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What Every Homeowner Should Know About Their Plumbing

what to know about your home's plumbing

From the first morning shower to the last glass of water at night, we rely on our plumbing for daily convenience and hygiene. Yet, most only think about their plumbing system when something goes awry. To know the basics of your plumbing system and how it works is to save yourself money and hassle down the road.

So, this article will outline the essentials every homeowner should know about their plumbing, including how to spot common problems, practical tips, routine maintenance, and knowing when to call in the experts.

Plumbing System Overview

Your home’s plumbing system is a vital network designed to bring clean water in and take wastewater out. When you take a few minutes to understand the key components, you can identify and address issues more effectively.

Main Components

  • Pipes: These carry water to and from various fixtures. Pipes can be made of different materials like copper, PVC, or PEX, each with unique benefits.
  • Fixtures: Sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs are where water is used and disposed of.
  • Valves: These control water flow through your system. Key valves include the main shut-off valve and individual fixture shut-off valves.
  • Water Heater: This device heats water for your home. Knowing its location and basic operation can help you manage hot water issues.
  • Drainage System: Last but not least, the network of pipes that removes wastewater from your home and directs it to the sewer or septic system. It includes traps and vents that prevent sewer gases from entering your home.

Coming to know your plumbing system is crucial for several reasons! In emergencies, knowing the location of your shut-off valves can prevent significant water damage if a leak or burst pipe occurs.

Also, a solid understanding of your system allows you to use water more efficiently, which can help lower your utility bills.

Examples of main plumbing components to know about.

Common Plumbing Pitfalls and Troubleshooting Tips

Plumbing problems are an inevitable part of homeownership. Knowing how to identify and address common issues can save you time and money.

Leaky Faucets

Firstly, a dripping faucet can waste a significant amount of water and increase your water bill. The most common cause is a worn-out washer or O-ring, which can be easily replaced.

To fix this, turn off the water supply to the faucet, disassemble it, replace the damaged part, and reassemble. If the problem persists, the valve seat may need to be repaired or replaced.

Clogged Drains

Slow or clogged drains are frequent issues in kitchens and bathrooms, often caused by hair, soap scum, and food particles.

Start by using a plunger to clear minor clogs. For tougher blockages, a drain snake can be effective.

Additionally, a homemade solution of baking soda and vinegar can help break down the clog. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by half a cup of vinegar. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then flush with hot water.

Low Water Pressure

Experiencing a weak stream of water from your faucets or showerheads can be frustrating. This issue is often due to a build-up of mineral deposits in the aerators.

Unscrew the aerator, soak it in vinegar to dissolve the deposits, then rinse and reattach. If the problem affects multiple fixtures, it could indicate a more significant issue like a leak or a problem with the main water line. In such cases, you may need to consult a professional plumber.

Running Toilets

Also, a toilet that runs continuously can waste a lot of water. The most common cause is a faulty flapper valve, which can become worn or misaligned.

To fix it, turn off the water supply to the toilet, remove the old flapper, and replace it with a new one. Check the chain to ensure it’s not too long or tangled, which can also cause the toilet to run. If the issue persists, you might need to adjust the float or replace the fill valve.

Water Heater Issues

Finally, if your water heater is not producing enough hot water or is making strange noises, it could be due to sediment build-up in the tank.

To resolve this, flush the tank by attaching a hose to the drain valve and letting the water run out until it’s clear. This helps remove the sediment and improve efficiency. If problems persist, the heating element may need to be replaced. Always refer to your water heater’s manual for specific maintenance instructions and safety precautions.

Keeping up with plumbing maintenance gets easier when you know the basics about how it works.

Other Recommended Maintenance

Keeping your plumbing system in top shape requires regular attention. Here are some essential maintenance tasks to avoid unexpected plumbing issues.

  • Inspect for Leaks: Periodically check under sinks, around toilets, and in basements for any signs of leaks. Even small drips can lead to significant water damage and mold growth over time.
  • Clean Drains: To avoid clogs, regularly clean your drains using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by half a cup of vinegar. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then flush with hot water.
  • Check Water Pressure: Monitor your home’s water pressure to ensure it stays within a safe range (40-60 psi). High water pressure can strain your pipes and fixtures, leading to leaks and bursts.
  • Water Heater Maintenance: Flush your water heater annually to remove sediment that can build up and reduce efficiency. Attach a hose to the drain valve, direct the water to a safe location, and let it run until it’s clear. Check the temperature setting on your water heater and keep it at 120°F to prevent scalding and save energy.
  • Inspect and Maintain Outdoor Plumbing: Don’t forget about your outdoor faucets and irrigation systems. In colder months, disconnect hoses and insulate outdoor faucets to prevent freezing.
  • Test Your Sump Pump: If your home has a sump pump, test it regularly to ensure it’s working correctly. Pour a bucket of water into the sump pit and make sure the pump activates and removes the water efficiently.

When to Call a Professional

It’s important to know when a plumbing issue requires an expert’s attention. For instance, if a leak keeps coming back despite your efforts, it’s time to call a plumber. This can indicate a more serious issue, such as deteriorating pipes or a problem with the main water line.

Also, frequent clogs, unpleasant odors, and water backing up into your home are signs of sewer line issues. If your water heater isn’t producing hot water, makes strange noises, or leaks, a professional should inspect it. Handling water heaters involves complex and potentially dangerous components.

When planning significant plumbing upgrades like a new water heater or repiping your home, professionals know how to get the job done correctly and safely. Improper installations can lead to future issues and void warranties.

Finally, mold or water damage indicates hidden leaks. A professional should always address mold growth and leaks, preventing further damage and health risks.


In summary, when you know your plumbing system, you have the power to spot and address common issues and even save money. Use this guide as a reference to manage your plumbing system effectively!

A well-maintained plumbing system not only saves money but also contributes to a comfortable, hassle-free home. For complex issues or major repairs, call a professional to avoid significant damage and ensure efficiency. To schedule an inspection of your home’s plumbing system, call Waypoint Inspections in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Orlando, Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and surrounding areas.