Common Pipe Problems and How to Avoid Them

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Owning a home is incredibly rewarding, but it comes with a lot of responsibilities—including taking care of your pipes. We know pipe maintenance probably isn’t at the top of your to-do list, but ignoring your pipes can lead to a range of plumbing issues—including a flooded home. To help ensure that doesn’t happen, we researched the top threats to your pipes and put together this list of maintenance tips.

Here’s our advice on how to avoid everyday pipe problems.

6 common pipe problems and how to fix them

1. Leaky pipes

We recommend hiring a plumber to inspect your home’s plumbing every year. They’ll look for leaky pipes and corrosion, which may cause your pipes to leak. Your plumber can also evaluate whether the water lines supplying appliances—like your hot water heater and washing machine—need replacing. High water pressure is a common cause of leaky pipes, so ask your plumber to check your home’s water pressure and adjust it as necessary.

You can also install a water leak sensor in out-of-sight areas (like under sinks or near the water heater) to learn of a leak as soon as possible.

2. Obstructed pipes

Debris like hair, dirt, and small toys can obstruct your pipes and lead to clogged or slow drains. Drain cleaner may help remove some obstructions, but using it regularly could damage your pipes. Placing a drain filter in all of your home’s sinks and tubs is an easy and inexpensive way to avoid this problem. If you continue to experience clogged or slow drains, snake it with a drain auger or call your plumber.

3. Backed-up garbage disposal

A garbage disposal isn’t a trash can, but many homeowners treat it like one. To avoid the unpleasant experience of a backed-up disposal, feed garbage into it slowly, while running cold water. It’s also important to be careful about what goes in the disposal. Starchy foods, grease, and eggshells could clog your pipes and result in a backed-up disposal—so always throw these in the compost or trash can.

4. Frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are more than an inconvenience—they can burst and cause thousands of dollars in damage. Before cold weather sets in, protect your pipes against freezing by covering ones that could be exposed to freezing temperatures with insulation sleeves or insulation wrapping.

Keep cabinet doors open in extremely cold weather so warm air circulates around pipes. You’ll also want to let a faucet drip and make sure your home’s temperature doesn’t dip below 55° F. Even homeowners in mild climates need to be vigilant about preparing their pipes for cold weather, as freezes can happen anywhere.

5. Sewer backup

Sewer backup is a nightmare to deal with. Fortunately, preventative maintenance can help you avoid this problem. If you have a septic tank, get it emptied on schedule. How often you need it pumped depends on several factors, including how many people live in your home and the size of the tank. According to the EPA, most household septic tanks are pumped every three to five years.1 If your home’s main sewage pipe connects to a municipal line, have it cleaned at least every few years.

6. Threat: bursting irrigation system

The pipes inside your home aren’t the only ones that need maintenance. Lawn sprinkler systems, also known as irrigation systems, also require TLC. Once you stop using your irrigation system for the season, clear the lines of water and turn the system off. If you don’t do this, water could freeze in the piping and eventually burst—leaving you with astronomical water and repair bills. Also, if water from the pipes leaks into your home’s foundation and freezes, it can cause cracks and lead to even more problems.

How to minimize the damage of a household flood

Following our pipe maintenance tips will help reduce the risk of situations that can cause your home to flood, like an overflowing sink or a broken pipe. But we want you to be prepared if you ever face one of these issues. After all, flooding can cause serious damage to your home: it not only ruins your floors and walls, but also leads to the growth of harmful black mold.

Here are three things you can do to minimize the damage caused by a household flood:

1. Locate the main water valve

Knowing how to turn off the water to your home can mean the difference between a small clean-up job and a full-blown flood. Before a water emergency strikes, find your home’s main water valve and practice shutting it off. Store any tools you may need right next to the valve or in a nearby location.

2. Install an automated shutoff valve

For extra protection, purchase an automated shutoff valve like Leaksmart. This battery-powered valve instantly stops the water to your home when a flood sensor is activated. Installing an automated shutoff valve can be tricky, so we recommend hiring a plumber for the job.

3. Add sensors to your home security system

All of the top home security providers offer water detection and temperature alert sensors that integrate into their home security systems. If water is detected where it shouldn’t be, or the temperature in your home drops to the point where your pipes may be compromised, the security company is notified and alerts you by email or text. Adding these products to your home security system is a simple and effective way to avoid a household flood.

Alexia Chianis
Written by
Alexia Chianis
Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics.

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