Hi everyone – welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”. As I’m sure you’ve all seen, there have been a ton of “SOLD” signs in the city recently. It doesn’t seem to matter where we go, houses are being sold everywhere!
I thought it would be a good idea this week to go through a list of things you must know as a new (or existing) homeowner about your plumbing system. Knowing these things will lessen the chances of something going very wrong with your new (or existing 😉) home in the future!
1. Where is my main shut off valve?
This is the most important thing about the plumbing system that you should know. If a pipe bursts, or you need to do some other set of repairs, you absolutely need to know how to turn off the water. The main shut off valve is usually located in the basement, near the front of the house. It may be inside the wall (hopefully just covered with an access panel), but will always be right next to you water meter – the device the City uses to read how much water you are using!
When you’ve found the valve, make sure that it’s working. Turn the valve all the way off (clockwise) and open all of the faucets in the house. If you have a sink in the basement (or if not, the lowest level you do have a sink), the water should stop running completely after a maximum of 5 minutes. If there is still a stream of water, it means you either haven’t fully shut the water, or the valve itself just isn’t working! If this is the case, you should likely have it replaced.
2. What about the other valves?
Secondly important, is to know that the rest of the valves in your house are working properly. By code, you should have a shut off valve for all sinks, toilets, dishwashers, laundry machines, refrigerators, etc. The only thing in the house that DOESN’T need valves is the shower or bathtub.
It is important that these individual valves are also working properly. Think of it this way – you’ve sprung a leak from your kitchen faucet that is leaking down into the cabinet below and therefore onto your nice hardwood flooring. Instead of turning the water off to the whole house, you’ll need to be able to shut the water off to just that fixture. You don’t want to live without water for a day or two before the plumber is able to get to your house!
Also, it is very important to know where the shut off valve for the outdoor hose bib is located (and that it’s working!). Every winter we get calls from people who haven’t shut off the water to the hose and it has subsequently frozen, burst, and caused a flood. We would like to avoid this simply by turning off the water in the winter!
3. Are my drains in good condition?
I’m sure that many of you have experienced slow or blocked drains. 99% of the time it’s the same story – “my drains were working fine, then I noticed they slowed down a little bit, then they stopped draining completely and I had to call you!”. If possible, it’s best to have someone come to clear the drains BEFORE they block completely. For us to clear a slow drain is about 10 times easier than clearing a drain that has blocked completely. Something that can be taken care of in an hour often runs 2, 3, or 4 if there is a really troublesome blockage!
4. Is my sump pump working?
Lastly, we need to make sure our sump pumps are working properly. I know I’ve touched on this many times before, but a properly working sump pump will save you thousands (or tens of thousands!) if your basement floods during a rainstorm/snow melt. To test it, simply lift the float switch on the sump pump and watch the water flow away. Even better, run a hose into the pit and turn it on; this will simulate a more natural filling of the pit to make sure the float switch isn’t catching on anything and causing it to work improperly.
That’s all for this week! I’m sorry to be a nag 😉, but these things are very important to avoid potential disaster. Take it from me – I see disasters every week and you don’t want to fall into that statistic!