Plumbing maintenance may not be the most exciting topic to read about, but it is well worth your attention! Over 14,000 people experience a water emergency at home or work a day. By regularly examining your plumbing system, and performing preventative maintenance, you can save yourself from both costly repair bills and the slow, steady expense caused by drips and leaks. The reality is that most homeowners insurance policies do not cover water damage caused by lack of maintenance or that has taken place over time, so it is in your best interest to make sure you maintain your plumbing. Below is a maintenance checklist to help you stay ahead of common plumbing problems:
1. Water heater: Inspect and clean your water heater each year before the heating season. In addition, many plumbers recommend draining and cleaning your water heater annually. Most people hire a professional to handle these tasks, due to their technical nature, and often they are even included in your plumbing fixture’s service contract. Also, your hot water heater has a certain life span, so if it isn’t maintained or is old, your chances of having a major flood increase exponentially.
2. Valves: Locate all your shut-off valves and turn them off, then back to their original position, to make sure they would not be stuck open in the event that you need to shut the water off. While you are at it, check them for any sign of corrosion or slow leaking, which could lead to an undetected larger leak. Replace any valves that are not working properly.
3. Leaks: Leaks can develop in many different places in your plumbing system and should be addressed immediately to curtail waste and water damage. Periodically check for any of the following signs of trouble: soft flooring near toilets, discolored or buckling flooring, bathtubs, dishwashers, water heaters or washing machines; dampness inside sink cabinets; soft walls or pealing or discolored paint that could indicate a leak inside a wall; pipes with rust or mineral deposits; constant dampness around faucets or toilets; and finally toilets that keep running after being flushed. Use automatic or smart water shut off valve or water leak detection systems to alert you when water is present.
4. Old or malfunctioning fixtures: Generally, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, old water lines on appliances, and boilers that are more than 12 years old are good candidates for replacement. Replace old faucets with new, washer-less models to save on maintenance costs, and replace any hardened or cracked hoses on washers and dishwashers to reduce the risk of a rupture. Keep in mind that when you swap the old plumbing fixtures for new, more efficient models you could save money every month on your energy and water bills in addition to avoiding costly water damage repair bills.
5. Caulking: Check and re-do any aging caulking around bathtubs, showers, toilets, and sinks that might be allowing water to seep into the surrounding structure.
6. Basement Flooding: If you live in an area prone to flooding, or on a lot with poor site drainage, consider installing a basement sump pump if you do not have one already. Additionally, you can install a battery backup sump pump or water powered sump pump as a preventative measure to take over the water evacuation duties in the event there isn’t electricity to your property.
7. Septic: If you have a septic system, any persistently marshy areas in your drainage field may signal a leak in your septic line. Although pumping a septic tank is an essential element of plumbing maintenance, there is no hard and fast rule governing how frequently you should pump the tank. It depends on several factors, like the number of people in your household, whether there is a garbage disposal, the size of your tank, its system design, and even the temperature in your region. Consult a septic expert to find out how often you should pump your septic tank. No maintaining your septic system can be an expensive water damage mitigation and replacement of the septic system.
8. Low water pressure: Test for low water pressure by running water from your tub faucet and then opening the kitchen faucet. If the pressure decreases when you open the second faucet, you should get a plumber to analyze the problem. Low water pressure is often caused by leaks or sediment build-up in pipes from calcification or other minerals.
9. Drains: Clogged drainpipes can often be avoided by regularly cleaning your drains with a drain cleaner or fishing a snake through it. There can be connection issues between plumbing connections that need to be checked for leaks and mineral build-up. Often, the connection between the sink, dishwasher, and garbage disposal can get clogged and dislodged causing water damage. Also, look for bubbles escaping up from a drain while water is trying to go down, as this could indicate a drain vent problem.
10. Frozen pipes: If you live in an area that experiences cold winters, like Utah, you should install and maintain insulation around your cold water supply lines. You should try to protect pipes that run along outside walls or that are exposed to wind or cold temperatures.
These are maintenance items you can perform yourself or hire a professional to handle them. Either way, these are worthwhile things to invest your time or money into for the preservation of your property. By taking preventative measures, you greatly reduce the risk that you encounter costly surprises down the road.