Builder Talents – Home Maintenance Checklist Series – Plumbing

You want to stop all unnecessary leaks inside and outside your home. Watching and comparing your past water bills will be the safest and easiest first step to see if there is a water leak problem. Checking everything possible about your water system, you will have a good indication for future maintenance, repair or replace options.

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Most New Orleans water is hard water as you can tell by the calcium deposits around your spigots, especially in the shower.

Your spigot consists of the handle, some washers, and a piston the handle screws into. When you turn your handle, the piston turns and opens the faucet to let the water flow.

With the spigot handles made from cheap plastic, the spigot handles are usually the first to go. New Orleans water is very powerful!

You can buy a set of handles, but first take them off to see the condition of the spigot pistons. You can use a screwdriver or pliers to turn the spigot handle to see how if the turning of the piston is fluid. Nice and fluid.

If not, they should be replaced. Not difficult to do but if you haven’t done it before, you may want to hire a plumber.

Turn on the water using the pliers to turn the spigot handle to see if there are any leaks behind the handles going behind the wall. Professionals instinctively know to look behind and down the pipes using a flashlight to see if the pipes are leaking.

When you are not using your shower there is still pressure on the spigots and pipes. The older the pipes, the more aware you should be to the potential behind-the-wall leak.

The funny thing about replacing the spigots and handles is you get a whole new shower experience. Think of it as sweet revenge for having to spend money on your bathtub.

Professionals prefer you to choose your handles to complement your bathroom motif. Plumbers may carry your basic model, which is good for rental properties.

You will want to choose the nicest set to bring out the character of your bathroom. The water will flow easier and your shower will look prettier with new handles.


There are several tricks to cleaning a shower head. But does your shower head need cleaning?

Each shower head has holes to let the water flow. If the water is not coming out in a uniform manner, your head needs cleaning.

Use a wrench to unscrew the head. Be very careful since many shower heads are made of plastic. Too much torque while unscrewing or screwing the shower head nut may make the shower head unusable. Know thy muscles!

Depending on the model, you may be able to soak it in vinegar and water for a day to get out the calcium deposits.

For the truly lazy, or the weak, or those who prefer this method, fill a large ziploc bag with water and vinegar (50/50 mixture) and use rubber bands to close the bag around the shower head on the pipe just above the shower head. Yes, it looks funny, but it works most of the time.

If you still have problems after the plastic bag is off the shower head, the problem may be on the other side of the shower head. Taking the shower head off should be your next step.

Consider taking off your plain shower head to replace it with a rain style shower head. To feel like you are getting more water from today’s water conscious shower heads, install one with a dual head combo where one is stationary like the one you have plus you get the flexibility of a removable hand shower head to get all of your nooks and crannies.


Kitchen Drain
Drains stop up in stages. First, your kitchen drain may have too much food accumulation in the trap. Where your sink drain goes straight down is the bottom of the S trap where food, grease and other items have clogged your drain. The portion that is the lowest is most likely where the problem is located.

Unscrew the pipe slip connection with a towel, if it wasn’t put on too tight, or a monkey wrench, if it was put on tight. Be careful now to use a screwdriver and hammer, or other fun tools, because you can knock the pipe off at another connection to create a whole new set of problems. Your Saturday helping-around-the-house has turned into an all weekend affair.

Patience and caution are always your best bet. Using our list of plumbers is your second.

Bathroom Drain

Always a favorite because you get stressed after running hot water that didn’t help the problem. Again, you have an S Trap under the sink that needs to be cleaned.

However, you should try pulling out the drain stopper to see if it is the culprit. Between shaving and combing hair over the sink, many times pulling the hair from around the stopper will clear your drain.

Be careful working the stopper from under the sink. If you bend some of the parts you will be making more trips to the plumbing store than usual. You do have better things to do with your time, don’t you?

A few simple home remedy options:
–Vinegar with baking soda
–1/2 cup salt with boiling water


While working under any cabinet, yours or others, note the condition of the pipes. The older the pipes, the more likely you may need a plumber.

Know where your limits are when tackling a pipe changing project. Cutting pipe will cause sparks that can create a fire hazard.

