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Plumbing Tricks of the Trade.


Out of all the types of home improvement jobs plumbing can be one of the most difficult. Even pros find that problems arise, projects grow and frustrations multiply. One way to manage all of this and to achieve a successful plumbing project is to allow plenty of time to do the project, sometimes it is best to set at least twice the amount of time that you think you would need. Another smart step is to learn some new tricks of the trade and we are here to help!

Reheat solder when you can’t cut a pipe:

The best way to disconnect a soldered pipe is to cut it. Sometimes you won’t be able to because you can’t get a cutting tool into the space or cutting the pipe would make it too short. The solution to this is to heat the joint and then pull it off the fitting as the solder melts. You will need to wear gloves when doing this, so you don’t burn your hands! It would also be handy to have a wet rag ready to wipe away the molten solder before it hardens. It is most likely that you would have to scour off some excess solder with sandpaper or an emery cloth before slipping on a new fitting.

Replace metal drain lines with plastic.

Even though metal drain lines under sinks look a lot more reliable than plastic, plastic is better in almost every way. This is because it is cheaper, easier to install and also easier to adjust or tighten if a leak develops. Plastic also won’t corrode like metal does. The smartest move is to replace the entire assembly with plastic.

Loosen stuck pipes with heat.

Heat is the best thing when a threaded connection won’t budge, especially on ancient connections that are sealed with pipe dope that has hardened over time. Getting the metal hot enough can take a couple of minutes so you will need to patient. This method is for water and waste pipes only, never use it for gas or fuel lines.

Piggyback stubborn shutoffs.

The shutoff valves under sinks and toilets have a rotten reliability record and sometimes they won’t close completely or at all. There is an alternative way to replacing the shut off. Most home centers will carry a “piggyback” shutoff valve that can connect to existing shut offs. All you need to do is disconnect the supply line and install the new valve and adding a new supply line is a good idea too. If the old shutoff closes most of the way you won’t even have to turn off the main water valve, all you would need to do is set a container under the valve to catch the trickle.

Fix a clog.

Before you run a drain snake into a clogged pipe or disassemble the trap you can try and yank out a clog with a flexible-shaft pick-up tool or a zip-it. A wet/dry vacuum will also suck out the clog.

Don’t over

tighten supply lines.

Overtightening supply lines is riskier than under tightening. A loose connect that leaks is easier to tightens whereas overtightening can wreak rubber seals and crack the threaded nuts. Make the connections at both ends of the supply line finger tight then give them another one-eighth to one quarter turn with pilers. If they still leak after this snug them up a bit more.

Don’t reuse supply lines.

It’s easy to think that you can save a bit of money by reusing the old supply lines, but plastic degrades over time and even a small leak can lead up to catastrophic water damage. Buy new lines that are encased in stainless steel, these are less likely to burst. Even if you have braided lines already that are over 5 years old, you will need to replace them.

Using thread tape.

The thicker tape Is what works best, this is often pink for water and yellow for gas, it is easier to handle and tears neatly. You can never use tape on compression of other connections, only for pipe threads. Most pro plumbers wrap tape around a pipe three times, but there is no limit as long as you wrap it clockwise around the threads. If you don’t do this then the tape will unwrap.

Cut stubborn parts.

The best solution is to cut the stubborn part off. You can either slice it off or cut kerfs in the part so you can break it off, a hacksaw blade works best.

Choose caulk, not putty.

Putty damages some types of plastics and stains surfaces such as natural stone. It also tends to dry out, crack and allow leaks. Silicone caulk is a safer, longer lasting sealant in most areas.

Dope everything.

Pipe dope is formulated to seal threads, it is great for almost any connection even if the threads don’t form the seal. You can use it on compression fittings, ground fittings and rubber seals. It allows connections to slide together correctly because it is slippery. If you use a type that doesn’t harden then disassembly and repair will be easier years later. Always check the label because some types of dope can harm plastic parts.

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