ask. Check out the showerheads that will leave you with a far more satisfying experience.

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I’m a Plumber

I’m not a babysitter, a mover or an auto mechanic. Don’t ask for advice on things that aren’t in my job description. However, we’ll help you out this one time. (Watch out for these things your car mechanic won’t tell you.)

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The Toilet Handle is an Easy Fix

Always jiggling the toilet handle? You need to replace the flap valve. The part costs $4, and it’s an easy fix. I charge $100 just to walk in the door. Get a complete education on the parts of the toilet so don’t get ripped off.

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Sometimes You Don’t Even Need Me

There’s often an Allen wrench that comes with the garbage disposal. I keep it under the sink. When the thing jams, follow the directions in the manual, and I won’t need to come out. Figure out how to replace a garbage disposal and the 15 things you should never put down a disposal.

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One Time…

I was working in one bathroom while my client was using the whirlpool in another one. And blow-drying her hair at the same time. Her husband had told her it was fine. I told her he was trying to get rid of her. Think that’s incredible? You’ll never believe these incredible plumbing and electrical goofs.

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Don’t Hang Things From Your Pipes

Don’t hang clothes on those exposed pipes in your basement. I’ve seen them break and flood a basement.

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Old Toilet Seats are Harder to Remove Than You Think

I see this all the time: Women want a new toilet seat and ask their husbands to make the switch. If the seat is old and has metal bolts, you probably need to cut it off with a hacksaw, not unscrew it. A wrench may slip, damaging the bowl and bloodying your knuckles. Make sure you don’t fall for these plumbing mistakes, either.

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Don’t Get Wrapped Up in How Much I’m Charging for the Materials

“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. At the end of the day, my material cost is between 25-30 percent of the cost of the job.” Then again a lot of plumbing tasks like these 10, you can DIY.

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Turn Off Your Outside Faucets in the Winter

Another way to avoid a service call from your plumber is to make sure the outside faucets are turned off in the winter and make sure you disconnect the outside hoses. You need to shut the water off from the inside. Then, open the valve on the outside to let the water that’s in there drain out—you switch both of them to the opposite direction so one is always closed and one is always open. We have to fix tons of these in the spring mostly because people leave their outside hoses connected and they freeze up. The repair could cost $100-$200 or more. Another tip would be find a frost-proof faucet. Also, if you’re going away for any length of time, like on vacation, turn off your water. If on any of those days the temperature drops below freezing, have someone check in on your house. I’ve been called to homes where the family returned from vacation, and there was water flooding out from the front door. (You should also follow these tips to keep your home safe while you’re on vacation.)

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A Company that has a Good Reputation for Quality Service 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. Here are more tips to save on every household bill.

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We’ll Check Things for Free

Sure, we’ll be happy to check those supply valves under your sink free of charge after we finish the work you’re paying us for. Just ask. Same goes for checking your water pressure.

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Don’t Leave Your Kids With Us

I had another lady who said she wanted to run to the grocery store to get some coffee to make for me and my guys while we were installing her new kitchen. She said she was just gonna run to the store and asked if we wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out for her 1-year-old daughter who was sleeping at the time. We said fine, but she ended up not returning until four hours later. The kid was screaming her head off and we didn’t know what to do. We tried holding her. We didn’t know if she was hungry or what to feed her. She just kept crying.

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Find a Licensed Plumber

“Don’t assume that every Mr. Fix-it advertising his services in the local Pennysaver or on Craigslist is a licensed plumber,” says one New York plumber. There is no national standard for issuing licenses. Some plumbers are licensed by the state, others by the counties they work in. Check with your local city hall or chamber of commerce. They should be able to direct you to the appropriate source for a list of licensed plumbers in your area.

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Don’t Go to the Top of the Results Page

Searching for someone online may end up being a scam using fake reviews — here’s how to outsmart sketchy reviews. Instead, look for a plumber who is well-established in your community. Check the Better Business Bureau and read customer reviews at sites such as HomeAdvisorAngie’s List, or Citysearch. Local contractors or plumbing fixture stores can also refer you to a quality plumber, according to Grady Daniel, who owns a plumbing company in Austin, Texas. “Most of these firms won’t work with bad plumbers.” Or simply ask your neighbors for a referral. A trusted plumber that consistently delivers quality service does not remain a secret for very long.

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Be Wary of Price Quotes That are Strikingly Lower or Higher than Competitors

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 like this, and many of us will offer free estimates.

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Get a Clue

You’re calling to say your garage-door opener doesn’t work ever since I fixed your faucet? Get a clue—and an electrician. By staying smart and doing these things all smart homeowners do once a year, you won’t need to call me as often.

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They Can Get Sick

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. Clean a bathtub clog without chemicals in 5 minutes.

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New Tools Does Not Mean Young

Shiny new tools aren’t always indicative of a plumber’s level 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.

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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. Check out everything to know about clearing a clogged sink.

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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. Simpson Plumbing says it has found dentures, video game systems, beer cans and live animals like snakes. Finding a snake in a toilet is awfully scary, just as scary as some of these home inspector finds.

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Stop a Running Toilet

Learn the simple four-step strategy that solves 95 percent of toilet flush problems. Stop water from constantly running, give a wimpy flush a boost, and solve other common problems quickly and easily. Learn how to stop a running toilet.