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Taking care of your plumbing

How to take care of your plumbing and pipes

Plumbing problems can cause a lot of heartache for homeowners, especially in winter. Follow our tips to help you avoid blocked drains, burst pipes and leaky plumbing all year round.

As with anything else that ticks along, quietly doing its job behind the scenes, we never notice or even think about our pipes until there’s a problem. And then it’s too late. To avoid burst water pipes leading to disastrous leaks or no running water at all, it’s worth knowing the measures you can take to ensure your pipes remain healthy and running smoothly.

Under pressure

While we all crave the ultimate water pressure for showering, it can in fact be detrimental to plumbing systems. Domestic water pressure should be in the range of 50 to 75psi. Anything higher than this can cause leaks in your pipes or any appliances connected to the water supply. If you suspect that you have overly high water pressure, buy a water pressure gauge (they cost about £10), attach it to an outside tap if you have one, and it will give you a reading. If this is over 80psi, then you will need to get a plumber round to fit a pressure regulator.


Caustic caution

When drains clog, it can be tempting to reach for the chemicals and empty them down the plughole. While this may work in shifting the blockage enough to allow water to drain more quickly, it’s also causing unseen damage to your pipes. Most of these drain unblockers only remove part of the blockage, meaning the build-up occurs again, requiring more unblocker. Over time, this continued use of corrosive chemicals will eat through pipework and cause leaks.

If you do get a blockage and need it removed quickly, empty half a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar down your drain, followed by very hot (but not boiling) water. Keep flushing with the water until the drain is cleared. If this fails to clear your blockage, you’ll need to call a plumber to snake the drain.


Drain pain

To avoid your drains reclogging, keep fats and oils well away from them. If you’ve been cooking and have a lot of fat or oil left over, don’t pour it down the drain as it will solidify as it cools and block your pipes. Instead, let the oil cool slightly – but not enough to harden – and then pour it into a bottle and throw the bottle in the bin. It’s also a good idea to put a plughole screen in your sink and bath or shower as this prevents hair and food from getting into the pipes and blocking them.


Winter is coming

Freezing temperatures can play havoc with pipes and plumbing, right when you can least afford to be without heating or hot water. There are simple steps you can take to keep your plumbing in order throughout the winter:

  • Make sure to disconnect and drain hoses from outdoor taps during the winter. An overnight freeze can cause the faucet and pipe to burst.
  • If you have any exposed pipes in areas of your home that are unheated – such as the attic or garage – then wrap these in insulation tape to protect them during the winter. You can buy tape at any hardware store.
  • If you’re away for any period of time during the winter, there’s a chance your pipes and any water in them will freeze, which could lead to them bursting. To try and prevent this, you could either set your heating to not fall below 14˚C or turn your water off completely and drain the pipes before you go away.
  • If your pipes do freeze and you know where the freeze has occurred, putting a hot water bottle on the pipes will help to thaw them out.


Burst pipes

Check your home insurance to see if it includes cover for escape of water. If it does, check the wording carefully as some policies will require certain conditions to be in place if your home is left empty for more than a few days or over the winter period. Your insurance provider may also provide a Home Emergency Assistance cover that could come in handy in the event of a pipe bursting. If this isn’t provided by your home insurance provider, then you may want to consider additional cover through a dedicated policy.

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