Spring is — finally! — in the air. Which means it’s spring-cleaning time, for your pipes and plumbing as well as for your living-room.
Winter can be rough on plumbing, especially exterior plumbing. Freezing and changes in temperature can damage pipework, and we’re not outside as much so we’re less likely to see it.
It’s often only in spring that the damage done over the cold months becomes apparent, too.
To avoid getting your summer holiday (or staycation) plans overtaken by a plumbing emergency, take action now. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to catch a small problem than to put a big one right.
Run through this simple checklist and make sure your plumbing is sound enough to last the course.
Look over your outside gutters as much as you can. Depending on the size and design of your home, this might mean using a ladder or looking out a window; what’s important is to identify places where fall leaves, twigs and other detritus is blocking your guttering. Blockages are easy to fix and even most professionals don’t charge much to reach the places you can’t; but if they’re untreated, the water they block runs over the guttering and down the walls, making your home damp and increasing the risk of everything from structural damage to electrical problems.
Water heaters get their hardest use in the winter months. After keeping everyone in central heating, showers and hot water all that time, deposits and sediment can build up. While it’s best to fully drain your water heater, even partially draining it can help to protect against sediment.
This matters partly because you don’t want it showing up in your bathwater, but also because it can block and corrode water pipes in your home, as well as reducing the energy efficiency of your water heater.
Do this for every sink and bathtub in the house: first, run the taps full bore and watch the pipes. Is water coming out of the pipes under the sink or bath?
Then, turn the taps off. Do the taps leak or drip? Does the whole tap unit move when you turn them on and off? Fixing these problems is a matter of replacing old rubber washers and checking attachments, but left untreated, you can end up with a tap that you need to be the Hulk to turn off. Until one day, you can’t turn it off at all…
Finally, fill the tub or sink completely, then take out the plug and watch it drain. Does it drain well? If it’s slow, there could be a blockage further down the pipe.
Fixing the insides of a washing machine is a job for the pros. But checking the hoses takes a couple seconds and can save you flooding the basement. Go all along each hose and check whether there’s any damage. Plastic hoses can be damaged by heat and cold, as well as by repeated bending or pressure, so look for white areas where the plastic is breaking down under stress.
You should also check the connections, making sure they’re secure and intact. Don’t remove them unless you’ve turned off the water supply or you really will flood the floor.
"Finally, check the trap if it's accessible." Some traps are behind walls or under floors and are not. Winter clothes and winter mud can leave you with a full washing machine trap that stops water draining off right and can damage the machine. You shouldn’t need any specialized tools to check a washing-machine trap, but you will almost always lose some water from the machine when you open it, so make sure you have a bowl or thick towel handy.
Leaky toilets are a common plumbing problem that typically goes unnoticed long enough to do real damage to your water bill. But you don’t have to let that happen to you.
Leaking toilets aren’t detected by the average user because the water that leaks from the tank into the bowl looks pretty much like the water that’s already in the bowl.
Here’s how to get around that: flush the toilet and add several drops of food coloring to the water in the tank. Then leave the toilet a few hours.
If the water in the bowl changes color, you’ve got a leak. If not, you’re fine.
If you don’t know what a sump pump is, you either don’t have one, or you really, really need to check it!
Sump pumps keep the water table out of your basement, essentially. When they stop working properly, your basement or crawl space gets damp and that can affect the rest of your house too. It’s particularly common in spring when winter’s heavy rains have built up pressure on the system, or when snowmelt drops a bunch of water in all at once.
Here’s how to check your sump pump.
Locate your pump, and unplug both the plugs that lead to it. (Some sump pumps have two plugs; some have one.) Wait a few minutes, then plug in only the one that leads to the pump. If the pump doesn’t immediately start up again, you’ve found the problem: you need repairs or a new pump.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Palady, RMP is the President and co-owner of Budget Rooter Plumbing & Drain Cleaning. This family owned plumbing company has been serving their customers for more than 25 years, and makes customer service and quality of work their priority.
Jeff started working in the field at the age of fifteen under the tutelage of his father, who owned a Philadelphia-based plumbing and drain cleaning company. At the age of eighteen, Jeff and his mother decided to open their own shop in their home state of Delaware. For the first few years, Jeff was Budget Rooter’s only field technician, and was often out on calls until late at night while going to school to earn his Master’s License. As Budget Rooter grew, Jeff trained new technicians, researched and purchased the best equipment, and today he manages the operations of the company.
Known for being dedicated to Budget Rooter, Jeff is one of the first to arrive in the morning and is usually the last to leave. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys fishing, modifying his truck, and spending time with his wife and two sons.