Plumbing fixtures maintenance tips to save costly repairs
Think about it: the bathroom is probably the most frequently used room in your home. It's the only room that must be used by each individual multiple times a day. And, it's the room where the most can go wrong. If you don't keep your plumbing fixtures well maintained, a plumbing emergency could easily arise.
Why Spend Time On Maintenance?
While the bathroom may be the most frequently used room in your home, it usually doesn't receive the amount of care and maintenance it deserves. It gets cleaned every so often, sure, but how many of us perform routine maintenance on our plumbing fixtures?
It might seem unimportant, like addressing a problem that hasn't arisen, but the reality is that performing routine maintenance keeps your bathroom fixtures in good condition. It can keep you from having to hire a professional plumber to fix emergency situations. Keeping your fixtures in good working order by performing routine maintenance is the best way to save yourself the time, money, and frustration of having to hire a plumber.
Often, people opt for hiring a plumber because they feel like they are not adequately equipped to care for their own plumbing needs. However, with a couple of tools and a bit of direction, you can take care of most plumbing issues on your own. But, the best way to stay far away from plumbing issues? Practice these maintenance tips to keep your fixtures in tip-top shape and functioning perfectly. If you work to keep everything in good order, you won't have to call the plumber quite so often.
Going for Grout
When working on your bathtub or shower, it's usually important to have quality caulk on hand. If you have tiles either on the walls of your shower, they usually are sealed with caulk or grout. If you have a bathtub, the tiles will often be sealed to the edge of the tub using a thick bead of caulk as well.
Make sure that the grout is solid. As grout ages and dries, it can crumble away or develop holes in spots. You will want to fill in any holes and smooth out the caulk so it creates an effective seal. This seal is what keeps water from seeping into the walls behind your shower, growing mold, and doing other damage.
It's best to re-caulk your whole shower area once a year. Still, you should regularly check the grout for any holes and fix them immediately. There's no way to know how much water is getting through a crack, or how much damage is being done to your home. Regular caulking helps to keep the damage at a minimal.
Grout often starts off as a white color, but as it stays along with the tiles of your shower, it grows green and brown. This is from collecting dirt, grime, and other residues, and sometimes growing mold, as you use your shower. The damp environment encourages mold growth, and this can eat away at the caulking. There are several different types of grout you can choose from that give your bathroom a seal with style.
To keep your grout in good condition, even if it doesn't have any holes that require caulking, you should try to clean away the mold, mildew, and other grime from the grout. One of the most efficient ways to do this is with a toothbrush. Use a toothbrush and grout cleaner to scrub vigorously over the grout between your tiles and connecting your tub to the wall.
Keeping your grout clean will help you have to fix caulking issues far less often.
Most houses use tap water that is considered "hard water," because it contains hard minerals that can build up in your pipes and showerheads. This can cause your showerhead to develop uneven spray patterns to make up for clogged holes. But, not to worry, get rid of that grime and build-up only takes a couple of steps.
First, unscrew the swivel ball nut using pliers or a wrench that is easily adjustable. If you want to ensure that you protect your shower-head for any scratches, you can use masking tape to wrap around the jaws of your pliers, covering the sharp areas that are likely to cause scratches. Then, unscrew the collar nut from the shower-head. Then, clean the holes of the shower-head with a thin wire. By poking the wire through each of the holes, you will be able to dislodge any built-up blockages.
After cleaning each of the outlet and inlet holes thoroughly, flush the shower-head with clean water to remove any dislodged materials. To give the shower-head a deeper clean, you can soak it in vinegar to remove mineral deposits. Put one cup of vinegar in a plastic bag, and place it over the showerhead, using a twist tie to hold it in place. Or you can let the shower head soak while it is still disassembled. Let it soak in vinegar overnight, using a twist tie to hold it in place. In the morning, remove the bag and use a damp cloth to wipe off any mineral deposits.
Shower Doors and Curtains
Shower curtains and doors can easily get filthy if you aren't paying attention. Any time you notice a white film or a dark mold starting to grow, it's important to attend to it. Usually, this kind of film or mold starts at the bottom of the door or curtain, because it has the most contact with water.
Pull out the curtain or door and scrub it down with an abrasive cleaner. If your shower has a door, check the tracks for evidence of mold or for standing water, which will eventually lead to mold. If you do have standing water in the tracks, try to drill small holes in discrete areas of the track that will allow the water to flow back into the basin of the tub. Make sure you angle the drill to promote water flow. These are aptly named "weep holes" because they make it appear as if the shower is slowly weeping.
