By Linda Cameron

You might not become a licensed plumber, but knowledge of plumbing basics is certainly useful. Why? Many of us are homeowners, or own and manage buildings for residential and commercial use. For better or worse, plumbing problems come with the territory. Even renters can still benefit from lessons in plumbing for beginners. You’d be in a better position to cope with, if not handle, a plumbing emergency when the landlord is away or the property management office is closed. Although basic plumbing boot camp training gives hands-on experience, Plumbing 101 and a few tips for beginners and aspiring plumbers is a good start. Are you ready to learn a few basics?

Plumbing Systems in Multi-Family Homes and Complexes

A multi-family structure can be a duplex or three-family home. It can also be an apartment or multi-use cooperative/condominium complex. As urban living continues to trend, builders try to cram more into limited space under municipal zoning laws. The demand for sewer and water systems multiplies. Most plumbing tips are directed towards suburban single-family homes, but can also apply to the sophisticated urban dweller. The plumbing task(s) you can or are willing to assume depend on skill level and building codes. If you own or manage a multi-level building, these articles are helpful reads:

  1. What You Need to Know About Condo Plumbing | Appraisal IQ
  2. Condo Managers: How to Avoid Common Plumbing Problems in Multi-Family Complexes

Useful Tools for The Beginning Plumber

These tools of the trade can be purchased online, or at a hardware or home improvement chain:

  • Screwdriver set
  • A set of pliers: small, medium and large
  • Adjustable wrenches: small, medium and large
  • A drain clearing or “sewer” snake for sinks, tubs and toilets
  • A plunger: useful for sinks, bathtubs and shower drains
  • Faucet or water tap aerators
  • Shower heads
  • Thread seal tape for shower head installation
  • A box of disposal sanitation gloves
  • A handyman step stool

Now that you have your tools, you’re ready to tackle some basic plumbing.

Unclogging Sink and Bathroom Drains

  1. Remove the drain covers.
  2. Place plunger over the drain opening.
  3. Pump out debris with the plunger.
  4. Place removed debris in a trash bag or other container for disposal.
  5. Run the water faucet or, if clearing a shower drain, turn on the shower.
  6. If the water runs freely, mission accomplished. Otherwise, apply the sewer snake.

Read about Unclogging Sinks and Using A Sewer Snake.

Unclogging A Toilet

Unclogging a toilet can be messy and unsightly. If waste and debris stuff the toilet bowl to the nines, calling a plumber is the best thing to do. Otherwise, you might try removing the clog. But before proceeding, read these how-to articles about unclogging:

Still game? Then don a pair of disposable gloves and grab the plunger. Also prepare to take a sewer snake into action.

Shower Head Replacement

Replacing a shower head is easy. You might need a handyman step stool to reach the shower head pipe and old shower head:

  1. Remove the old shower head with an adjustable wrench.
  2. Screw on the new shower head and hand tighten.
  3. Wrap tape around the shower head threads and press tape into the threads.

Read about replacing and installing a new shower head.

Resolving A Low Flush Toilet Problem

If the toilet tank takes too long to refill after flushing the toilet, here’s what to do in between plumber calls. No special tools needed; just several containers of cold water.

  1. Remove the lid from the toilet tank.
  2. Pour cold water into the tank up to the fill line. (Warm or hot water might damage toilet tank parts.)
  3. Flush the toilet.
  4. Place the lid over the toilet tank.

Faucet Aerator Replacement

If you notice the stream of water from your sink faucet is thinning, it’s likely the aerator and not the water pressure. Aerator replacement is easier than replacing a shower head.

  1. Loosen the aerator with a pair of small pliers or an adjustable wrench.
  2. After loosening, remove by hand.
  3. Screw a new aerator underneath the faucet opening.
  4. Tighten the aerator with a wrench.

Ready for The Next Project? 

If you can perform simple plumbing tasks, you’ll be ready for new plumbing challenges. How about installing a kitchen garbage disposal or a brand new bath shower?  DIY videos are helpful learning tools. View some of these before your next plumbing project.






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