“Hey, let’s drain hoses and check for leaks behind toilets this weekend!” said no one, ever.
Home ownership may have its privileges, but it also come with some annoyances. We feel you. Still, ignoring preventative maintenance can cost you. Here are 6 tasks you really do want to add to your honey-do list to help avoid expensive plumbing problems down the road.
Task #1 Check the (Toilet) Tank
Potential Savings: $1,000-2,000 per year
According to Express Sewer, a minor toilet leak will tack an additional $1,000 in wasted water onto your yearly water bill, and a major leak can cost you as much as $2,000 a year.
Keep an eye out for: water trickling down the insides of the toilet bowl long after you’ve flushed. Once a month, peek into the tank to ensure these three elements are working properly:
- Flapper: This is the rubber seal at the bottom of the tank that’s connected to the toilet handle and controls when water moves into the bowl. If it’s cracked or feels “mushy” to the touch, it’s time for a new one, and they only cost a few bucks at home repair stores.
- Water Level: If the water level in your tank becomes too high, water will constantly drain into the overflow tube and cause your toilet to run. To prevent this, turn the screw on top of the float arm (metal rod attached to the black, plastic ball) clockwise to lower the water level below the overflow tube.
- Fill Tube: If your flapper is intact and the water level in the tank is correct but your toilet still runs when it shouldn’t be, you most likely have an issue with the fill tube. This component is particularly tricky to repair or replace, so we recommend contacting a professional to get it fixed.
Task #2 Flush Your Drains
Potential savings: $200
Depending on where you live and the severity of the issue, calling in a professional to help unclog or snake a drain can cost between $100 and $275 according to HomeGuide. Flush your drains every three months and save hundreds!
Keep an eye out for: water in your sink or tub that drains slower than usual or small debris coming out of your drain as the water flows through it.
Once a month, or in the event of a slow drain, follow these steps:
- Pour ½ cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar.
- Cover the drain opening and allow the mixture to soak for 20 minutes.
- Rinse with hot water.
If routine cleaning and flushing doesn’t treat your slow draining sink or tub, it may be time to call a professional.
Task #3 Stop the Drip
Potential savings: $500
Faucets and showerheads aren’t manufactured to withstand non-stop water flow. Even slow drips cause gaskets and washers to wear out quickly, which then allows more water to seep past the valve. If left unchecked, you’ll find yourself replacing the entire fixture—or hiring someone to do it for you—which could cost you anywhere from $90 to more than $500.
Leaky faucets waste water—and your money. Here are some tips to help you stop the drip.
Keep an eye out for: water in your faucet that dribbles or flows slower than usual, or water drips continually, even after you shut off the water.
To avoid prematurely spending money on new fixtures:
- Inspect every faucet, showerhead, and valve for drips and leaks at least twice per year.
- Replace washers and gaskets as necessary.
- Clean mineral deposits from showerheads and faucets by soaking them in vinegar.
Task #4 Keep it Hot
Potential savings: $1000
We rarely think about our water heaters, but they’re an integral part of our everyday routines. And when they fail, we can take a bath (see what we did there?)—at an average cost of $1000.
Being aware of some key water heater warning signs could be the difference between a minor fix and a huge expense.
Keep an eye out for: hot water in the shower running out faster than usual, frequent fluctuations in water temperature, strange sounds coming from your water heater or water that has a strange smell or color. These are all important warning signs.
If you take good care of your water heater, it’ll keep your showers nice and hot for up to eight years. To avoid prematurely replacing it:
- Check your temperature-pressure-regulator (TPR) valve every year.
- Flush the sediment from the bottom every six months to a year.
- Check the anode rode every year.
- Keep the temperature at about 120-degrees.
- Insulate the pipes and tank to maximize efficiency and extend the unit’s life.
- Drain your hot water heater a few times a year, as limescale thrives in water at high temperatures.
- If your water pressure has severely decreased and you notice a lot of white, chalky buildup around your faucets, it’s time to contact a professional to have them inspect your pipes and determine the best course of action. You might also have them install a water softening system to prevent future limescale buildup.
If you do find a problem, and/or it’s been 10 years or more since you bought your water heater, it’s likely time for an upgrade.
Task #5 Protect Your Pipes
Potential savings: $8,000
According to the Insurance Information Institute, claims related to water damage and freezing cost an average of $8,861. The insurance industry estimates that the amount of water damage generated by frozen and broken water pipes ranks second, only behind hurricanes, in the number of U.S. homes damaged every year. That’s an average of more than 250,000 homes annually.
Pipes burst for two reasons: a surge in water pressure or freezing temperatures.
Keep an eye out for: outside temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 6 consecutive hours. When it’s this cold outside, it’s time to:
- Test your water pressure using a pressure gauge and/or add a pressure regulator to your system.
- Insulate exposed pipes for the winter, especially those near exterior walls or in unheated areas of your home.
- Detach and drain garden hoses and sprinkler systems. If your outdoor spigots aren’t frost-free, be sure to shut off the valves, drain any remaining water, and install a foam cover.
Task #6 Trust Your Senses
Potential savings: $7,000—or much more
It’s difficult to estimate the cost of a sewer or septic tank failure. You’ll have to repair or even replace the system itself (up to $7,000 for septic tank and $3,000 for a main sewer line), and you’ll likely have several thousands of dollars in damage to your home and property.
Keep an eye out for: a slow drain that hasn’t responded to other drain cleaning methods or a foul odor near your drains and faucets. These are signs of an issue with your septic tank.
To avoid a sewage emergency:
- Have your septic tank inspected regularly.
- Hire a professional to clean your sewer lines every 18 to 24 months.
- Avoid pouring grease down your kitchen sink.
- Only flush sewer-friendly items.
St. Louis-area homeowners have trusted Maplewood Plumbing and Sewer with their preventive maintenance and emergency plumbing needs for more than 30 years. Give us a call at 314-207-2503 or fill out the contact form here for more information or to request a bid.
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