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Plumbing Dangers: What You Should Never Do

Posted on July 14th, 2020

Plumbing systems can be fairly complex, so there are a lot of ways things can go wrong. Making a simple mistake could end up flooding your whole house or injuring a member of your family. Therefore, it is very important to know what you can and cannot do by yourself. Whether you’re trying to upgrade your plumbing or perform a DIY repair, you should never do these 10 things.

1. Reroute or Extend Pipes

At first glance, it might seem fairly easy to do something like add a few feet of pipe to a hot water line. However, these sorts of modifications can actually be quite tricky to manage. If you are working with a blowtorch, you risk melting surrounding material or burning yourself. Even basic pipe system modifications can cause problems if you are not properly trained. It is fairly common for a homeowner to think everything looks good, seal up the wall and then notice a growing damp patch several days later. When not properly handled, these sorts of plumbing modifications can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

2. Put Food or Grease Down Your Drain

Even if you have a garbage disposal in your sink drain, putting food down the drain is not advisable. Starches and grease can line your pipes until there is insufficient space for water to pass through. When a garbage disposal shreds things like meat, it can create string fibers that fit through the disposal but are still too big to drain properly. Eventually, this can clog the pipes, causing backups that may overflow and flood your home. Ideally, nothing should go down your pipes but liquids that are not greasy.

3. Handle Any Underground Repair Job

Pipes that run underground should be left alone by the average homeowner. In fact, messing with these pipes can be so dangerous that some cities require you to get permits and have licenses before interacting with them. These pipes are part of the city’s water infrastructure, so you can harm both your home and other structures if you make a mistake with them. Depending on the pipes you are trying to access, you may find that specialized tools are needed to even reach them in the first place.

4. Set Your Water Heater Too High

If you’re tired of not getting water that’s hot enough, you might be tempted to crank your water heater’s settings way up. However, residential hot water heaters can be hot enough to scald people. You could end up with serious burns just from trying to wash your hands or hop into the shower. To keep you and your family safe, experts recommend you keep your hot water heater set at no more than 120 degrees. If you do this but you’re still getting cold water in your shower or sink, it might be a problem with your controls and valves. At this point, it is best to call a plumber instead of trying to increase your water temperature.

5. Use Extreme Heat to Forcibly Thaw Frozen Pipes

When you have a frozen pipe, your first instinct might be to reach for a blowtorch, lighter or anything else that generates high heat. However, force-thawing is never the answer. Since this will melt ice unevenly, you can still end up with a burst pipe. Furthermore, the flames can melt the pipes or set any nearby material on fire. Instead of using a naked flame, open the faucet that the pipe leads into, and use a hair dryer, hot towel or other source of gentle heat to slowly warm up the pipe.

6. Do DIY Fixes on Any Gas Appliance

If you have a gas hot water heater, dishwasher or washing machine, you should never try to handle repairs on your own. Even if you are not working directly on the gas line itself, you could accidentally damage it during an attempted DIY fix. Gas leaks can be incredibly dangerous, potentially resulting in explosions that could destroy your home and surrounding houses. Only those licensed in natural gas service should be working on these appliances.

7. Patch a Leaky Pipe

If you notice a leaking pipe, your may decide to just slap some sort of pipe leak sealant over the area and go back to using it normally. The problem with using things like compound sticks or epoxy paste to patch a leak is that they are meant to be temporary. This sort of fix will keep the pipe from flooding your house until you can actually replace it; however, the remedy will not stand up to months of wear and tear. When the seal does break, you’ll be left with an even bigger mess that may be harder to repair. Instead, the proper way to handle the situation is to get a plumber to replace the entire leaking section.

8. Try to Unclog a Sewer Line Yourself

If your pipes are backing up into the shower or tub when you try to flush the toilet, you might have a sewer line clog. This is a clog in the main drain line for the house, so it can affect drains all over your home. Typically, these clogs are too deep in the plumbing system to be handled with basic tools like a plunger. Instead, they will require the specialized equipment that professional plumbers have. If you try to do it yourself, you can end up with a major sewage backup. This can seriously damage your house, and exposure to raw sewage puts you at risk for various infections.

9. Ignore Water Pressure Problems

It’s easy to just ignore issues with low water pressure. However, neglect can lead to even more problems later on. Diminished water pressure is often the first sign of things like clogged supply pipes or rusted plumbing. Since it is almost impossible to diagnose the exact cause yourself, you may want some advice from a professional. Keep in mind that testing the water pressure valve yourself is also a little risky. Manhandling this valve can cause burst pipes that spew water everywhere.

10. Use Chemicals to Handle Your Clogs

When you notice your shower draining slowly, your first instinct might be to pour some harsh chemical down the drain. Since these chemicals are designed to eat through hair and other organic matter, they can cause serious burns if they splash on you. Another issue is that repeated use can be bad for your pipes. Though these unclogging chemicals are technically safe for use with pipes, repeated exposure can eat away at weak spots. It is better to manually break apart clogs or prevent them from happening in the first place.

Many plumbing activities should be left to the professionals, so let Plumbing & A/C Medic help. We have fully trained and licensed plumbers who can assist with all your plumbing installations, tune-ups and repairs in Gilbert, AZ. Our technicians can also provide a full range of heating, cooling and indoor air quality services throughout the Greater Phoenix area. To learn more or schedule an appointment, give us a call today.

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