How To Be Prepared For A Home Plumbing Leak


If you live in an older home with plumbing pipes that were installed before the 1960s, then you should think about having the steel pipes replaced with either copper or PVC varieties. Not only can the steel pipes release lead into your drinking water, but corrosion can build and cause the pipes to leak. If you are thinking about having the pipes replaced next spring or at some other point throughout the year, then make sure you can make it through the winter without a flood building in your basement. This may seem like a daunting task, especially if you are an inexperienced homeowner. You can prepare for leaks, though, with the following tips.

Locate All Your Shutoff Valves

The first thing you should do to prepare for a leak is to locate your main water shutoff in the home. The shutoff will be located in your basement or along an outside wall where other utilities come into your house. The flow of water through the main line will be controlled with either a gate or a ball valve. A gate valve is controlled with a stem and turn knob. When the knob is turned, a metal gate is lowered into the pipe to block water flow. A ball valve is a lever-activated device that blocks water flow when the lever is lowered so it sits parallel to the pipe. Once you find the shut off valve, turn the knob or lower the handle to make sure it works properly.

After you locate the main shutoff, also look for all of the isolation valves located on the tops of your water pipes and near your sinks. These valves allow you to shut off water in one area while water still runs to the rest of the home. However, isolation valves are rarely used and can become blocked with corrosion. This can prevent the valves from turning in an emergency. To prevent an incident, try to turn all the valves in your home. If you find ones that will not budge, spray a penetrating oil along the valve where it connects to the water pipe. Wait 10 minutes and try to activate the valve. Afterwards, add some water displacing spray to each valve. Penetrating oils can lubricate moving metal parts, but the ingredients will evaporate quickly. A water-displacing spray will last longer so that valves will move smoothly for a longer period of time. Make sure to test valves every few months to make sure they are not sticking.

Buy Some Pliers and Wrenches

If you are a somewhat handy person, then you can likely make small leak repairs yourself. You will need the right tools, though; a good pair of pliers and a few wrenches are likely to be your best friends when completing a plumbing job. There are a wide variety of different tools available to you, and you will definitely need more than one. Make sure to purchase some pump pliers. The tool features small jaws with jagged teeth that adjust when you open and close the handles. These all-purpose pliers are good for holding on to metal nuts, bolts, and fittings so they can be turned. Also, needle-nose pliers that can fit into small spaces and tighten fittings are a good choice.

When it comes to wrenches, an adjustable type that allows you to tighten the jaws with a small wheel is a good choice in case you cannot get enough of a grip with your pump pliers. A pipe wrench is also ideal. The wrench is a large tool with jagged teeth that is opened and clamped onto a pipe or other rounded surface. The teeth grip to the surface so the pipe or fitting can be turned. However, while the teeth help to lock the wrench in place, they can penetrate most pieces of metal. This means that the tool is best used when you need to force a broken fitting or pipe to move.

If you need to move a piece of pipe or a smooth fitting that you do not want to damage, then a strap wrench is the tool to use. The wrench features a rubber strap that is tightened around the rounded pipe. The strap can then be locked in place and the handle on the wrench can be twisted to move the pipe. For the movement of a rounded fitting in a small space under a sink or in a crawlspace, a device called a basin wrench will work well. The wrench has a long handle with a small clamp that tightens onto the fitting. All of these tools can be located at your local home store. 

For more information about how to prepare for and deal with minor leaks, contact a plumbing repair professional.


27 January 2016

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