7 Common Plumbing Mistakes to Avoid
Some plumbing mistakes cause minor disturbances. Others are catastrophic, sending ripples through the universe or at least through your drainage system and bank account. To make you feel a little less alone and to help you avoid some of the most frequent mistakes people make when trying to repair their plumbing systems, we’ve compiled this little list of common fails.
Mistake #1: When You Take Something Apart and Forget How to Put It Back Together
Most of us have done it: We set out to fix a small problem and create a calamity. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common plumbing problems to afflict DIYers.
- The Problem: Maybe you thought you could replace that rusted pipe on your own, or perhaps you thought you could fiddle with that fixture without having to call in the professionals. Then, at the last minute, you forget what piece goes where and which end is which.
- The Solution: If you’re stuck in a bind, there are really only two options. 1) Fidget around until everything looks right, then cross your fingers and hope nothing explodes. 2) Call MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning professionals to repair your repair. And don’t worry, we won’t judge; we’ve seen a thousand and one fixes go wrong.
Mistake #2: Violating the Plumbing Code
Although it sounds like a bad joke, the plumbing code is, in fact, a very real thing, and violating it constitutes the greatest sin in the plumbing mistakes universe. To be more specific, the plumbing code is a massive book of rules and regulations that rivals the tax code in all of its monstrous complexity.
- The Problem: When you install that new toilet or water heater, you have to ensure that all your work meets a set of very specific criteria laid out in this monumental list of dos and don’ts. If it doesn’t, you could be in for a rude surprise—anything from a faulty pipe to a nasty note and a fine from the building inspector.
- The Solution: Get your hands on a copy of the Universal Plumbing Code or the International Plumbing Code and start studying. If that doesn’t sound appealing, ring up the experts at MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning to install that new drainage system or do that handy toilet repair job for you. As licensed professionals, we’re fully knowledgeable in the ways of the code.
To help you get your feet wet when it comes to plumbing regulations, we’ve listed a number of the most common ways that people violate the plumbing code and how you can avoid the same plumbing mistakes.
Mistake #3: When You Don’t Leave Enough Leg Room Around Your Toilet
Mistake number two is no joke, either. If you fail to leave adequate space around your fixtures when you’re remodeling your bathroom or installing a new toilet, you’ll regret it later.
- The Problem: Leg cramps or severe claustrophobia can result from insufficient space around toilets and basins in your bathroom. Tight space can also make it harder for you or your plumber to access the area and unclog a toilet.
- The Solution: Essentially, the code says you must create enough space around the toilet and basins so that larger people can do their business without suffering undue discomfort. That means you must place toilets at least 18 inches away from the front wall and at least 15 inches away from the wall on the side.
While the regulations aren’t enough to turn your bathroom into a luxury spa, they are enough to provide basic comfort to nearly anyone, regardless of height, weight, or propensity to get leisurely while answering the call of nature.
Mistake #4: When Your Slope Slopes Too Much (Or Not Enough)
Did you know the pipe that carries waste away from your toilet must have a very specific slope or incline? Well, it does, and it’s best not to forget it.
- The Problem: When moving waste-bearing water away from the toilet, a drainage pipe has to perform a delicate balancing act. If the slope is too great, then the water will move too fast, leaving those pesky solids behind. That’s the surest way to come down with a case of clogged drains. On the other hand, if the slope is too slight, then the water will be unable to scrub the pipe walls clean.
- The Solution: So, what is the magic number? While the Uniform Plumbing Code permits an incline of as little as 1/16 inch per foot, the sweet spot for any sized pipe is 1/4 inch per foot, according to at least one building inspector.
Perhaps that’s more than you ever wanted to know about the inner workings of your plumbing system, but now you can impress the trusty plumber from MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning when he pays you a visit.
Mistake #5: When You Forget to Vent Your Traps
This kind of trap doesn’t lock you in; it locks the bad stuff out. By bad staff, we mean anything from rats and mice to sewage and methane gas. The important thing to remember is that the trap must be properly ventilated.
- Problem: Without proper ventilation, water can drain out, leaving your trap as dry as the Mojave Desert in summer and as useless as a plumber without a license (this might be a good time to mention that all of our plumbers at MET Plumbing are fully licensed).
- The Solution: Make sure your trap is sufficiently ventilated. Also, make sure you’re using the right trap for the job. S-traps, for example, are not right for sink drains; you should use a P-trap instead.
If you can’t make heads or tails of your vents and traps, then be sure to contact the specialists at MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning. We’ll be happy to tell you whether your pipes are up to snuff (or sniff).
Mistake #6: When You Forget to Install Clean-Outs
Even the most conscientious homeowner can’t avoid clogged drains. Fortunately, that’s why you have clean-outs. Or do you?
- The Problem: If you don’t have enough clean-outs or if you fail to put them in specific places, you make it more difficult for your favorite plumber to clear your pipes. You also risk getting one of those mean notes from one of those fussy inspectors.
- The Solution: Follow the guidelines laid out in the Plumber’s Code to ensure that your clean-outs are located in the correct places throughout your house. Of course, you’ll have to figure out which code applies to your area, as there are different sets of regulations depending on the locale.
According to the Universal Plumbing Code, you must place a clean-out at a junction between a building drain and a building sewer or on horizontal branches that are separated by at least 100 feet. See the full guide for complete specifications.
Mistake #7: When You Place the Clean Outs in Siberia
Clean-outs exist so a plumber can clear your drains of any clogs. If you put them in an impractical location—say, a tight space that no human adult could access—then you defeat the purpose.
- Problem: If your plumber has to squeeze into a ridiculously tight space, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to unclog those drains.
- The Solution: Make sure all of your clean-outs are accessible, leaving an 18-inch clearance zone in front of every access point. For a pipe that’s only 2 inches or smaller, the UPC permits a 12-in. clearance. See the full guidelines for complete spacing information.
If you don’t remember all the little particulars laid out in the plumbing code, don’t worry. We won’t test you. If you ever plan to do some DIY work, however, it’s a good resource to know about. Although the Plumbing Code can be lengthy, complex, and insanely detailed, it’s there for a purpose: to make sure that all the pipes and fixtures in your homework properly and smoothly. If anything, this little list of fails should give you a newfound respect for the professional plumbing companies that keep your pipes running smoothly and your home free of sewage, and you won’t have to suffer from any more plumbing mistakes.