Kitchen Pipes

Replacing cast iron, brass or galvanized pipes with plastic would be your best choice for the water New Orleans provides its residents. Plastic pipes are more difficult to strip than metal, brass or copper, but don’t push your luck.

If you are replacing some pipes, you want to check your kitchen faucet. If it is old, you may want to replace it while you are changing any pipes. An indication is when you see leaking around the underside of the faucets or the outside of the faucet is worn.

You can rebuild a faucet with washers to make it like new. But if the water has corroded your faucet you should replace it with a new one.

If there are little flies, appropriately called Sewer Flies, you have a leak or bigger plumbing problem. Only changing your pipes to stop any leaking, cleaning any standing water that leaked, and cleaning any wood that got wet will get rid of them.

Now start chasing and killing the Sewer Flies, usually after the plumber leaves. You can take a few swats while he is working on your plumbing. At the flies, not the plumber.

For the kitchen faucets that have a sprayer, check to see if you have a braided stainless steel hose. Consider replacing yours if you don’t have a braided stainless steel hose because they offer a better quality hose, have better connectors and are easy to replace.


Your bathroom faucet is liable to be worn down just like your kitchen faucet. After all, the same water runs through both.

Although you won’t have a dishwasher or garbage disposal to contend with, bathroom faucets are usually under very small cabinets. You will need smaller tools to change pipes or faucets. You will have to watch your knuckles.

Lining up the base of your bathroom faucet on the counter is where it may still leak even after you change your faucet and pipes if the base isn’t installed correctly. You can use putty around the underside of your faucet bottom to keep your faucet even on the sink.

Note the handles for the hot and cold cutoff valves to see if they are worn or corroded. If you aren’t able to cutoff the water you definitely need to replace them. Should a pipe break or another water emergency you won’t have time to run outside to turn off the water to the house.


Always make sure you have quick access to the water cutoff valve cover in your front yard. If there is any grass, weeds or dirt covering it you will waste time if there is a bad leak in your house.

If you can’t turn off the valve by hand, use a wrench. If you don’t have a wrench, buy one. Better yet, but a cutoff valve tool key and keep it handy by your front door or garage.


Some homes have two cutoff valve with one close to the house and one by the street. Make sure you can get to both of them quickly. More importantly, make sure you know how they work.

Print out a diagram. Post it by the entrances to doors facing the front of your house. In an emergency, you may not remember which way to turn.

Being in an extreme rush to turn off the water you may accidentally break the cutoff valve head. What a world of pain you would be in if that happened!


Some people’s favorite tool in the house. Toilets are known to leak around the tank seal, donut under the toilet or by the water shut off valve connections.

The tank seal leak is usually from either it being old or people not knowing they shouldn’t push so hard on the tank. The extra movement wears out the seal helping it to leak sooner than it should.

Turn off the shutoff valves, flush the toilet, then empty as much water out of the tank as you can. Entering from inside the tank you can separate the tank from the bottom of the toilet. Install the new seal then reattach the tank to the toilet.


Under the toilet you will find a round ring affectionately known as the donut. The bottom of the toilet sits into the ring for the protection of the flooring and to prevent leaks. If your donut is cracked, it will leak.

The donut has grease all over it. Proceed with care.

If you are this far into updating your toilet or repairing it, change out the donut. You have come this far, you should be able to go a little farther.


Your water line part of your cutoff valve or the line to the toilet could need some plumbing tape to stop a leak. If the valve needs to be replaced, make sure you use plumbing tape on both sides of the valve, one going from the water pipe and the other going to the toilet tank.

Make sure the leak isn’t coming from the end of the water supply tube that goes into the bottom of the tank. When there is a leak behind the water tank it may look like it is leaking from the water valve. Water is tricky to trace back to its source.


Water heaters are unpredictable. Plain and simple, get a water heater drain pan that sits under the water heater in case it does leak. If you ever heard of the “bottom falling out” of a water heater is because the amount of rust on the inside bottom of the water heater ate the metal causing it to leak.

You can change the anodes in the water heater to make it work more efficiently.

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