The Ken's Plumbing Guide to General Plumbing
A quick reference for how your plumbing system works, how to avoid plumbing problems, and what to do if you encounter an issue
No one wants to call four different numbers for each plumbing service they require. Since 1991, Ken’s Plumbing has specialized in providing full-service residential plumbing to homeowners in and around Greenville, South Carolina. We provide everything from gas line repair to toilet installation to tankless (and conventional) water heaters — and everything in-between.
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1. How Your Plumbing System Works
Your home's plumbing system is an essential part of a comfortable standard of living. If it's not working properly, you won't be able to shower, wash your hands, use the toilet, wash dishes, water the lawn, or run the washing machine. Plumbing systems are responsible for quite a bit; however, most people don't really know what their plumbing system is. They just turn the handle or press a button and expect the water to come out at the precise temperature and pressure they want.
As a homeowner, it's important to have a basic understanding of how your plumbing system works, so that you can take better care of it and prevent costly breakdowns. Keep reading to learn the 3 major categories of your home's plumbing system.
- Pipes and Fittings
The pipes and fittings are essentially the skeleton of your plumbing system. Pipes are used to transport water from the main city line or well, throughout your home, and finally to the individual places it needs to go. Fittings are the parts that connect one pipe to the next. Fittings allow the pipes to change angles and make the best use of the space inside your walls, ceilings, and floors. Most plumbing systems will have two sets of pipes and fittings; one set for cold water, and one for hot. The pipes in your plumbing system will most likely be made of copper, brass, PVC, or lead.
As your pipes carry water throughout your home, that water needs an ultimate place to go. That's where fixtures come in. Your plumbing fixtures include any appliance in your home that requires water, including your bathroom and kitchen sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and your shower or bathtub. Some of these fixtures draw water on an as-needed basis, while others draw water from the pipes at the turn of a handle or press of a button.
Without a drainage system in place, your house would quickly get flooded after a couple of showers. Each fixture has its own drain that connects to the main drain line, where excess water and any other waste that goes down the drain will eventually end up in the city sewer or your own septic system. It's important to make sure that your drains are cared for properly because if they get backed up and start overflowing, it can be both a messy and smelly problem to deal with.
That's your home's plumbing system in a nutshell. With these basics in mind, you will hopefully have a better understanding of how your plumbing works and where a potential problem could be.
2. Common Problems with Plumbing
1. Leaking Pipes: Especially common in colder weather but possible all year round, plumbing pipes generally begin leaking close to the joints. While a small leak may not seem significant, leaking can expand, and water damage can end up costing thousands to fix if not handled quickly.
2. Dripping Faucets: Dripping faucets are not only annoying, they can also increase your monthly water bill. If you have a dripping faucet, some of the causes could be a problem with the O ring, a corroded valve seat, a worn-out washer, or the washer could have been installed incorrectly in the first place.
3. Running Toilets: If your toilet is constantly running, it can waste hundreds of gallons of water per day. Toilet running is caused by eroded toilet flappers, short flapper chains, or a malfunction with the float ball and arm in the toilet tank. If you have a severe toilet running problem, you’re likely wasting a lot of money on water you’re not using. Try to get help as soon as possible to stop your toilet from running needlessly.
4. Low Water Pressure: Low water pressure in your home can be a very complicated problem. Causes can range anywhere from simply having a partially closed water meter valve, to a plumbing system that needs to be replaced. Take a look at your water meter valve and shut-off valve first, but if the problem isn’t there, it’s time to call in a professional plumber.
5. Clogged Drains: Grease, hair, dirt, mineral build up, and other waste that goes down your drain can all contribute to clogs. Clogging is never fun. It smells bad, it backs up leaving tainted water in your sinks and shower, and it’s a pain to deal with. The first thing to keep in mind with a clogged drain is to never use over-the-counter drain clearing chemicals. While these products promise a quick and easy fix, the reality is they can be extremely dangerous if breathed in and can actually damage your drain pipes. Better to call the pros and let them handle your drain clog the right way.
