When things go awry with the plumbing in your Sterling, Virginia home, you may be tempted to whip out your toolbox and go to work. Unfortunately, do-it-yourself repairs can turn small and relatively low-cost issues into outright plumbing disasters. That’s why it’s important to distinguish between what you can and cannot do on your own. To help, the following are three easy DIY plumbing fixes and five jobs that only a professional should handle.

1. Resetting Your Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal repairs should always be handled with care. Although these common kitchen appliances can be cheaply replaced, hands and fingers cannot. You should never insert your hand into your disposal unit to remove an obstruction while it’s still plugged in. However, if your garbage disposal has overheated and shut itself off, you may be able to get it back up and running by pushing its reset button.

To start, unplug your garbage disposal. Look for and clear any obstructions without putting hard, heavy, or sharp items into the unit. Doing so can bend or break its impeller blades or other moving components. When you’re certain that the risk of overheating has passed, plug the disposal back in and press the red reset button at its base. If you successfully reset your garbage disposal only to have it immediately turn back off, there may be a leak, a wiring issue, or a remaining blockage. Rather than continuing to troubleshoot on your own, give us a call to schedule repairs.

2. Clearing a Blocked Drain

If taking a long shower leaves you standing ankle-deep in grey water, you have a blocked or slow-moving shower drain. Fortunately, this is usually the result of built-up soap scum, hair, and other organic debris. If your shower has a drain cover or strainer, take this unit out and clean it. If it does not, be sure to get one as soon as you can so that non-degradable items like toys, shampoo bottle tops, and razor caps don’t make their way into your plumbing system.

Dirty, slow-moving drains can often be cleared with a mixture that’s equal parts white vinegar and baking soda. Simply pour a full cup of baking soda into the offending drain and then chase it with a full cup of vinegar. As soon as the two ingredients are combined, you’ll see an instant foaming reaction. After the mixture has stopped fizzing and frothing, clear the drain with hot running water. If the problem persists, you may have a hard obstruction that’s blocking the flow of water, or your pipes could be coated in thick scum or build-ups of minerals.

3. Unclogging Your Toilet

High-quality plungers can be cheaply acquired at grocery stores, home and hardware stores, and countless big box locations. In fact, there are even a number of convenience stores that keep these simple yet highly effective tools in stock. If someone in your home has had a sizable bowel movement or has used an abundance of toilet paper, a plunger will help break these soft, degradable items up so that they’re able to clear the commode and move through your plumbing system.

However, it’s important to be cautious when using plungers. After all, you can never be certain that what you’re plunging away won’t cause a larger and infinitely more problematic obstruction deeper within the plumbing system. For instance, you don’t want to use a plunger to clear any blockages that are caused by paper towels, “flushable” wipes, or hard, solid items that won’t rapidly break down in water. If you’ve had a child flush a toothbrush or toy, it’s best to call a plumber in to have it extracted. Although solid, non-degradable items might clear your toilets, they aren’t guaranteed to make it safely through your pipes.

Why Some Plumbing Repairs Require Professionals

Major plumbing projects require permits, even those that don’t can have a long-term impact on the value and marketability of your home. There’s also your home warranty agreement and your home insurance plan to consider. When do-it-yourself plumbing projects fail, all of these protections could be instantly voided. Most home service agreements and home insurance policies come with clear restrictions against hiring unlicensed plumbers and taking complex plumbing projects into your own hands. With these things in mind, here are five jobs that are best left to the pros.

1. Clearing Sewer Line Blockages

A sure sign of a sewer line blockage is having black water come backing up into your home. This is water that’s rife with biological pathogens and chemical contaminants that could cause severe illness and even death. There are endless reasons to always have sewer line repairs performed by professionals. Attempting to perform underground work poses the risk of encountering and damaging gas lines or other utility service lines, flooding your yard with filth and debris, and causing costly problems for your neighbors. Leave your shovel in the shed and contact a licensed plumber. We can perform a sewer line camera inspection to identify the exact location of the blockage or broken pipe. More importantly, we can safely resolve the issue with minimal disruption to your yard, virtually no risk of contaminating common areas, and no property damage.

2. Installing a New Water Heater

Failure to comply with local plumbing codes during water heater installation places homeowners at significant legal, financial, and safety risk. Tank-based water heaters are under a tremendous amount of pressure; even minor mistakes during their removal and installation could lead to serious harm. Tankless, electric water heaters pose the risk of electrocution when they’re improperly installed, incorrectly removed, or ill-suited to the intended location. When you hire us for water heater replacement, we’ll help you choose the right water heater type for your budget, household size, and hot water needs. We’ll also install it according to manufacturer specifications while preserving your original equipment warranty.

3. Fixing Cracked or Ruptured Pipes

There are a number of online instructional videos for short and long-term pipe repair. However, cracked and ruptured pipes must be professionally handled. Filling holes with newspaper or other materials and then sealing them up with duct tape could leave you with soaked floors, damaged baseboards, and a voided home insurance plan. When damaged pipes are ill-repaired and then subjected to high-levels of pressure, there’s also the risk of having them burst and cause serious harm to anyone in their vicinity.

4. Gas Line Repairs

Contact a professional as soon as you suspect a gas line leak or any other issues pertaining to your gas line. Not only is it important for jobs like these to be completed safely and correctly, but it’s also vital to have them professionally handled in a timely fashion. Gas line explosions can destroy homes from the foundation up. They can also cause serious damage to nearby properties and residents of other buildings.

5. Drain Snaking

Using a drain snake incorrectly or using it in the wrong instances can severely damage your pipes. It’s rarely an ideal drain clearing method for pipes that have large accumulations of hard water minerals at their interior, aging pipes, or pipes that are structurally weak.

Drain snaking also has the ability to force hard, non-malleable items deeper into plumbing systems. In many instances, this technique is only safe for use after a blockage has been identified and after the affected pipes have been inspected. Upon inspection, a licensed plumber may find that the safest and most effective way to clear your pipes is with hydro-jetting, hydro-steaming, or another less invasive measure.

We proudly serve residents of Sterling Virginia and the surrounding areas. We offer heating, cooling, and indoor air quality services. We also provide water heater installation, gas line repairs, and HVAC ductwork. If you need a professional plumber, contact Meade’s Heating and Air today.

Meade's Heating and Air

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