It’s a fairly common occurrence in our showroom: Our phone will ring and we’ll hear a frantic or frustrated caller on the other end. We’ll generally hear something like, “I was trying to update my bathroom and…” or “I thought I could fix this but…” A lot of well-meaning homeowners around the Fox Cities take on DIY plumbing projects and renovations, only to run into hiccups and problems along the way. Sometimes the issues are minor and easily fixable, other times they’re costly mistakes. To save yourself time, frustration, and hassle, check out these common plumbing mistakes we see DIYers make.
1. Not sloping the shower floor. If you’re doing a bathroom remodel, it’s important to remember that shower stalls with tile floors need to be slanted at a precise angle to help the water drain properly. The plumbing relies on gravity, otherwise, water can pool and seep into the grout — leading to expensive repairs and health concerns like mold and mildew.
2. Not documenting how things go back together. We’ve gotten our fair share of calls from panicked homeowners around the Fox Cities who have taken something apart in their kitchen or bathroom and can’t remember how it goes back together. Always keep instruction guides and installation manuals handy and take plenty of pictures and notes along the way so you can retrace your steps.
3. Not leaving enough space. Too often homeowners get excited and start moving stuff around or buying new tubs, showers, toilets, and other fixtures for their bathroom without measuring properly. We’ve seen plenty of cupboard and linen closet doors that can’t open completely and toilets you can barely sit on because it’s so cramped next to a vanity or bathtub. Planning (and measuring) makes perfect. The last thing you want is a bathroom that isn’t functional for your family.
4. Overtightening connections. This is an incredibly common mistake. Overtightening supply tubes, pipe and fittings, and toilet bolts can lead to cracks, breaks, and leaks. It doesn’t take much to cause a water-tight seal or bolt to break. Be gentle and follow instructions.
5. Using too much liquid drain cleaner. These corrosive chemicals are often a go-to for homeowners in the case of clogged drains — and many use them too often or don’t follow instructions. This can lead to significant damage to your pipes and plumbing fixtures over time. If you’re going to use it, use sparingly and follow directions. We also recommend trying more natural and environmentally-friendly methods first.
6. Not allowing enough time to complete the project. We once met with a local homeowner who decided he wanted to tackle a major plumbing project shortly before his daughter’s graduation party, which he and his wife were hosting at their house. As usual, “life” happened and the bathroom wasn’t ready by the time the party rolled around — much to the customer’s dismay. We always say hope for the best and plan for the worst — which means don’t put yourself under tight deadlines for a remodel. It generally takes longer than you expect and there are always unforeseen things that pop up. Rush jobs generally lead to even more work, money, and disappointment later on.
7. Using the wrong connectors. When different pipes are connected together, the right kind of coupling is needed in order to make sure the pipes don’t corrode. A dielectric union is usually utilized to divide different kinds of steels and keep them from touching one another. Without knowing this, many amateur plumbers attempt to make plumbing connections using incorrect connectors.
8. Not having a permit. Some homeowners don’t realize that permits are required for certain plumbing projects, particularly large ones that involve expansions and major changes to your plumbing. Not having one can cause serious problems down the road including fines and difficulty selling your house. Requirements vary, so it’s always best to check with a professional and your city before starting a remodeling project.
9. Not putting safety first. We hear about a lot of DIY remodelers in the area not wearing the proper protective equipment or following other safety recommendations. It only takes a second for an injury to happen, especially when there are tools and chemicals involved. Take extra precautions if there are children and pets in the area. We don’t want to see our friends and neighbors get hurt, so please be sure you’re taking safety seriously, no matter what DIY task you’re tackling.
10. Doing something you don’t know how or aren’t qualified to do. Trust us when we say we’re called to fix a lot of botched DIY plumbing projects and renovations. While Google and HGTV are great, they are no substitute for years of schooling and apprenticeship programs. Plumbing is a lot more complicated than you may realize. If you don’t know how to do something or you’re unsure, call us. We can handle it for you and probably save you hundreds or even thousands in potential repairs and damage. If you’re dead set on a DIY project, at the very least we can offer advice and insight to help you do it right.
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