When it comes to plumbing, most of us feel a bit wary about messing with pipes and trying to get the job done. The worry of not doing something properly and causing a leak is a daunting thought, which pushes people to hire a professional plumber.
Hiring a professional plumber is a great way to guarantee the results you’re looking for, and you can be sure that the job will be done properly. However, there are many smaller, quick and easy jobs that you can do yourself if you fancy it!
DIY is a great way to save money and give yourself an exciting project. If you’re interested in getting stuck in with a DIY plumbing project, we’ve collated some that you can do at home yourself. To help you find the right project, see a list of what we’ll be covering below!
- Introduction to DIY Plumbing
- Turning Off the Water
- Ensuring You’ve Got the Right Tools
- Tape Measure
- Hand Saw
- Dedicate Time
- Plumbing Jobs You Can Do Yourself
- Unclogging a Drain
- Bleeding a Radiator
- More Advanced DIY Plumbing Jobs
- Installing a Washing Machine or Dishwasher
- Changing a Sink or Shower Drain
- Changing a Radiator
- Replacing Guttering
- Installing a Water Butt
- In Summary…
Introduction to DIY Plumbing
When it comes to doing the plumbing yourself, there are a few things that you’ll need to take into account before you get started to make sure everything goes to plan. These are some tips and tricks that come in useful for every plumbing project you undertake, so it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with these before you get started.
Turning Off the Water
Before starting any plumbing job, turning off the water is the most important thing to do. When we say ‘turning off the water’, this simply means turning the stopcock in your home to prevent water from coming to the house. It prevents any water within the pipes, meaning you’re not going to be caught surprised if somebody accidentally flushes a toilet.
If you’re unsure where it is, the most common place in a household is underneath the kitchen sink. It’s usually an obvious lever attached to a pipe and is often painted of coloured in red to signify the stopcock. This, however, isn’t the case for all households.
If you can’t find the stopcock in your household, it could be outside the house. Look for a box outside the house similar to the electric one and look for the word ‘water’, or ‘W’ to signify the water.
Once you’ve found the stopcock, simply turn clockwise until you feel the pressure build as you turn. This pressure signifies the prevention of water from entering your home, ensuring the water doesn’t flow through the pipes whilst you’re at work.
Ensuring You’ve Got the Right Tools
When it comes to plumbing, things have got to be watertight (literally!). You need the right tools for the job to ensure there’s no risk of any leakages or gaps in your plumbing once you turn the water back on, which is what makes the tools so important. Fortunately, we’ve got a list of the common tools you’ll need for plumbing listed below!
Please note that each plumbing job is different and you may well need a more specific tool for the job. The list below is designed to give you a good idea of the tools you’ll need, but do be careful and make sure you’ve got the right tools for the job!
When you think of a plumber and the tools they use, you’ll most likely think of someone using a wrench. This is the most common and widely tool known, and it’s important to make sure you’ve got one before getting started.
A wrench can grab onto a pipe and give you a handle to allow you to turn and loosen or tighten a connection for a pipe with better precision. A wrench also allows you to grab a pipe with the wrench and leave it temporarily, ensuring a temporary connection doesn’t come undone whilst you’re getting other tools or equipment ready.
When it comes to quick plumbing jobs, unclogging a drain is the most common one. Although we’ll cover this job later in this article, a plunger allows you to make this happen.
A plunger provides an airtight seal around a drain and allows you to push and pull the plunger up and down, creating a vacuum directly underneath the plunger. This vacuum helps to pull the contents of the pipe and the drain up and then quickly pushing them down, loosening the blockage.
Screwdrivers help to tighten or loosen connections to ensure a watertight seal. Screwdrivers are essential for almost any DIY job, plumbing related or not, which makes them a great addition to any toolkit.
A ratcheting screwdriver set is a very popular choice amongst households. This allows you to get the many different types of screwdriver, allowing you to swap out the head for the correct connection to the screw in question.
A ratcheting screwdriver allows you to turn the handle one way, but not the other. This means you can tighten or loosen a screw by turning it one way, and turning the handle the opposite way will not undo the work you’ve just done. This means you won’t need to continually remove the screwdriver and re-insert it into the screw.
Another crucial tool for any DIY job. A tape measure allows you to effectively measure and calculate the length of pipe you’ll need, so when it comes to cutting, you’ll not find yourself cut short or with a pipe that’s too long.
Tape measures are relatively inexpensive and can be easily found from most stores. Getting a good, reliable tape measure is important too. They may cost a little more money, but they’ll last for many years and continue to serve you well!
