You probably don’t give your plumbing much thought. You know it is there, you appreciate it, but you also take for granted that it will continue to work – without requiring much maintenance. But plumbing problems do happen – drains get clogged and pipes leak. To help prevent a catastrophe or to make sure you get the most from your money when calling a plumber, there are some basic facts about your home’s plumbing system you should know.
Where does the water come into your house? And how do you shut it off? If you have a leak, especially a major one, you should immediately shut off the water to prevent water damage. You don’t want to spend extra time running around and looking for the water shut-off valve, so before a leak occurs, know where the shut-off is located.
Where are gas shut-off valves? For safety reasons, this is even more important than your water shut-off valve. If you smell gas, you should immediately shut off all gas to your house, leave and call your gas supplier.
How to know whether you have a hidden leak. Check your water meter (it should be located somewhere around your shut-off valve) and don’t use the water for a few hours. If the water meter has moved, you probably have a leak somewhere.
What your water pressure is. Residential water pressure should be 80 PSI or lower. You can call your local water company to find out what your water pressure is or you can buy a water pressure gauge for a few dollars at your local hardware or home improvement store.
Where does your water come from? Do you use city or well water? If you use a well, you should know how to access the well. If you use city water, you should have a general idea of where the main pipes are in your yard.
Do you use sewer or septic waste system? If you have a septic tank, you should know where it is located on your property. No matter which waste system you use, you should know where the clean-out plugs are and make sure they are accessible.
Do all faucets have an accessible shut-off valve? Every sink, shower, toilet and water-driven appliance (including water heaters) should ideally have their own shut off valve. This ensures that, if there is a leak in one, you still have access to water in other parts of the house. If there is not a shut-off valve for each, you might consider having a plumber install one. Be sure you know where each shut-off valve is and how to use it.
What types of pipes do you have? Plumbing pipes could be PVC, copper or PEX. Knowing what type you have can make the plumber’s job that much easier.
What your pipes look like. Most of us don’t know whether the pipes are right or not. But if you routinely make a visual inspection of your pipes, you are likely to spot a problem before it becomes an emergency. Look for rust, buckling or drops of water. If you see any of these, it is time to call a plumber – emergency calls are much more expensive.