In the internet age where you can get a quick tutorial on just about anything online, it seems many homeowners are turning to DIY plumbing to save a few bucks.
The problem is that much of the DIY plumbing we see in the Atlanta area is not up to code. This can result in violations and fees from the local building department as well as some pretty substantial and costly damage to your home.
We’ve been serving the plumbing needs in Atlanta since 1966, so we’ve seen pretty much everything. But here are the three mistakes we see DIY plumbers make all the time.
Improper drain slope
You probably know that drains need to flow downhill into your sewer. But do you know the proper slope?
The ideal slope of any drain line is ¼ inch per foot of pipe. In other words, for every foot the pipe travels horizontally, it should be dropping ¼ inch vertically. Many drains either have too little slope or too much slope. That’s right, it is possible to have too much slope in your drain lines.
According to Redwood Kardon, a former plumbing inspector,
“Oversloped pipes (greater than ½ in. per ft.) are as likely to clog as undersloped ones because the liquids move too fast and leave the solids behind.”
Why it’s costly: Without the proper slope, drain lines may clog more frequently. This leads to either pouring lots of harsh chemical drain cleaner down the drain (which can cause corrosion) or frequent calls to a professional plumber to clear the drain.
Another common DIY plumbing mistake is unvented traps.
Drain traps provide a barrier between living spaces and your sewer system. They keep vermin and explosive methane gas from entering your home. However, many DIY plumbers don’t understand how a proper trap should work.
When remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, some Atlanta homeowners put in what is commonly called an S-trap in a sink drain line. These traps are basically two traps connected to look like an “s.” (See diagram below.)
However, S-traps are not properly vented and can result in the water from the trap becoming siphoned out, therefore removing the water barrier within the trap. Instead, you should install a properly vented P-trap.
Image credit: Fine Homebuilding
Why it’s costly: Without a proper vent, the water in the trap can be siphoned out. Once that happens, methane gas (which is explosive and a fire hazard) can leak into your home from your sewer. Also, vermin can crawl up your drain into your home.
Using the wrong tools to unclog a drain
This last DIY plumbing mistake is also probably the most common. When your drains clog, you likely try to clear it yourself before resorting to a professional plumber. That’s fine. Many clogs can be cleared using a simple plunger.
However, some homeowners decide to try their hand at more complicated drain cleaning techniques when the plunger fails. What many of these people don’t realize is that each drain type is different and requires different tools.
For example, you should never use a normal drain snake on a toilet clog as this can damage the bowl of your toilet. There are toilet augers that are designed specifically for this purpose.
Likewise, you need to use a different sized snake for tubs and showers than for washing machine and other drains. And for kitchen drains you may need a mini rooter with a longer line.
Why it’s costly: If you’re using a tool that’s not right for the job, you can damage your plumbing fixtures or pipes, leading to an even more costly repair. (We know because we’ve been called in for a number of these in Atlanta homes.)
Avoiding DIY plumbing mistakes
You can avoid all of these DIY plumbing mistakes by hiring a professional, licensed and trusted plumber.
And if you do decide to do it yourself, make sure you are properly educating yourself. Check out some plumbing books from the library or purchase a plumbing handbook from a bookstore. Don’t rely on the quick tutorials online that often leave out important details.
Mr. Plumber has been serving the plumbing needs of homeowners in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area since 1966.