When it comes to cutting pipes, you’ll need something that’s going to provide you with a good, flat cut. A hand saw, if used properly, can provide you with this reliability for the job that you’re doing.
When it comes to cutting pipes, there are pipe cutters out there that are available, however, they serve a direct purpose only. A hand saw is versatile and can be used for many other DIY jobs, making them much more useful for other projects you’ll be taking on.
With removable blades affordable at a cheap price, they’re very cheap to maintain too!
A torch isn’t something most people consider but comes in extremely useful when peering into dark corners and small gaps. It helps to give the best lighting for the job in hand and ensure that nothing is missed due to poor lighting.
You may also wish to invest in a head torch. This is a great way to guarantee optimal lighting, without removing a hand from the job.
When you’re undertaking a DIY plumbing job, you’ll need to turn the water off. This requirement means you need to plan the time you’re going to be working on your plumbing to prevent any difficulties to the rest of the household.
For example, 8 am on a Monday is not the best time to turn the water off as you’ll have a household full of people asking why the shower isn’t working, and the same reason that the evening isn’t the best time. Working on plumbing is best when either the house is empty, or when people are less likely to need water.
Plumbing Jobs You Can Do Yourself
Now that you know the tools and prerequisites you need to get started, it’s time to explore what plumbing opportunities there are for you.
Unclogging a Drain
We’ve all been there, whether it’s the kitchen sink or the shower, perhaps even the toilet. The water simply will not go down the plug, which is frustrating. The cause of a blockage is usually a result of a lot of grime, soap or other materials that have built up in the pipe and caused a thick layer which a general stream of water can’t get rid of.
There are three ways of resolving this problem:
Using a Plunger – Getting a plunger out can help to unclog that drainpipe. By placing the plunger over the top of the drain, this creates an airtight seal between the blockage and the outside air. Simply push down and pull up with the plunger to start applying pressure to the blockage, giving it a push in the right direction. This works as it creates a seal and traps the air and water between the plunger and the blockage, so pushing down applies pressure to the blockage. Pulling up again creates a lower pressure between the plunger and the blockage, pulling the blockage out of its place and helping to break it up.
If this doesn’t quite work, then there is another way.
Using a Drain Unclogger – There are liquids available that are trusted and safe for your pipes, but tough on blockages. These liquids are poured into the drain and left there for a prolonged time, ensuring the liquid can get to work and start to dissolve the blockage. The liquid helps to remove the strength of the blockage and turn it into a much weaker mush, which pouring water over can wash away. This only works on blockages that don’t have water throughout the pipes however, such as a sink or shower drain. These chemicals are often not permitted for waterlogged drains such as a toilet.
Using a Long Wire Brush – Using a long wire brush, you can sometimes reach deep into the pipework and give the blockage a physical push itself. By using a wire brush, it’s often flexible enough to bend around the pipes but strong enough to push the blockage and unclog the problem.
Bleeding a Radiator
A radiator is a fantastic way of getting warmth into your home, however, it’s not the easiest thing to maintain and ensure it works. Many people are unaware of how to effectively bleed a radiator, or when to do so, despite it being an easy task to undertake and do.
A radiator has gas inside of it along with the hot water from your boiler (permitting you don’t have an electric radiator. If you do, you’ll have no reason to bleed it!). If the gas becomes too great, it can stop the radiator from properly heating up as there isn’t enough water that can get into the radiator itself. You may find there are cold spots on the radiator, or that it simply doesn’t get up to temperature or that it makes funny gurgling noises. All of these signs signal towards a radiator that needs bleeding. Fortunately, there’s an easy way around it.
To bleed a radiator… There are a few things you need to make sure of. First of all, make sure your heating is on. It sounds odd, but this means that the pressure inside your radiator will build and allow you to easily push out the unwanted air.
Once your radiator is ready, you’ll need two tools. A radiator bleed key (widely available at most hardware stores), a pair of gloves (washing up gloves are perfect for this) and a towel or cloth. There will be the odd drip so it’s important to catch these and prevent drips to your floor.
Before you get started, turn the heating off. The radiator will continue to hold its pressure long enough for you to get to work, without risking the heating continuing to push hot water into the radiator whilst you’re bleeding it. The risk of hot water shooting out of the radiator is far too dangerous to risk, so make sure the heating is turned off.