Keeping your faucets well-maintained is important for a successful experience in the bathroom. The moving parts of a faucet can wear down over time pretty easily, so they might require more maintenance than other plumbing pieces. One of the most common issues with faucets is a leak, which often can be fixed by make a few adjustments.
It's very important to repair leaky faucets immediately. According to professionals, there are four common reasons for leaky faucets. It helps to prevent further damage to the mechanical fixtures in the faucet, as well as saves you money. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a faucet that drips at a rate of one drip per second wastes at least 3,000 gallons of water every year. That's the equivalent of what's needed to take over 180 showers. Letting all of that water drip down the drain is a waste both monetarily and environmentally.
Leaks aren't all you have to watch out for with faucets, however. Just like shower-heads can have a build-up of minerals from the water passing through, so can faucet aerators. According to Think Tank Home, a leader in all household appliances, a buildup of sediment and lime can be a primary cause of low water pressure in your pipes. This build-up also works to clog the small openings in the faucet and aerator.
To clean the aerator, carefully unscrew it by turning it counterclockwise by hand. If you have trouble getting the aerator to unscrew using your hands, wrap the jaws of your pliers with masking tape to protect the aerator and loosen it with the pliers. Once you've gotten it a bit loosened, continue by hand. According to professionals, taking your faucet apart in order to fix internal mechanisms can be much easier than it seems.
Once it is unscrewed, take the aerator apart so that you can effectively clean each piece of it using a small brush. Like with the showerhead, vinegar will remove sediment and lime build-up from the small holes in the aerator. Reassemble the aerator and screw it back onto the faucet.
Down the Drain
According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist, and professor at the University of Arizona, it might surprise you to know that bathroom sinks are often dirtier than kitchen sinks. Sure, kitchen sinks see all the food waste, but they have built-in disposals and bacteria to help break these things down. When it comes to our bathroom sinks, however, we simply expect things to flow smoothly. Until they don't.
Clogs are some of the most common bathroom issues, and ones we love to avoid. According to professionals in the field, hair is the most common cause of clogs in bathroom drains. As often as you can stomach it, pull out the drain stopper from your bathroom sink and bathtub, and clean it thoroughly. Remove all the hair and other bits that are stuck to it, scrub it off, and soak it in vinegar. Then, throw it in the dishwasher. This should remove the mold and other gunk that builds upon the stopper. To keep your sink drain clean, scrub your sink at least once a month.
To keep your pipes working at their best, take time every week to run hot water down the drain to help keep it free-flowing. The heat and pressure should be enough to break through the weaker clogs. Once a month, you should use drain cleaner in your bathroom sink and bathtub drains. Most drain cleaner works to both break up existing clogs and sticks to the sides of the pipes to help promote an unclogged flow in the future.
And of course, the best way to prevent clogs in your bathroom sink or bathtub is to avoid putting things down the drain that doesn't belong there! If you happen to have long hair or shed a lot of hair, try using shower drain attachments that help to keep the hair from going down the drain.
You might not know that your toilet can be a primary source for bathroom leaks. To ensure that your toilet isn't leaking at all, start by checking the toilet tank's water level. You want to make sure that no water is running into the overflow pipe, located in the center of the tank.
If you do find that water is running into your toilet's overflow pipe, you can fix it by slowly adjusting the fill valve and allowing the water level to lower. You want to water level to be about one inch below the overflow tube to ensure no water enters it. You can eyeball about an inch when adjusting the water level, but lots of toilet tanks actually have a mark showing the correct water level. This professional gives thorough instructions on how to adjust your fill valve to keep your toilet from overflowing. If you want to test your flush valve mechanism and make sure your water level is correct, there is an easy test. Grab some food coloring from the kitchen and put a couple of drops in the water tank. Don't flush the toilet, and let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes. If after that time, your toilet bowl water is still clear, you're in the clear. If some color has seeped into your toilet bowl, however, it means that the toilet tank is leaking. Usually, this is due to an issue with the ball or flapper and can be fixed by a simple replacement.
Small amounts of water will often begin to seep out of the base of your toilet. Every once in a while, take a rag and run it along the base of your toilet to ensure that water is not exiting through the base. This can be an early sign that the sealing ring at the base of your toilet is worn and should be replaced. If you see small amounts of water seeping out of the bottom of your toilet, don't blow it off. It means that much bigger leaks are on their way. According to Lowe's, you can replace the sealant ring around the toilet, but this may be a quick fix that doesn't attend to the bigger problem.
