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Home Plumbing
Much like a car, the plumbing system in your home requires regular servicing to ensure it stays in good working order.

04.03.2014 - Keeping up with plumbing maintenance will certainly save you time in the long run and can also save you money by preventing the need for large repairs, as well as improving efficiency and thus a decrease of consumption and lower bills.

All of these simple jobs can be performed by anyone and will only take a few minutes.


On and Off

Make sure you turn your main water supply and fixture valves on and off periodically, every month for example, to ensure they don’t get stuck in position.  This is especially important for the main water tap: ideally you want to avoid being in the position of not being able to turn your water supply off during an emergency when water is gushing all over your house!


Repair Leaking taps

Leaking taps are not only a nuisance; they are also the cause of many litres of wasted water over time (and thus higher water bills).   Conventional taps with washer fittings can often be fixed by simply replacing the washer.  First turn the water off at the mains then put the plug into the sink you are working on – this will ensure that components don’t go sailing off down the drain.  As you dissemble your tap, it's a good idea to lay the parts out in the order in which they came off so it is easier to put them back together again.  Take photos as you go along if you are unsure.  

Take the lid of the tap off, which is usually the bit that is marked 'H' and 'C' for hot and cold.  Inside you will see a screw which you will need to unscrew (a reminder for which way to screw and unscrew is this: righty tighty, lefty loosey)

Now you need to take the metal cap off (if there is one, sometimes the tap head is the cover) to expose what is known as the cartridge - often made of brass, it will have a hexagonal area near the top and a spindle sticking upwards.   Removing this can be quite difficult at times, especially if you live in a hard-water area, as there will probably be limescale build up.  Use an adjustable spanner to turn it, and a little brute force if necessary.  Once it is loose enough, pull the cartridge out completely and take it to a plumbers' merchant or ironmongers, complete with washer so they can see exactly which one you need - there are many different types and sizes of washer so it’s important to get the right one.

Now all you need to do is unscrew or pop off the old washer, replace it with the new one and reassemble the tap, tightening it as much as you can by hand, plus a quarter turn.  Cartridges can also be changed in this way.


Inspect Pipes Annually

At least once a year you should examine your distribution and drainage pipes for signs of leaks.  Check along the whole length of visible pipe and around all fittings and fixtures: clues include rust, corrosion and mineral deposits.  Also inspect ceilings and walls for damp patches which may also indicate water loss.  It's always better to have them fixed as soon as possible, before structural damage to your home appears. 


Air your aerator

Low water pressure, water leaks from a tap handle and irregular spraying patterns are often caused by sediment and limescale buildup blocking the small openings inside the aerator – the small screen the water passes through as it leaves the spout.

First of all, place the plug in the drain so you don't lose any parts, then dry both the spout and your hands before gently unscrewing the aerator.  If it won't come undone, wrap the jaws of your pliers with masking tape (to reduce the risk of marring the tap's finish) and carefully loosen the aerator with the pliers before finishing by hand.

As you dismantle the aerator note the order and orientation of any parts as you remove them.  Rinse each of them off with water and brush off any debris.  Use a small brush (an old toothbrush works well) dipped in vinegar to remove sediment.  For difficult to remove deposits, soak the components in white vinegar for a few minutes before scrubbing them. 

Then reassemble the aerator and screw it back on to the tap - hand tightening should be adequate, but if water leaks from around the threads, very, very carefully give it a fraction of a turn with the pliers. 

Showerheads can also be cleaned with vinegar.   To remove unsightly mineral deposits, put about one cup of vinegar in a plastic bag, secure it over the shower head and leave in place overnight.  Once you have removed the bag simply wipe off the mineral deposits with a damp cloth.


Free flowing

To help keep your pipes free from debris you should run very hot water down the drain once a week.  It is also advisable to empty all strainers on baths, showers and sinks regularly and never pour any kind of grease, cooking oil or fat down the drain: always wipe it off pots and pans with kitchen roll or similar and dispose of it in the bin before washing items as usual.


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