Once you’ve got an old towel or cloth on the floor, you can begin bleeding the radiator. Simply insert the radiator bleed key and insert it into the bleed valve, found at the top of the radiator on the side. It’s often a round hole with a square inside, being an unusual shape so that only a bleed key can access it. Some modern radiators allow you to use a flat-headed screwdriver for this task, so make sure you’ve got the right tool for the job.
Slowly and very carefully turn the bleed valve anti-clockwise. It should only need a quarter turn or so to start making a hissing sound, which means the unwanted air inside the radiator is starting to come out. This is exactly where you want it to be and you’ll simply need to hold it here until the hissing stops. As it slows down, be ready with a small cloth for any small drips that will start to come out of the bleed valve. Once you see these, you can close the bleed valve up clockwise and stop the dripping. You’ve just successfully completed the bleeding!
Once you’ve done one radiator, it’s as easy as doing it for them all. Simply follow the same process around the house for all radiators and they’ll be working like new!
You may need to adjust the pressure of water of your boiler. With less air in the system, you may need to top up the boiler with some water to ensure there is sufficient pressure for the water to make its way around the house. Check the needle on the boiler and make sure the pressure is where it should be. If not, you’ll need to fill it up with the central filling loop located on the boiler. This is essentially a tap connected to your boiler, allowing you to fill the boiler safely.
More Advanced DIY Plumbing Jobs
Once you’ve had some exposure to DIY plumbing, you may feel confident and ready to take on some more challenging jobs. We’ve included a wide range of different DIY tasks that need a bit of intuition but aren’t impossible to do. To ensure we get a good range in, we’ve not included the steps on how to do these tasks, but that’s part of the fun!
Each of the different jobs below are things that have many guides and walk-through videos online for. We recommend taking a look before undertaking any jobs to make sure you’re doing things properly!
Installing a Washing Machine or Dishwasher
When it comes to a new kitchen appliance, the excitement can build when you know there’s going to be less manual washing up or other tasks that the new appliance will do for you. However, there is a step that involves some plumbing to get it plumbed in to get it all up and running.
With some pipe connections required, you’ll need to have some knowledge and understanding of how the pipes connect and what needs to plug into where. The instructions for the appliance should talk through how to do this, however, it is always worth looking for a guide online that will talk through this in more detail.
Changing a Sink or Shower Drain
If you fancy a more challenging task, changing a sink can change the look and feel of a room drastically. Although the installation of the sink can be an easy part, the pipework may need to change to ensure it properly fits.
When undertaking any job like this, making sure the drain is in the right place is essential before any other work is undertaken. This means that once you install the shower basin or the new sink, the drain is where it needs to be and you can simply and easily install and connect the new appliance.
Changing a Radiator
If you’re looking to change a radiator, this is something that you can do at home. You’ll need to make sure that you’ve got the right tools and an extra pair of hands with you, as a radiator can be heavy and isn’t a job for just one person.
If you’re changing one radiator, you’ll need to make sure it connects up with your central heating system. If it’s not compatible, this could mean that the radiator won’t work properly and could cause you problems further down the line.
Guttering isn’t what usually comes to mind when you think of plumbing, but it’s pipework for water still! Guttering provides an essential part of your house’s protection against all types of weather conditions and helps to keep your house standing for many years to come.
Guttering often spans the roofline of a house, making it high to reach and dangerous without the proper equipment and tools. Make sure to keep yourself safe and ensure you always have the appropriate safety equipment before undertaking any high up tasks. If you’re not sure you have the right equipment, always call in a professional to help.
Installing a Water Butt
A great way to save some money is to install a water butt in your garden. This requires some plumbing expertise to be able to reroute your drainage pipes from your gutters so that rather than filling up the drains or hitting the floor, your gutters will go into a water butt.
This allows you to use rainwater to water the plants, which not only saves you money but is also better for the environment in the long run.
There are lots of different jobs out there that you can get involved with when it comes to plumbing. There is a lot of worry that plumbing should be left to the experts, and sometimes that’s always the best case. However, there are some smaller, more simple jobs that you have the tools and the ability to conduct.
We advise that before getting started with any DIY plumbing job that you do a little research and make sure that you’ve got the necessary understanding of what the job entails. You may find that a walk-through video may help as you’ll have a visual guide to help you through the process.
Whatever the job is that you embark on, plumbing is a great opportunity for you to get stuck in and make a difference in your home. There’s something special about a DIY project, and the results always feel that bit better once complete knowing you’ve put the time and effort in to make it happen. No matter what you embark on, we hope this article comes in useful and we wish you the best of luck!