When faced with a problem, many people think “I can fix it myself!” Sometimes they’re even right.
There are many reasons someone might want to deal with their plumbing problems on their own. Perhaps they have a limited budget, have had a poor experience with someone else working on their home, or perhaps they simply like fixing stuff. Whatever the reason, how do you know when DIY is the right way to go? We’ll try to help you figure it out.
Before you begin any plumbing work, always make sure you know the regulations in your area, especially if you’re getting ready to sell your home or if it’s a big project. There are some states that require all plumbing be done by a licensed plumber; Massachusetts is one example. Some municipalities need you to have permits for some types of projects, but not for others. Take the time to double-check the legal stuff and you may save yourself some hefty fines!
Now that you’ve confirmed you’re legally ok to tackle your particular home plumbing project, let’s see if you still want to.
First: Do you have the skills? If you’ve never looked at the inside of a toilet, changing a flapper will probably be a no-brainer, while changing the toilet may be something to pass on. Installing a simple drip system for a home garden is definitely something most people can do, but installing copper piping is more complicated. If you don’t have the skills, call a licensed plumber.
Second: Do you have the tools? An experienced do-it-yourselfer probably has all the tools needed to install a sprinkler system or a faucet, but might need to buy specialized tools for some projects. If you need to buy expensive tools just for this one project, you might want to let your plumber do it.
Third: Do you have the time? When you’re new at a task, it can take three times as long as you expect, or even longer! Something always seems to go wrong, especially if you’re in a hurry. Valves get stuck, the kit is missing a part, the bit next to what you’re working on breaks too, you don’t have the right parts after all… the list goes on. Yes, most people can install a faucet, but if your nights and weekends are already on a tight schedule with soccer games, conference calls, and taking care of Grandmother, the time may simply not be there for a DIY project, much less any issues that pop up. Regardless of your skills, sometimes it’s simply less frustrating to have a trusted local plumber drop by for a few minutes.
Lastly: What’s the worst thing that will happen if you don’t fix it right? In the case of a faucet supply line, if you find that something didn’t work quite right, you can usually just turn off the water and try again without hurting anything. On the other hand, delays in properly installing a new toilet in a one-bathroom home with a potty-training two-year-old is a bigger problem. If the consequences of messing up a project will be major issues or a health hazard, we recommend leaving it to the professionals.
Once you’ve decided that you are ready, willing and able to do-it-yourself, get to it! Make sure you have all the tools and parts you’ll need, maybe invite a friend to help and make a day of it. But, just in case, have the name of a good local plumber handy, too.
Have a good DIY story? Let’s hear it!
Hi Marvelous, we’re sorry you feel this way, but we really aren’t trying to scare anyone – simply provide them with some considerations so they can make an informed decision about the realities of DIY plumbing projects. As we mentioned, some tasks are so easy it would be ridiculous to call a plumber – like changing a toilet flapper or changing a water filter cartridge.
But for more complicated tasks, a plumber can usually accomplish the job you’re wanting done in half the time it may take a DIY’er, especially if this is the first time they’ve performed a task. Installing a new faucet, for example, is something most people can do without a problem, but is often a 3-4 hour job for a first-timer, while a plumber (who has installed literally hundreds of faucets) can usually get it done in less than an hour. It’s your call if you have the hours to spend. Some people would rather do other things with those hours.
Additionally, there’s always the liability factor. If a plumber messes up the valve installation in your shower and you spring a leak behind the wall, it’s their dime to fix it (or have it fixed by someone else). If you mess it up, you’ve got to pay to fix it – and you’ll probably end up calling that plumber and spending a lot more than you would have in the first place.
We realize that in this era of do-it-yourself independence, it can seem silly to call someone else to perform jobs that they make look so easy on TV or the internet – and we maintain that some jobs you really can do yourself fairly easily. But please keep in mind that plumbing in and of itself really is far more complex than most believe. There are numerous plumbing regulations and codes in place, a variety of factors that can affect a single system’s performance, and anytime you’re dealing with water there is always the potential for significant damage to your home (even a small leak over time can cause big problems).
States license plumbers – just like doctors/nurses, electricians, bus drivers, food handlers, etc. – to protect public health and safety, and their 4-5 year training programs add up to thousands of hours of hands-on experience that simply can’t be matched by an afternoon of watching DIY television and YouTube videos.
I have a question for any plumbers out there. Will your toilet work without a flange ????
We wouldn’t risk it! Flanges are required by code. If you post your question over at http://plbg.com , the plumbers there can probably give you a rundown of why!
How do I remove a broken drain stopper from a shower tub.
Hi Paul – hopefully you found another resource to help you with removing the stopper, but here are a few links that may help (you may need something like the products featured in the second link):