6. Broken Water Heater: Replacing a major home appliance is never fun or convenient, but the experience can go just a little smoother if you can start preparing for such a major purchase before things head totally south. If your water heater is over 10 years old, your hot water is coming out rusty, it’s making a lot of strange noises, or you notice a leak, it may be time to look for a new water heater.
3. How to Avoid Plumbing Problems
The plumbing in your home is a complex system of pipes, faucets, fittings, and drainage systems. Most of your plumbing is working behind the scenes, so it can be difficult to determine if there are any problems on the horizon. Fortunately, there are many things you can do (or not do) that can extend the life of your plumbing system and keep major problems from happening down the road. Click the links below to learn how to avoid problems with your plumbing.
Winterize Your Plumbing
While South Carolina isn’t considered a cold climate, it can still get very cold here and most homes aren’t built with cold weather in mind. Because of this when the temperatures do drop below freezing, the pipes in your home are likely no the most insulated against the cold. This leaves them very susceptible to freezing.
Frozen pipes are both dangerous and inconvenient. When pipes freeze, the water inside expands and can cause cracks, leaks, or breaks in the joints. If your pipes break and start leaking, it can cause some serious damage to the rest of your home. Additionally, if the water in your pipes is frozen, you won’t be able to take showers, wash dishes, run the washing machine, or any other task that requires running water.
Here are a few quick tips on preventing the pipes in your home from freezing during winter:
- Keep your house temperature at least 65 degrees or higher, even if you're leaving the house for the weekend. We have seen some people go lower, and while they have seen no damage when setting their thermostats to 60, we recommend playing on the safe side.
- Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate towards the pipe.
- Wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape. Poorly insulated homes are one of the reasons pipes burst. Insulating these walls and crawl spaces can prevent freezing.
- Close all windows near water pipes; cover or close open-air vents. Freezing temperatures combined with wind drafts can cause pipes to freeze more frequently.
- If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, shut off water supply valves to your washing machine.
If your pipes do happen to freeze, here are a couple of things you can do:
- Shut off the water supply to the affected pipes.
- Gather tools for mopping up spills.
- Turn the affected faucets to the “on” position.
- Locate the frozen area, if possible.
- Gently heat exposed pipes.
- Use space heaters or similar tools if the frozen pipe is not exposed.
- Once the water begins flowing, double-check for any damage to the pipes.
Get a Plumbing Inspection
One of the best ways to prevent plumbing problems is knowing what to look for. That’s why most manufacturers of plumbing products recommend at least one plumbing system inspection every year. A professional plumber will know what to look for, give your home a good inspection, and let you know what you need to do to keep your plumbing in the best condition possible.
If you do have a plumbing problem brewing, a professional plumber will be able to identify the problem before it gets any bigger and recommend the best course of action. Don’t hesitate to get your plumbing inspected. It could save you thousands!
4. What to Do If You Have a Plumbing Problem
If after getting your plumbing inspected you do find there is a problem with your plumbing, don’t panic! There are some things that you can handle on your own without having to pay a professional to fix. Check out the resources below to find out which plumbing projects you can do yourself vs. when you should hire a professional. We’ll also teach you how to fix some drain problems and repair leaky faucets!
Call Ken’s and Get Professional Help
If you discover that your plumbing project is too big for you to handle on your own, Ken’s professionally trained and licensed plumbers can help you out. They will analyze the problem and provide you with an estimate, so you can make the best possible decision for your home’s plumbing and your budget. You can give us a call or contact us online for help today!
Contact a professional your plumbing issues
Whether you need help with installation, repair, remodel, or something else, the experienced technicians at Ken’s Plumbing are available 24/7, 7 days a week.
Give us a call or use the form below to schedule service.
Dealing with a plumbing emergency and need help now? Call us at (864) 392-5470 and let us know right away!