Don't Attempt These Plumbing Projects Unless You're A Professional

A reliable and efficient plumbing system is one of the marvels of the modern world. Without an ever-ready water supply for drinking, bathing, cleaning, and flushing, the harmony of any household would soon go to hell in a handcart. That's why there are specific plumbing projects you shouldn't go anywhere near unless you're a professional, either because they require a particular skill set or license, or because they pose clear health and safety dangers.

Admittedly, some plumbing jobs pose little problem for anyone with a basic understanding of the watery arts. Fixing a dripping tap, unblocking a drain, installing a shower head, repairing a running toilet, or unclogging a slightly blocked toilet are jobs we can all master with a little practice and help from YouTube videos. If the job involves sewage, electricity, or gas, it's best to call on the experts. Here are the sort of problems we'd always recommend leaving to the pros.

If you smell sewage, ask for help

There's nothing like the unsettling smell of sewage in the home to trigger the sort of panic that can go from mild to moderate to manic in the space of one hot minute. On such occasions, don't be afraid to call for help because a bad situation could soon become worse. When that smell of rotten eggs infiltrates your nostrils like an unwelcome guest you can bet your bottom dollar it's related to your plumbing. Sewer gases are no laughing matter and can be extremely detrimental to your health. In the worst-case scenario, they can cause a fire or an explosion. In such instances, it's always best to call a professional to locate and fix the problem.

The smell of sewage is usually caused by a blocked or overflowing drain. The problem could be with the pipes running directly to your home or it could be that the main sewer line is clogged by grease, baby wipes, or diapers. The pipes may have been damaged through simple wear and tear, flooding, or damage caused by tree roots. A plumber will also check the water traps beneath your sinks and floor drains. If there is no protective barrier of water in the traps, odors, and gasses can travel back up the pipe and infiltrate your home. A plumber will also check your roof vent pipes to ensure they're free of bird nests and leaves.

Colored water is a red flag

When you turn on the tap for a refreshing glass of water it can be more than a little distressing to see something discolored and murky spewing forth. When this happens, take a deep breath, and turn the tap off and on again until a slow stream runs forth. If the dirty water quickly runs clear it usually means that sediment made of naturally occurring metals and minerals has temporarily discolored your water. Once this passes it should be safe to use again. However, if it doesn't clear after a few minutes, you'll have a bigger fish to fry in the form of a damaged pipe or a polluted supply. Your first port of call should be to check with the neighbors. If their water is also discolored, it's time to contact the water authorities, If it's just your supply, call the plumber!

Any shade of orange, red, or brown water indicates your water is too high in manganese or iron, which can be caused by rusty and aging pipes. The darker the color determines the level of oxidation which has taken place. Pink water may be a shock to the system but it actually means your supply has a high level of potassium permanganate. This chemical is used by water plants to kill bacteria. If your water is green it's a sign of algae in the supply, and if it's black you either have mold or worse, raw sewage in your pipes.

An extremely clogged and overflowing toilet

There's nothing that can ruin your day quite like a blocked or overflowing toilet. If you're lucky, you can take matters into your own hands and fix a clogged toilet with a plunger and a bit of tenacity. If the blockage is mild, a firm bout of plunging will usually have enough air pressure to dislodge it. Always ensure there are no gaps between the seal you create with the plunger and the toilet drain for a successful operation.

However, if after five minutes of breaking a sweat, you're still at square one, avoid the temptation to keep flushing or throw chemical cleaners at the problem and call the pros. The blockage could be caused by a foreign object such as a child's toy or electronic device that requires a plumber's toolkit to dislodge effectively and safely. If your toilet is overflowing with sewage it means you've got a bigger problem on your hands. A plumber will be able to identify if your toilet is backed up or if a blockage in the sewer drain is responsible.

A severely blocked sink drain

Although a blocked drain may not send you hurtling headlong into the same abyss of despair as a blocked toilet, it's still a migraine-sized problem. The first port of call when faced with a sink full of dirty water is to usually grab some chemical solution specifically designed for the job. With small blockages such products can usually resolve the problem in a matter of minutes, but when the accumulated sludge or gunk is carrying a little more attitude they're like water off a duck's back. The same applies to pouring baking soda and white vinegar down the sinkhole and hoping for the best.

Likewise, plunging, pumping, scraping, and dislodging the offending material with a rod is only as effective as the person doing it. If you've not had much experience in the art of unblocking a drain, it may be time to call in an expert. A qualified plumber will have the tools needed for the job and the expertise to reach the parts of your plumbing system few mortals have ever seen. They can take your pipes apart and thoroughly clean them of all blockages. This not only affords you peace of mind, but prevents a similar problem recurring days, weeks, or months down the line.

