The popular disclaimer “Do not attempt this yourself” applies to many situations other than high-risk stunts – plumbing repairs and projects, for example. In fact, you’re more likely to try to replace a pipe than launch yourself over an open drawbridge on a skateboard. Although you won’t risk life or limb in the process, you could easily risk botching the job and making the situation worse by causing additional damage that winds up being much more expensive to fix than it would have been had you called a plumber in the first place.
With all that said, there can be some confusion about what DIY jobs you can handle, and when to acknowledge you have to call a pro. As we often note, most people are confident in their ability to replace a toilet flapper. But when that confidence extends to other areas, you may be facing trouble. In the interest of consumer education and preventing panicked emergency calls to the plumber, our Adams and Son Plumbing team offers the following guide to DIY plumbing jobs you should never attempt yourself.
Reasons Why Homeowners Attempt Plumbing Jobs Themselves – and Why They’re Wrong
There are two main reasons homeowners attempt plumbing repairs – money, and as previously mentioned, overconfidence. Even in a non-emergency situation, plumbing repairs typically aren’t figured into the budget. And nowadays, especially, people are looking to save money any way that they can. However, trying to save it on plumbing repairs is false economy, for the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph.
We readily admit that plumbing services are not inexpensive, but you do get what you pay for – which is the extensive education, training, experience and state certification that a professional plumber brings to every job. Our Adams and Son Plumbing team is unique because – unlike most other plumbing businesses – it is comprised entirely of master plumbers.
So what’s the difference? A master plumber will be able to not only install pipes and plumbing systems, but will also be able to draw up the plans to do so. A master plumber can completely re-do systems that have become too old – as well as make structural improvements.
Which brings us to the next reason homeowners try to make their own repairs and/or installations: overconfidence.
Maybe you’re good at general household repairs, and think that plumbing shouldn’t be much of a stretch. Or you get the impression that it’s just a matter of following instructions. This is understandable, considering that the websites for big box home improvement centers provide DIY videos for all manner of plumbing projects. Of course, YouTube videos are plentiful, implying that anyone can successfully replace a water heater or tackle other jobs that have the potential to end in disaster.
The problem with DIY videos is that they don’t cover every possible scenario – or may not even adequately cover every step of the process. Depending upon the job, they can’t anticipate what odd piping configuration may be hidden behind your walls or under your foundation slab. Your house may have had a bad retrofit or repair in the past that you wouldn’t know about unless you uncovered it while trying to make a new repair. A professional plumber would be aware of such a possibility, and be ready to address it with the right materials and expertise. Would you?
What the Pros Have That You Don’t
You may have a can-do attitude, but that’s no guarantee you can figure out or work your way through plumbing issues if the situation isn’t what you had assumed it was. Here is what a professional plumber brings to the job that makes the difference:
- Professional-quality tools for every task – Your few basic tools from the home improvement center probably aren’t professional grade, or don’t include the correct tool for more demanding repair jobs. According to The Clog Dawg, “Using the wrong tool for a job can cause frustration, at best – and serious damage, at worst.”
- Professional skill and experience – As previously mentioned, plumbing is a highly skilled trade. Plumbers have a thorough knowledge of plumbing systems and the different types of pipe used in them. This allows plumbers to make a proper diagnosis to assess the cause of your problem. What you think may be causing your specific issue could actually have a different source.
- The ability to assess repairs that are dangerous for a non-professional to perform, and to do the job safely – Repairing gas and sewer lines is dangerous work. Rerouting pipes is also no job for anyone other than a plumber. Protective equipment is also required for such jobs, which homeowners aren’t likely to own.
Avoid the Trap of Deceptively Simple DIY Solutions – Plus the Repair Jobs You Should NEVER Attempt Yourself
Some repairs may seem easy enough to take the DIY route, but looks can be deceiving! Our colleagues at Wagner provide this list of repairs and projects you may think are safe to tackle, but have the potential to go horribly wrong:
- Snaking your own drain – Many homeowners believe a wire hanger or a DIY home-snaking tool will solve your drainage problem. However, you should not put any foreign object down your drain without consulting a professional. Avoid pouring drain cleaner down your drain as well – many over-the-counter chemicals will do more harm than good to your pipes.
- Unclogging your toilet – You may think the average, everyday clogged toilet is a breeze to fix. But what if the problem is something bigger? Before grabbing the plunger and risking a toilet overflow, call a professional. Definitely call a pro if you’ve already tried to unclog your toilet without success.
- Tightening or loosening pipes – If something has fallen down a drain and you want to loosen a pipe underneath the sink, think again. Just because you own a wrench or pliers does not mean you should use them on your plumbing. Many times, DIY plumbing solutions turn into a larger problem, costing you more money down the road.
- Replacing faucets, showerheads or handles – The best way to replace an old showerhead or faucet is to call a professional plumber, who can install it quickly and correctly. Too often, homeowners overlook crucial steps, forget to install an important part and get stuck, or install a new handle just plain wrong.
Now for the jobs that are the equivalent of that extreme stunt of leaping over an open drawbridge on a skateboard. The good people at ABC affiliate KTEN, Denison, TX, provide this helpful list:
Clearing a clogged sewer line – When sewer lines get clogged, your whole plumbing system is affected. This can also cause sewer backup, which can damage your floors, walls, electrical systems, furniture, etc. Leave this to the pros to avoid an unsanitary disaster that will have you filing a claim on your homeowners insurance.
Fixing a burst pipe – You may be able to fix a leaky pipe on your own. But a burst pipe is an emergency problem, which means you need to call a plumber. And it isn’t because pipe patches don’t work. It’s because patches are for leaks and they’re temporary fixes. For burst pipes, the best solution is pipe replacement, which requires safely detaching old pipes before installing new ones.
Any underground plumbing repair job – Do you have special tools for working with underground infrastructure? If so, do you have a permit from local authorities to start digging? You have to satisfy both conditions before you take on underground plumbing repair jobs. If your municipality finds you’ve been doing such repairs without a permit, you may be forced to get a permit with double or triple the fees. Or, they may shut down everything and leave you with a huge problem.
Replacing your water heater – Here’s one rule every homeowner should follow. If it involves electricity, it’s not a job for the average DIYer. Since water heater installation and replacement involve electricity, you should leave it to a professional. Risking serious injury – and worse – is not worth it when an expert can do the job safely and quickly.
Repairing a gas line – If you suspect a gas leak, your immediate thought shouldn’t be, “I have to fix this problem myself.” It should be, “I have to evacuate everyone including pets from the house.” Once a certified inspector confirms that the leak is due to a faulty gas line, professionals will be called in. To prevent this from happening again, consider having your gas pipelines inspected every year.
The Take-Home Message
Our master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing believe the more you know about basic plumbing care and maintenance, the better you’ll be able to recognize when it’s time to call a professional to prevent even more serious damage and major expense. We’ve proudly served Central Florida homes and businesses with the highest level of quality and experience for over 60 years. We are family-owned and operated, and all of our plumbers are state-certified master plumbers. Contact us to get – and keep – your home’s plumbing in top repair.