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Some simple plumbing jobs, such as replacing a kitchen faucet or installing a new dishwasher, might be fine as DIY projects, but most larger plumbing jobs require some degree of expertise. If you need to run a new pipe through your wall, replace a drain line, or install a new water heater, you should call in an expert. These types of jobs often require permits from state or local authorities, so you need someone who knows how to submit applications and secure permits in a way that meets current local building code requirements.
Plumbers can handle water heater repairs, and most water heater issues require a licensed plumber. In particular, if your water heater is making loud noises, smells like gas, or starts leaking, call a plumber. You should also call a plumber if hot water from your tap smells bad or if the water comes out of the tap murky or brown.
The supply pipes in your walls are designed to last a long time, so they only need replacement every 70 to 100 years, depending on the materials used. Drain lines made of cast iron last a similar length of time, while PVC drain pipes may last 25 to 40 years. Appliances and fixtures, such as toilets, water heaters, and faucets, have varying lifespans depending on the materials they’re made of and the typical usage patterns of your household.
Many plumbers offer emergency services for an extra fee. Some reasons you might need emergency plumbing services include burst pipes, water leaks inside the home, and gas leaks from a gas water heater. You might also call for an emergency plumber when faced with a clogged kitchen sink, broken water heater, or frozen pipes.
Sewer backups develop when something clogs the lines that drain water from your home. This can cause overflowing toilets or make water back up into your bathtub, dishwasher, or sink. Backed up sewer lines can flood your home with waste, creating a health hazard. Tree roots, broken pipes, grease clogs, and poor drain designs can all cause a sewer backup. If just one drain is slow, you might be able to solve the problem with a plunger or drain cleaner. More serious backups require a plumber.
Some plumbers also work on natural gas lines, although not all do. A plumber must be licensed specifically to work on natural gas lines, so check for a license and insurance before contracting the plumber for gas line repairs. Some jurisdictions only allow local gas company employees to work on specific parts of a gas line, so check on local regulations as well.
The five common types of plumbing found in homes are PEX, PVC, ABS, copper, and galvanized pipes. PEX is a flexible material used for water supply lines. PVC and ABS are found in drain, waste, and vent pipes. Copper is used in water supply lines and can be found in older and newer homes. Drain lines and water supply lines in older houses may be made of galvanized pipe, but this material isn’t used as often in modern homes because it tends to rust over time. Many plumbers replace galvanized pipes with PEX when completing upgrades or repairs.
A plumbing system is responsible for bringing running water into a home and removing waste. A home plumbing system is broken down into two subsystems, each with an important job.
One brings fresh, drinkable water into the home. This subsystem is pressurized so that once water enters the system, it can reach all the sinks and plumbing fixtures in the home that need to use it. The other subsystem removes wastewater and takes it to the septic tank or municipal sewer system so it can be disposed of or cleaned and recycled.
In some cases, a handyman may be able to handle minor plumbing jobs in a home, such as repairing a clogged or leaky pipe or changing out a component needed for a shower, toilet, or sink. For more extensive plumbing jobs, however, such as installing a fixture or completing a major pipe repair or replacement, it's better to use a licensed plumber.
In order to factor in any unexpected costs or savings that weren't reflected in the initial estimate, most plumbers don't charge until the work is complete. A reputable plumber will provide an estimate in writing that serves as a good-faith summary of the costs involved with a job, but most won't actually require payment until the final calculations are complete.
Plumbers do not typically work on Sundays, but some consider weekend hours to be part of their normal schedule. It's important to remember, if plumbing service is needed on a Sunday (or a Saturday in some cases), the bill may be higher because it's classified as emergency services. Unless the job is urgent, it may be best to wait until Monday.
If the job requires outside access to plumbing fixtures, plumbers may work outside, as long as the work done is on the homeowner's property. For example, a clog in the sewer lines that connect to the city's sewer system may require the plumber to access the line through a riser pipe on the property away from the structure of the home. Some other jobs that involve outdoor plumbing work include: