10 Mistakes That Will Lead You to Call the Plumber


1. Treating the Garbage Disposal as a Trash Compactor:

Despite its name, not all garbage can go down the disposal – in fact, most of it shouldn’t:

  • Grease/Oil - Just because it is out of sight does not mean the garbage disposal “disposed” of it.  Usually, these can solidify and build up in your pipes causing blockage.
  • Fruit/Vegetable Peels - You might get away with it from time to time, but eventually this one will catch up with you – and leave a soupy backed up mess in your sink.
  • Egg Shells - There’s a big misconception out there that egg shells can be good for your disposal. Believe it or not, the membrane on the inside of the egg can wrap around the blades and wreak havoc.  It’s better to just trash the egg shells.
  • Coffee Grounds - These actually seem like they go down fine, but over time, the little grounds build up like sediment in the pipes, causing all sorts of trouble.
  • Pits/Seeds – (I.e. peach pits, avocado pits, cherries, etc.)  I am sure this one goes without saying, but they will basically rattle around in there and wear down the blades.
  • Rice/Pasta - Every time you turn the water on, the pasta and rice will continue to expand – even after you’ve ground it up.
  • Stringy Veggies – This can include celery, corn husks, and even some types of lettuce.  The fibrous parts can wrap around the blades.

Homeowners aren’t always the culprit here. Make sure if you’re hosting a party, your guests don’t dump everything down the sink.

2. Neglecting to Remove the Disposal Plug:

Another common mistake made with garbage disposals happens with the installation. The install is relatively straight forward and doesn’t require advanced plumbing skills, but if the unit is going to be connected to a dishwasher, a knockout plug in the disposal must be removed first. (If there’s no dishwasher, then there’s no issue – the plug creates a seal.) But if there is a dishwasher and the plug isn’t removed, then it will block the hole where the dishwasher hose connects and water will leak everywhere.

3. Placing Too Much Weight on Fixtures:

Don’t put weight on plumbing fixtures (hanging heavy racks from showerheads, using the bathtub faucet as a footrest, etc.). These are not meant to have weight on them and can break.

4. Joining Dissimilar Metals without a Proper Connector:

Connecting different types of metals in plumbing pipes (such as steel and copper) requires the proper coupling.  Without it, the metals can quickly corrode at the connection ,  which is called “dielectric corrosion.”  This kind of corrosion can build up and actually block the pipe. Connecting the two different metals requires the use of a special dielectric union, which separates the metals with a rubber washer and plastic sleeve.

5. Flushing Household Items down the Toilet:

If items become stuck in the trap, then the toilet has to be removed to retrieve them.  Plunging can actually make the problem worse by pushing the object into the waste line.  Try to keep children from flushing toys and objects down the toilet and remember to only put waste and toilet paper in.

6. Dumping Construction Materials down Drains:

Dumping building materials, such as joint compound for wall repairs, down the drain can cause it to back up because the materials can harden inside the drain and subsequently block it. Most of the time, the liquids go down the drain and the solids remain – you’re not going to be able to get that out with just drain cleaner.

7. Rough Usage of the Faucet Handle:

Pushing/pulling too hard on a faucet handle when you turn it off is not going to stop a leak or incessant drip.  Rough usage will more likely break the handle without closing the leak.

8. Stripping Threads:

Just like pushing too hard on faucet handles, over-tightening plumbing components can cause them to leak or break.  Any type of drain part, especially the common plastic and chrome materials, can have their threads stripped by too much tightening.

9. Turning on the Water Heater before It’s Ready:

I know what it’s like in winter to not be able to wait to turn on the electric water heater before it’s ready.  But just because the pipes are attached doesn’t mean it’s ready for immediate use.  If the water heater is turned on before it’s full of water, it can burn up.   This is a very costly mistake.  It should be given time to fill up, be rid of air bubbles by running the water, and then it can be turned on.

10. Forgetting How Things Go Back Together:

Taking apart your plumbing components on your own is relatively easy.  Putting them back together is another story.  For example there are a lot of small parts that fit together in a specific way.  With shower valves or kitchen faucets, there are clips inside that require a certain method of removal.  Some experts advise taking photos of various stages of disassembly to aid in the reassembly process.  In all reality, it’s usually best not to try to do this yourself.  . Always do your homework beforehand or consult a professional.

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