Is this scenario a familiar one? You squeeze between the under part of a kitchen sink and the wall, squirming around trying to find where to screw in the hose of the new faucet. After a few minutes of rearranging the overly long hose so that the end would face the way you want, you were able to successfully finish installing the new kitchen faucet.
Unlike the above kitchen faucet job, some repairs don’t go quite as smoothly, especially when it’s a small problem turning into a big one. With all the YouTube videos and websites that make plumbing look so easy, it can be hard to know when to do it yourself to save some money or when you should call a professional. To help you make the right decision, we’ve come up with a list of 5 Plumbing Repairs You Should Leave to a Professional.
1. Gas Leak
The first repair you should never DIY, and instead leave to a professional, is a gas leak. According to a 2018 report by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), natural gas leaks cause about 40 fire deaths annually in the United States. Gas lines can be found in stoves, electric fireplaces, water heaters and even clothes dryers. Although most of these gases are odorless, a sulfuric smell is added to them before being moved to your house for use. Since these gasses are extremely flammable, it’s imperative not to turn on any electrical switches, start a car or get any type of flame near the gas. If you suspect a gas leak, open your windows, turn off the gas meter if it is safe to do so, and call your gas company immediately. Professionals at your gas company will know how to fix a gas leak while keeping you and your family safe.
2. Water Heater Replacement
Another job that only a plumber or other professional should take on is a water heater replacement or repair. Most water heaters are run on natural gas, and with one wrong move there could be a fire or electrical problem. Another danger that comes with water heaters is the possibility of pipes exploding and spewing hot water everywhere, due to improper installation. So if your water heater leaks or you notice rust, pressure problems or temperature issues, call a plumber to handle the repair.
Coincidentally, traditional tank water heaters, as opposed to tankless (on-demand) water heaters, have a shorter life expectancy. If you’re thinking of replacing a traditional heater with an on-demand one, you may want to read our guide on the pros and cons of tankless water heaters.
3, Main Sewer Line Clogs
Homeowners should also avoid unclogging a main sewer line backup on their own. If you notice a gurgling toilet, a tub or shower filling up with waste water or water draining out of a washing machine causing a toilet to overflow, these are symptoms of a main sewer line clog. Although many DIY web sites suggest using a drain cleaner or even Coca Cola to clear your pipes, these can actually lead to more damage by corroding them. If you think that means you should take a stab at working on the pipes some other way, unfortunately it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Dealing with any kind of sewage, like dealing with gas, can be detrimental to your health. According to the National Resources Defense Council, almost two million cases of illnesses are caused by sewage contamination each year. Sewage contains many bacteria that can make you extremely sick, either through contact or simply through breathing. A sewer backup should only be left to a professional, who has the necessary skills, tools and PPE to safely take care of the situation.
If you don’t see any of the symptoms above and your kitchen or bathroom sink is only clogged (with no waste water backed up), it’s likely not a main sewer line clog. This is something you may be able to fix on your own. Try these tricks to unclogging a kitchen or bathroom sink.
4. Sump Pump Installation
Installing a sump pump for the first time is another task a DIYer should not attempt. A sump pump is your defense against the damage that comes with a flooded basement. Although replacing a sump pump is doable, installing one is a different story. Installing a sump pump requires drilling a hole in your basement’s foundation as well as digging a trench, cutting a hole in the wall to run piping, and also working with electricity. Unless you are a skilled professional, almost all of those steps are bound to go wrong in some way or the other.
5. Repairs to Inaccessible Pipes
Lastly, homeowners should never attempt a plumbing problem that involves inaccessible plumbing pipes, such as those underground or in a wall. Many areas require a city-issued digging permit before you are allowed to unearth damaged pipes, and you will likely be slapped with a heavy fine if you dig without a permit. In addition, underground utilities, like natural gas and electrical lines, pose a risk for the homeowner. A plumber has the ability to get the right permit, will utilize the right equipment for excavation, and has the training to avoid underground hazards.
Internal leaks share some of the same challenges as buried pipes. Accessing internal pipes involves opening walls, which also contain electrical wires. After the problem is fixed, the wall must be put back together. A plumber can handle all the logistics; he can open the wall with the least damage possible, professionally repair the leak, and coordinate the repair of the affected wall.
Tackling your first plumbing project by yourself is a great accomplishment and learning opportunity. However, without the right tools or experience you might end up learning you shouldn’t have taken on that project in the first place. Some projects, such as gas leak repairs, water heater installation and sewage clearing can lead to great physical harm or even death, if handled incorrectly.
Other projects such as installing a sump pump or working on inaccessible pipe repairs can result in damage to your home or get you in trouble with your local government. As tempting as it is to save money by doing it yourself, in these five cases you should turn off the YouTube video and call a professional for your safety and well-being.
Did we leave off any other plumbing repairs homeowners should leave to a pro? Let us know in the comments section below if you have any to add. And if you’re in need of a plumbing expert witness, give Ivey Engineering a call today.