Basics to Avoid Plumbing Nightmares
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The P-trap is that curved pipe under the sink that may look more like a U-shape. Why would you want to take it apart? Possibly to retrieve something valuable that fell down the drain, but more likely because you're worried that something is stuck and blocking it. Maybe it's a toothbrush or a small toy or, more likely than not, a hairball all slimed up with toothpaste and hand soap.
It's one of those icky jobs that is easier than you might think, and it's a repair that would be great for those who want to become confident plumbing do-it-yourselfers.
You need slip-joint pliers, a large adjustable wrench, lots of rags or towels, and a bucket to put under the pipe to catch any water from the trap. First, shut off water to the sink or the entire house.
Start by loosening the compression nuts or sleeves at both ends of the P-trap. You may have to use the pliers or wrench to loosen metal sleeves. But with PVC plumbing, you can loosen them by hand. As you do this, water will start to flow into your bucket.
Then pull the P-trap free, turn it over and empty out any remaining water. Rinse the P-trap, preferably outdoors, where you can really clean out the pipe.
Then reassemble the P-trap on the pipes. You want to put in compression washers - maybe new ones - before putting the sleeves back on and tightening them. You can do this by hand with PVC, but use the wrench or pliers for metal sleeves.
Turn the water back on, but keep the bucket under the trap until you're sure there are no leaks.
By the way, the P-trap holds a small amount of water that helps keep sewer-system smells from backing up into your home.
If you're squeamish and feel more comfortable leaving the P-trap to an expert, it can still pay off to learn more about the plumbing in your house. Along the way, you'll figure out what jobs you can do and which are too tough.
You can also get prepared for genuine emergencies by finding out where your whole house water shut-off is and how you can shut off the water at your meter.
As an added precaution, check all the shut-off valves and angle stops on lines to sinks, toilets and your washer and dryer. Do they still work or have they frozen up in the past three or four years?
A frozen valve on the water line to your toilet is not a problem now, but if your toilet breaks, it can be. Plumbing mishaps can cost more if you have to call a plumber in the middle of the night. So if you find out a valve is stuck before a crisis comes along, you can get it fixed during daytime hours for less.
Some other plumbing basics to think about:
Sharpen the blades in your garbage disposal by periodically running ice cubes through the system, and freshen up the disposal by running chunks of lemon through the blades.
Clean a clog in a shower drain by unscrewing the grate on the drain and using a plumber's zip tool to hook and remove hair or gunk caught in the drain. You can also use a shop vacuum, if you have one, to pull out some of the mess.
Change an old clogged showerhead to a glitzy new one. There are even showerheads with wireless speakers that can play your favorite music.
Check your water pressure if you have periodic times when the pipes seem to bang. Usually the pressure is too high. Buy a water-pressure meter; it will probably cost less than $15. Follow directions for screwing it on the hose bib. If the reading says your pressure is more than 65 psi, call a plumber to have a pressure regulator installed.
If your water heater isn't heating properly, it could be due to built-up sediment. Drain the heater with a garden hose.
Change the filters on your reverse-osmosis drinking-water system or the ice maker in your refrigerator at least every six months. If you wait too long, those filters can get corroded and slimy.
The more you know about your plumbing, the better prepared you will be to face those mini-misfortunes that every homeowner has now and then.
Story provided by: www.azcentral.com