Installing a new toilet

In an age of DIY YouTube tutorials that promise to teach you how to become a chess master like Bobby Fischer or play the violin like Niccolo Paganini, installing a new toilet should be a walk in the park. Yet like most things in life, unless your competence matches your confidence, it's a job best left to the pros. It's always tempting to save some money and have a shot at some home improvement jobs yourself, but replacing a toilet is probably not the best place to start. For example, unless you know how to use spacers, and attach the toilet to the drain hole properly, you could be storing up a host of plumbing emergencies for the immediate future.

Leaks, floods, poor flushing, and a wonky toilet are no joke but can all be avoided with proper and professional installation. Hiring a professional plumber could work out cheaper in the long run because it will cut down on the costly repair jobs that poor toilet installation usually entails. Toilet installation also requires the right tools for the job including plastic shims and toilet flanges. The installation may also uncover additional problems such as the discovery of leaks, mold, and pipes that are no longer compliant with building regulations. A seasoned plumber will take such obstacles in stride and factor them into a successful toilet installation.

Bathroom renovations

Renovating the bathroom can be an exciting and rewarding project. However, the dream of stepping into the new power shower, or soaking in the kingsize tub once the job is done, may quickly turn into a neverending nightmare if you decide to do it yourself. Giving the bathroom a complete makeover is not as simple as giving the walls a new coat of paint; it requires a good deal of plumbing, not to mention electrical expertise. As a small self-contained room where water and electricity come together in blessed modern matrimony to help make the trials and tribulations of existence bearable, a bathroom is a special place. It can also be a dangerous place if not fitted properly.

Your safety should always come first, and calling in fully licensed professionals will ensure that your bath and shower are installed in accordance with the most up-to-date health and safety regulations. A bathroom takes a battering daily and the pipes, fittings, taps, basin, and waste connection need to be installed correctly to soak up the punishment. Additionally, the bathroom is the one room in the house you cannot do without for long, so you need to get it done as fast as possible without cutting any corners. Unless you have seasoned skill sets in electrical and tile work as well as plumbing, bathroom renovation is a job best left to the pros.

Fixing leaky or burst pipes

A leaky or burst pipe is a common occurrence, particularly in cold climates, but it doesn't necessarily make it an easy one to fix. It may be tempting to do a simple patch-up DIY job but this could lead to problems such as warping, structural damage, mold, and discoloration further down the line. A leaky faucet may not present an insurmountable obstacle even for the most reluctant handyperson, but it's the pipes that are out of sight and out of mind which remain the real issue. When these pipes leak or burst you need to locate and repair them quickly to minimize the damage caused by flooding.

Burst pipes are usually caused by the water expanding when it freezes, the roots of a nearby tree encroaching upon them, blockages caused by bathroom products or the corrosive effects of rust. As opposed to a slow leak which takes time to reveal itself, when a pipe bursts it is capable of causing immediate and untold destruction to your home. A burst pipe is a plumbing emergency. If it happens, you need to turn off the water immediately and call a plumber. It's worth noting that a leaky pipe will often become a burst pipe if you fail to address the problem. Discolored water, stains that suddenly appear on the walls and ceilings, and low water pressure are often tell-tale signs of rusty and worn-out pipes in danger of bursting.

Boiler repairs

The boiler is the engine of any home. It works tirelessly around the clock to ensure all our heating and bathing needs are met on demand. Yet like any workhorse, it has its bad days and sometimes breaks down completely. When this happens, it may be tempting to get the hot water flowing effortlessly again by attempting a repair yourself. However, it's wise to remember what a complex piece of equipment a boiler is. Once you remove the cover of a boiler to start tinkering, you've crossed the Rubicon and better know exactly what you're doing, because if you get it wrong it can lead to serious accidents and injuries.

When someone who is unqualified attempts to repair, move or replace a boiler it can cause explosions, gas leaks, fires, and the release of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into your home. It is also illegal to carry out a boiler repair if you lack the necessary certificates. If your patch-up job goes wrong, both your home insurance and boiler warranty will be at risk. A professional plumber with the necessary gas engineer qualifications can safely identify and fix the problem.

Fixing a gas leak

A gas leak is a life-threatening emergency. If you catch a scent of that unmistakable sulfur smell in your home, immediately remove yourself and all other people and pets from the vicinity. If you can safely do so, locate the gas supply and turn it off immediately. Ensure no one uses any electrical devices when exiting the house and call a plumber who also has a license to work with gas lines. Under no circumstances should you attempt to fix the problem yourself. Only professionals have the tools and expertise to calmly and methodically locate the leak and fix it.

Gas leaks are usually accompanied by a rotten egg smell, but when the leak is minor you might not notice it. Other signs to be watchful of include hissing sounds from pipes or appliances and a marked increase in your utility bill. The carbon monoxide released in gas leaks is a silent killer but in low-concentration doses, you may not even be aware of it. House plants that look distressed or are dying, and perpetual feelings of fatigue, dizziness, and nausea accompanied by headaches and confusion could all be warning signs that you have a defective appliance or damaged fitting. If in doubt, get the professionals in and have it checked out!