Common Plumbing Hazards That Get Overlooked

gloved hands adjusting pipes with corrosion

A plumbing hazard isn't like leaving a ladder where you shouldn't leave it so that the neighbor's kid climbs on your roof to watch the stars. It's also not like smacking your knuckles with a hammer while trying to show off to your 15 year old son that you've got skills.

Although those are definitely memorable occurrences, they aren't the ones you want brought up at family functions on a regular basis.

Plumbing hazards can be anything from putting in a fixture incorrectly and causing further damage due to potential water damage, to not making sure a connection is made solid and not leaking into the downstairs apartment.

Let's take a look at some surprising plumbing hazards.

1. Clogged Pipes

Clogged pipes can cause water to back up and overflow, which can lead to water damage and create a breeding ground for mold and other harmful bacteria.

Clogs can occur for a variety of reasons, including the accumulation of grease (which your wife will never admit to), oil, and other foreign substances in the pipes, as well as the build-up of scale and mineral deposits.

It is important to regularly clean and maintain your plumbing system to prevent clogs from occurring.

2. Leaking Pipes

Leaking pipes can waste water, cause damage to the surrounding areas, and create a breeding ground for mold and other harmful bacteria. Leaks can occur for a variety of reasons, including corrosion, damage to the pipes, and improper installation.

It is important to regularly inspect your plumbing system for signs of leaks, such as wet spots on the walls or floors or in cabinets, and to repair any leaks as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

woman on phone with bucket near leaking pipes

3. Improperly Installed Pipes

Pipes that are improperly installed can lead to leaks, water damage, and other problems. This is often the result of a lack of knowledge or experience on the part of the person installing the pipes.

It is important to hire a professional plumber, especially if your feel in over your head, to ensure that your plumbing system is properly installed to avoid problems in the future.

4. Outdated Plumbing Systems

Older plumbing systems may not be up to code and may not be able to handle the demands of modern living. This can lead to a variety of problems, including leaks, clogs, and reduced water pressure.

If your home or business has an outdated plumbing system, it may be necessary to upgrade to a newer, more efficient system to prevent problems from occurring. Remember! Don't be cheap.

5. Improperly Maintained Plumbing Systems

Neglecting to properly maintain a plumbing system can lead to a variety of problems, including leaks, clogs, and reduced water pressure.

It is important to regularly inspect and maintain your plumbing system to ensure that it is functioning properly and to catch any issues before they become serious problems. This may involve cleaning and descaling the pipes, repairing any leaks or damage, and replacing outdated or worn-out components.

6. Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can burst and cause significant water damage to a home or business. This is a particular concern in colder climates, where the water inside the pipes can freeze and expand, causing the pipes to burst.

It is important to insulate your pipes and keep the temperature in your home or business above freezing (not just above, but fully above. like the 55-60 minimum range) to prevent this problem from occurring. Keep in mind that insulation helps but does not make pipes bulletproof.

red pipe with icicles

7. Sewer Backups

Sewer backups can cause foul odors, contaminated water, and damage to your home or business.

These backups can occur for a variety of reasons, including the accumulation of grease, oil, and other foreign substances in the pipes, tree root infiltration, and the build-up of scale and mineral deposits. It is important to regularly clean and maintain your sewer lines to prevent backups from occurring.

8. Water Pressure Issues

Water pressure issues can cause a variety of problems, including reduced water flow, noisy pipes, and damage to appliances and fixtures.

This can be the result of a variety of factors, including a faulty pressure regulator, a clogged water supply line, or a malfunctioning water meter. It is important to address any water pressure issues as soon as possible to prevent further problems from occurring.

To name a few...

Common Professional Plumbing Repairs

In all my years as a plumber, I have done hundreds of hours of drain cleaning, big drain cleaning. The kind of drain cleaning that involves the bottom floor apartments during Rush week on campus.

The kind of drain cleaning that makes you contemplate life, your career choice, and your diet.

The one thing I've always appreciated as a plumber is when a house has a proper clean out.

So what’s a clean out? It’s a cap that is accessible in your wall or close to your crawlspace hole, or in many cases just outside the house. It’s a cap built into your plumbing system for service oriented work like drain cleaning.

Cleanouts seem to be in short supply, and a lot of homes. This is definitely one of those moments where you don't want to be cheap. Just pay for the cleanout.

A cleanout enables me, as the plumber, to take a large snake, open up the cap, and do what I need to do without removing any fixtures. Without removing any P traps. Without pulling any toilets. Giving me peace of mind on those 2am drain calls

In all of my time running large sewer snakes for brown trout sewer clogs, I would say that approximately 30% of the toilets I pull have bad flanges, or rotten subfloor, or cracked and chipping concrete, to name a few.

toilet installation

So, What’s a Flange, You Might Ask?

