Plumbing is a relatively care-free system in your new home. As long as everything was properly installed, your maintenance will be minimal. Nonetheless, here are main areas to be aware of in case problems arise.
INTAKE VALVES: These are the shut-off valves which are installed on each sink or toilet in your home. There is also a main water shut-off valve near the spot where the main water line enters your home. Be knowledgeable about where the valves for each water source is located and be sure they turn easily. This will make your life easier if you do have a water emergency or if you need to turn a valve off to do a repair.
LEAKING PIPES: While your copper or PVC pipes themselves will probably never leak during your lifetime, joints/connections may loosen over time. If this occurs with a copper pipe, the joint will need soldering. PVC pipe usually requires a joint compound to seal the leak. Both repairs are best done by a licensed plumber.
FROZEN PIPES: Frozen pipes, which turn into burst pipes, can be a homeowner’s nightmare. Even if the home is vacant, during cold weather, never turn the heat below 50 degrees. If pipes run through an area which is not heated, such as a crawl space, be sure to wrap those pipes with a pipe sleeve or heat tape.
Additionally, outside faucets need a bit of TLC in freezing temperatures. If your exterior faucet is not a frost-proof sill-cock, you should turn off the water-supply valve before cold weather hits and then open the handle of the outside faucet. In this way, no water will remain in the line to freeze and cause problems. If you have a frost-proof sill-cock, all you need to do is turn off the outside handle. This shuts off the water supply inside your home, so no water is exposed to the freezing temperatures.
If your pipes freeze, you might be able to thaw them without damage if you do it slowly. First, restore heat to the area of the house where freezing has occurred. Open any faucet which is connected to that water line. Begin thawing at the point which is closest to the faucet. Set a heat lamp a minimum of 6 inches from the frozen pipe, or direct a hair dryer parallel to the frozen pipes. As the pipes thaw, move the heat source further and further down the frozen area, until the entire area is thawed.
FAUCETS: Over time, you may notice a faucet or shower head develop a drip. This is an easy repair. Simply unscrew the faucet/shower head and replace the washer or o-ring. In addition, mineral deposits may accumulate inside the faucet aerator. If this happens, you will see lower water pressure or uneven flow. Unscrew the aerator and clean out the calcium that has built up.
DRAINS: Inevitably, you will at some point get a clogged drain. Clogs may arise from accumulated hair, grease or other debris. Other than using a plunger or commercial liquid or gel drain opener, you can also take several other steps.
First, pull out the drain stopper and clean the base of it that goes into the pipe. This stopper assembly can accumulate a lot of gunk. You might also have to remove the U bend under the sink and clean it out. Be sure to put a bucket under the U bend as you remove it, as water normally stands in this pipe.
Finally, you might need to get a snake involved. Also known as a drain auger, this gadget is a long, coiled wire with a handle on one end. Put the snake into the drain and crank the handle to push the snake into the clog. Use the snake to break up the clog. If it doesn’t seem to be breaking up, pull the snake out or the drain, and the blocking debris will usually pull out attached to it. Then run water on full for several minutes to assure the pipe has been cleared.
To prevent drain blockages in the first place, run hot water into the drain for a minute, turn off the water and add 3 Tablespoons of washing soda (NOT baking soda) into the drain. Follow with hot water to direct the washing soda into the drain. Wait 15 minutes and then flush the drain with additional hot water.