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Lowe’s expert Q&A: Plumbing edition

Plumbing can be tough to tackle on your own, but unfortunately it’s extremely expensive to hire a professional. We spoke with a pro on what you should and shouldn’t do yourself!

Plumber working on sink

Leaky toilet, clogged drains, broken shower. One of the most expensive aspects of being a homeowner is dealing with issues involving plumbing. It’s a dirty job that seems tough to do on your own, but sometimes — depending on the issue — the problem can be solved without having to bring in the professionals. We spoke with a Lowe’s expert on what you should and shouldn’t fix yourself, and also had him provide some tips on how to tackle simple plumbing problems throughout the home.

SheKnows: What are the most common plumbing problems homeowners run into?

Plumbing expert: The most common problems are leaky faucets, clogged sinks and drains, and running toilets.

SK: What’s the easiest thing to fix when it comes to plumbing?

Plumbing expert: A clogged drain is pretty simple, so long as the clog isn’t extremely far down the pipe. For basic clogs, you can purchase a Zip-It for a few bucks along with some Drano. This should clear it up right away. For deeper clogs, you’ll need to purchase a sewer snake. Sewer snakes are longer, allowing you to push it down the pipe until you hit the obstruction. Then, turn the snake and hook the debris, which lets you break down the clog.

SK: How do you fix a running toilet?

Plumbing expert: You can replace two different parts — the flapper and the fill valve. The flapper is what allows the water to go down when you flush, and it seals the tank when it refills. The fill valve refills the toilet tank after you flush. Both parts are extremely easy to replace. You can buy a kit for $20 that includes these parts and more.

SK: If my house were to flood or get a major leak, what would be the easiest way to turn the water off?

Plumbing expert: There’s typically a shut-off valve on the side of the house. It has a ball valve handle that you can pull down.

SK: How do I maintain my sprinkler system?

Plumbing expert: Luckily, most sprinkler systems can be fixed and maintained without a plumbing background. You’ll want to check for broken sprinklers on a monthly basis, check the water pressure, make sure the valves are open and in the right position and check for leaks. You can easily find leaks by checking the sprinkler heads. For example, the first one works, the second one works and the third one doesn’t work. This means you have a leak somewhere between the second and third heads.

SK: How do you fix a leak in a sprinkler system?

Plumbing expert: Dig down in between the working sprinkler head and nonworking sprinkler head. You should be able to see the leak and figure out where it’s coming from. Once found, cut out that section of the pipe and replace with new pipe and couplers (couplers connect new pipe to old pipe).

SK: And finally, what types of issues must I call a plumber for?

Plumbing expert: If you have a main pipe issue. The main pipe is the pipe that connects your home to the city. The most common sign of a main pipe issue is when you flush the toilet and water then comes up in the bathtub. Another issue would be if you need to replace your water heater. Water heaters involve high-voltage electricity and are very hard to maneuver. The final issue would be a leak in one of the pipes under the foundation of your home. You’ll know you have this when you have water coming up from the floors.

More on home maintenance

10 Things plumbers wish you knew
6 Summer home maintenance items you shouldn’t miss
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