6 Things Your Plumber Wishes You Knew

As plumbers, we have to continually remind ourselves that there are certain things that are common sense to us but are completely foreign concepts to others. We occasionally receive calls from panicked homeowners and we shake our heads and think to ourselves, “If only they knew.”

That’s why we’re going to impart a bit of wisdom to hopefully spare yourself some headaches and troubles down the road. Here are six things that shouldn’t be the exclusive knowledge of plumbers:

1. Don’t Overtighten Fittings

If you have a connection that’s leaking, it’s easy to tighten. However, overtightening connections is one of the most common mistakes. When you overtighten connections, you can crack threaded nuts or ruin rubber seals. Start by making it finger-tight. Don’t give it more than about one-eighth of a turn with pliers beyond that.

2. Find Your Main Shutoff Valve

If you don’t already know where the valve is at, make a note of it before an emergency happens. If your home has a crawlspace, the shutoff valve may be near the front of the house on a wall. If your home is on a concrete slab, check to see if the shutoff valve is near your water heater or under the kitchen sink. It may also be in the garage. With some homes, the shutoff valve is outside. If this is the case, it’s usually at ground level under a round or rectangular cover that’s close to the street. Depending on where your valve is, you may need special tools to access it or turn it. Learn how to do this, and keep the tools in an accessible place in case of an emergency.

3. Learn How to Use Plumber’s Tape

This tape is also called Teflon tape. It’s useful for creating a watertight seal between pipe fittings. These are some guidelines for a threaded fitting:

  • Clean the threads thoroughly first, and start on the second thread from the end.
  • Wrap the tape in the same direction as the threads.
  • Ensure that the tape is always flat and not bunched.
  • Keep consistent tension to ensure a snug fit, and work away from the end of the pipe to overlap the tape.

Also, be sure to use the right type of tape. There are different colors for different types of pipes, such as water or gas pipes.

4. Use Plungers Correctly

There are different types of plungers designed for specific jobs. For example, use a sink plunger only for a sink and a toilet plunger only for a toilet. Plungers are good for busting small clogs. For a stubborn clog in a toilet or sink, try pouring in some de-greasing dish detergent and boiling water. Let it sit for a little while before you use a plunger. You can also rub petroleum jelly around the rim of the plunger to form a more effective seal.

If a plunger doesn’t do the job, do not — we repeat — do not use caustic drain cleaners. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, caustic drain cleaners are harmful if you inhale them or accidentally get them on your eyes or skin. Also, they’re hard on your pipes and can cause serious damage.

5. Don’t Pour Grease Down the Drain

Pouring grease down your sink drain or in-sink garbage disposal can lead to clogs in your pipes when the grease solidifies.

However, there’s a worse problem that happens when the grease travels into the sewer and mixes with other non-biodegradable waste: the cumulative waste can form into a hard consistency and grow to the size of a Volkswagen. Researchers call them “fatbergs” since they become like icebergs of fat in the sewer. When fatbergs clog sewers, they can cause expensive and dangerous backups that affect many people. Pour grease into old coffee cans or jars and dispose of them in the garbage.

6. Be Mindful When You Drill Through Walls

If you don’t know where the pipes are in your walls, find out before you do any drilling. This is also important for cables and wires. There are wall scanners available to show you where studs, pipes, and cables are behind the walls. If you hit a water pipe, you’ll have a mess to deal with. However, hitting a gas pipe could be dangerous.


Bottom line: While we’re happy to help if you need us, we don’t want to see you pay for any avoidable problems. When you encounter a problem that requires a pro, call Aztec Plumbing & Drains at 239-212-0299 and we’ll be happy to help you out. Count on us for inspections, maintenance, and emergency plumbing situations!

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