With the steps to nearly everything you can make, build, or dream just an internet search away, do-it-yourselfers are more confident than ever in what they're doing to or for their homes, including plumbing projects. Unlike most DIY projects though, dealing with your water or waste supply lines can lead to some potentially disastrous results when you don't know exactly what you're doing, or have the right tools. Below, we've outlined the top 3 plumbing projects that are best left for the professionals, as well as a few tips for those of you that decide to go ahead and tackle yourself.
1 - New Water and Electricity Connections
In everyone's home there are a few areas where both water and electricity are going to have to live together (and get along, too). This doesn't mean you should be the one to make this unlikely relationship stick, though. What am I talking about? Think of appliances that require both of these things to do their job properly, such as dishwashers, electric bidets, and water heaters. If these things are already in your home, upgrading them or swapping them out shouldn't be a plumbing disaster, or an electrical one, as all the plumbing and electrical work has already been set for you and you're just reconnecting it (of course be sure to shut off the power and water before tackling any of these). If, however, you want to add any of these yourself, or any other appliance requiring a water and electrical connection, think again.
What can happen? Consider the most common of these examples being installed by a diyer, which is a dishwasher. Although not too difficult to add to an existing setup in the same location, installing a new one with intake and discharge lines as well as running electricity to it can lead to multiple problems including a flooded floor, shorting out the dishwasher, leaks you can't see that ruin your subfloor, or even shocking yourself (let's hope it's just a shock, anyway). Also, with many of these appliances the warranty can be voided if a professional doesn't do the install.
2 - Bathroom Nightmares
Unless you're doing a simple drain cleaning or replacing a toilet (make really sure that the seal is tight), just about anything you do in your bathroom involving plumbing is going to require a plumber, at least if you want it done without major problems. That's because a plumber's expertise is needed not just for what you're adding or changing in a bathroom, but also for what you don't see.
For example, installing a new tub yourself may seem less expensive, but even if you attempt to put that new tub in and are able to do it without any noticeable damage to existing pipes and walls, some major issue can still occur when the water comes back on. More than likely it will be something you may not even notice right away which may lead to mold growth, floor and wall rot, and higher water bills from some unseen leak.
Installing nearly anything new or old in a bathroom is often best handled by the pros. They not only have the knowledge of how to best run the new plumbing or fix the old, but they also have the specialty tools and equipment needed to do the job.
3 - Sewer Lines: Need I Say More?
There are multiple reasons for hiring a professional when it comes to fixing, installing, or doing anything yourself with sewer lines. The obvious problem that can occur is the horrible, and very unpleasant-to-clean mess you'd have on your hands if you were to make a mistake of nearly any magnitude. However smelly and disgusting as that error would be to fix, it's actually nothing compared to the dangers that can occur from a sewer line mishap, such as released sewer gases. That's because the gases emanating from the sewer lines are not only unpleasant, but poisonous.
Surely you'd smell the gas, though, and figure out what you need to repair, right? Actually, the scary (and shocking) part of dealing with sewer gas is that you actually may not smell it. Sewer gases that escape after cutting into a line or leaving a seal out are not always noticeable to the nose. In fact, they are often odorless and can go unnoticed until you and/or your pets begin feeling ill. The only safe way to detect sewer gas and know for sure if there's an issue is to have a plumber do the repairs. With a gas leak detector, they can easily detect any problem early on, making sure you and your family do not end up becoming the biggest part of a plumbing disaster.
Still Want to Do It Yourself? Use These Tips
What can you safely do yourself? Things like installing a new faucet (as long as the holes all line up and plumbing is the same), replacing a toilet (don't forget a new wax seal), changing a shower head, putting in a replacement dishwasher, and nearly anything else relatively small with a preexisting plumbing setup identical to the one you're adding can be done by an average DIYer. Since all of these involve water or waste, even they can have bad outcomes if you don't follow the directions closely, as well as use a little common sense, as outlined in our tips below.
Want an uneventful DIY plumbing experience? Follow these tips:
- Always know where the main water supply shut-off is to your home (call your local water utility company and they will show you where it is).
- When working on the plumbing, shut the water off at both the fixture and the road before making any repairs or changes.
- Before starting, make sure that you have all the proper tools (to mention a few: pipe wrench, auger, pipe cutters, pipe benders) and materials (seals, pipes, connectors, tape, glue, torch) for your project. It's very difficult to stop in the midst of a plumbing repair to just go get something else, especially if it isn't in stock and has to be ordered.
- Check on your local codes before doing any large projects yourself. Some may require a licensed plumber to perform the work or may have other requirements that you'll need to consider before beginning.
- Before digging up any pipes, call 811 to verify what else may lie beneath the dirt, like power lines.
- Know when to throw in the towel and hire a plumber...which is actually before you literally throw in any towels.
So, to sum it up, when do you call a plumber to do the work? Remember these three things:
If it has power going to it, has hot water going to it, or there's no plumbing yet added for it, call a plumber. They will have all the expertise, proper tools and ability to pull the permits needed to do the job in a way that won't end in a disaster for you.
Note: When using a plumber, or any professional, be sure to verify their license and insurance status before signing a contract with them.