The flange is the part of the plumbing system that your toilet mounts to that is actually connected to the sewer pipe at the floor.

Those two bolts. The one on each side of your toilet under the white caps. Those attach to your flange.

If the toilet has been leaking even a little bit because it wasn't set properly, metal flanges can be rusted, wood can be rotten, subfloor may need to be replaced, and the long and the short of it is, you just bought a few more hours’ time and a larger bill for the customer.

Ask me if a larger bill ever made a customer giggle.

Why Is This Important?

Most toilets are set up by homeowners. Now, of course, there's nothing wrong with setting a toilet if you're the homeowner. The problem comes in the fact that there are details in setting a toilet that a lot of homeowners don't realize they need to do, and YouTube didn’t cover.

The flange must be secured properly to the waste pipe in the floor, for instance. The wax ring needs to be seated correctly. The wax ring needs to be tall enough to actually engage the bottom of the toilet.

I can't tell you how many times I have pulled a toilet, and the wax ring stares at me and looks brand new because the toilet never cinched down enough to crush the ring.

Now a lot of you are already wondering about the new neoprene seals for toilets. Do they work? I have used them, and I will say its nice if you have to pull a toilet to just reset it on the same seal. I haven't had any bad experiences, but I think they are still relatively new on the market as well. Just be careful.

A lot of times, caulking needs to be used around the bottom of the toilet.

This is a funny one. I always get pushback on caulking. For whatever reason, homeowners don't like to caulk.

Why, you may ask?

I don't know. It literally takes 5 minutes of your time, and it secures the toilet to the floor.

UPC code says you have to caulk the toilet to the floor.

Does that mean that you need to run a bead all the way around the toilet? Not necessarily.

I always leave a small gap at the back. To allow water to flow out if there's a leak.

But I digress.

The point is, is that properly setting up a toilet can help avoid a lot of hazards down the line.

See, hazards are not always specific to the immediate time frame you're working in. A lot of times, a bad installation doesn't show up for a year or two.

So, What Are Some Other Hazards?

hand turning gas valve

Of course, improper use of tools is an immediate hazard. Using the wrong tool to hammer a nail (like your channel locks) or using a wrench (same channel locks) to tighten a compression nut that's supposed to be hand tight can cause damage not only to yourself but to the materials.

Now I know I said we weren't talking necessarily about ladders, but of course, leaving a ladder set up in an area where kids or other “adults” are can be a hazard as most people can't seem to keep their hands to themselves. Especially those little ones we call “family.”

Other hazards can be not capping a gas line and accidentally hitting the gas valve, and allowing gas to come in without knowing it. Always plug the line.

I personally know a plumber that has blown himself up twice because he has no sense of smell, so when the gas came on, he didn’t know.

Of course, not tightening shut offs under a sink. I've seen hand tightened shut offs hold for a few hours and then suddenly blow off because they were never tightened.

I'm sure you don't want to come back to a flood in your basement because you neglected the details of the shut offs under your sink.

Too Many People in the Workspace

The old saying “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” rings very true when moving expensive fixtures around in an area filled with other laborers who also have heavy tools and heavy equipment.

We won't even talk about the number of toilet tank lids I've seen broken due to carelessness.

Not by me, of course!

Yet other hazards could be for getting the wrong nail plates and not having the coverage you need to protect the pipe because you were being miserly while in that isle of the store, a fact that the sheet rocker is happy to remind you of as he's driving his screws into place.

Suddenly he calls you because there's a leak coming out from under your wall.

Look, this article isn't to make you feel bad about all the things that you may or may not do correctly on your job. Of course, not every job is going to be the same size or have the same action going on around it.

But you need to treat every job as though it's your own personal job site, because it is!

Details Matter, So Do Minutes

What do I mean by that?

I mean that being a good manager of your time also flies under the hazard flag.

Better managers of their time are atypically more detail oriented and more aware of what's happening around them, and where things are at.

So, if you struggle with time management, there's a good chance you will also struggle with organizational skills.

Organizational skills keep you from having to open the first aid kit. Lol

Granted, I don't think we can cover all the hazards on a job site when it comes to plumbing.

I think you get the hint, though.

How many hazards have you seen over the years in your own personal DIY space?

Trust me, I have stories galore.

The point here is problems are avoidable, but we're all adults, and we know that already. We simply need to remind ourselves of the old saying that I often taught my apprentices “fingers and toes, fingers and toes.”

Now go conquer a project that will make your spouse smile, and we'll show them and yourself that the need for the initial eye roll is unwarranted and unnecessary.