Another tip for keeping your toilet and plumbing in good shape is to only flush appropriate matter down the toilet. Many of us use the toilet as a type of disposal. It's an easy way to get rid of extra bits of food or paper, or other things that are biodegradable and you can easily assume would break down. But using your toilet in this manner can lead to clogs and broken pipes.
According to professionals, the changing of the seasons and temperatures can put an extreme amount of stress on your pipes and plumbing. This, of course, can lead to many plumbing problems. The extreme changes in temperatures force the pipes, and all other metal fixtures, to expand and contract, which can lead to leaks, cracks, and lots of other issues. As each season changes, you'll need to do some basic checks and maintenance to keep everything in working order.
What About Winter?
Winter is perhaps the season that puts the most stress on your pipes and plumbing system. Direct Energy has tips for how to keep your home's indoor and outdoor pipes in good condition, even in the severe cold. When the temperatures drop, the plumbing problems skyrocket. Winter is a primary issue for pipes during the cold months, and they can cause massive problems in your bathroom. When water freezes, it expands. And when it does, pipes burst. When it comes to winter, this is the biggest headache for plumbing issues.
You may think that this can't create plumbing issues in your bathroom, but that isn't the case. Even though the pipes in your bathroom are less likely to freeze because of their position indoors, they still can during extremely cold periods. Likewise, frozen pipes in other parts of your sewage system can create backups and messes in your bathroom.
To best keep your pipes moving and avoid a bathroom issue, heat your entire home, not just certain rooms. Allowing warm air to circulate through your home helps to keep your pipes warm. If you have cabinets that house bathroom pipes, leave the cabinet doors open to allow warm air inside.
You will want to insulate both warm and cold water pipes that are in areas that are vulnerable to freezing. Try your best to eliminate drafts in the home, and check areas around water pipes to make sure they are not housed in particularly drafty areas. At regular intervals, allow water to run from each valve. The movement will keep the pipes from freezing. If you are experiencing extremely cold temperatures, you might want to allow a continuous small trickle from each faucet to keep the pipes from freezing.
(Don't)Spring a Leak
As spring trickles in, you need to check all your plumbing to make sure it's in working order. Drains are essential to effective spring plumbing because the moisture that has been frozen solid for a season will begin to melt.
Spring is the time to check for slow leaks around your house. This sounds like a challenge because slow leaks are especially insidious and difficult to detect. You can check for these leaks, however, by taking a water meter reading. Then, avoid using your water for a couple of hours. After about two hours, take another water meter reading. If the reading changes, there is a leak somewhere.
Check all the pipes around your home for signs of leaking, like puddles or watermarks. Many leaks can be fixed by a simple adjustment, but in spring, it's also likely that a leak is due to a crack in the pipe. If this is the case, you will probably need a professional's help.
Make sure all your drains are in working order by pouring a gallon of water down the drain. If any drains are slow, you should snake them to remove any debris, and then use a drain cleaner to break through the leftover build up. For more specific tips on Spring's effect on your plumbing, check out this guide by Roto-Rooter.
You should have your septic system inspected once a year, and summer is a perfect time. The ground and air are warm, which makes the plumber's work easier. Summer brings with it its own plumbing problems. Water from heavy storms can seep into cracks in your sewer system and cause back-ups. According to professionals in the field, what you can expect from your septic system inspection depends on what kind of septic system you have.
To make sure your summer plumbing is working at its best, make sure you get your septic system pumped when it's needed. If you aren't sure when the right time for a septic system pump is, you can ask your plumber during your yearly septic system inspection. If you have any stoppages in your pipes, keep track of them, and of the times in between them.
Tree roots are a common issue with sewer lines. In fact, experts say that they are one of the most common external problems with sewer systems. They can grow to break or otherwise damage your underground pipes. If you have tree roots that cause problems regularly, schedule regular sewer main snaking to keep your pipes from developing blockages. If trees become enough of an issue, consider having those trees removed to avoid future plumbing problems.
Whether you consider yourself to be handy or not, there are plenty of easy plumbing maintenance practices to keep your home's appliances working at the height of their abilities. It's easy to get discouraged when dealing with problems in the home, especially when you feel like you don't have much in the way of knowledge or experience.
But the easiest way to fix plumbing issues isn't to fix the issues at all. It is to perform basic maintenance tasks that will keep all of your plumbing working well. That way, plumbing emergencies arise far less often. If you get in the practice of working these small maintenance tips into your cleaning and home upkeep routine, you will save yourself time, money, and a lot of annoyance in the future.
Of course, if your plumbing issues do require the help of a professional, don't hesitate to reach out. While you can do a lot of easy maintenance on your own plumbing system, there are some issues that require professional help, and there's no shame in asking for it.
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