Plumbing maintenance tips.

Updated

Every day, you rely on your home’s plumbing to deliver you water on demand. From flushing your toilet to watering your lawn, the plumbing in your home often goes unnoticed — that is, until a plumbing disaster strikes.

Rather than waiting until your hot water heater fails or your pipes burst, stay on top of maintenance so you can avoid major (and expensive) plumbing problems. 

The following plumbing maintenance tips will help keep your system running smoothly and will prevent further damage to your home. Use this plumbing maintenance checklist as a starting point, and reach out to a local plumber to tackle any further issues that arise. 



1. Routinely check for leaks inside (and outside) your home. 

A leak is often the first sign of a plumbing problem. Not only does a leak mean you’re wasting water, but it could mean that: 

  • The seals around your water connectors are broken.
  • Your pipes are clogged, overflowing or they’ve burst.
  • Your pipes are corroded and rusting (which can happen to copper and galvanized steel pipes).
  • Your pipe joints are deteriorating.
  • Your water pressure is too high. 
  • Tree roots are intruding and damaging your pipes.
  • Your plumbing pipes were incorrectly installed.

Identifying and addressing leaks is a crucial part of plumbing maintenance. Sometimes, there are obvious signs that you have a leak problem. For example, mold and mildew on the walls, water stains on the ceiling, musty smells and that annoying drip, drip, drip coming from the sink are all clear indicators of a leak.

But you can get ahead of a leak problem by regularly checking certain areas inside and outside your home. Some of the most common areas where homeowners notice leaks include: 

  • Yards. Look for areas where the grass is abnormally greener and longer than the rest.
  • Cabinets. Make sure the cabinets under all of your sinks stay dry. 
  • Bathtubs and showers. Check for any drips.
  • Toilets. Is the water level in the tank too high? Is the wax ring around your toilet base wearing out? These could cause leaks. Check out our toilet repair troubleshooting guide for more tips.
  • Washing machine. Are there puddles underneath? You might have a problem with the hoses, seals or water pumps.
  • Dishwasher. A leak could indicate your gasket, door latch or pump seal aren’t working properly. Or, you might have an issue with the hoses or valves.
  • Walls. Look out for bubbling, bulging and discolored walls — especially if you suspect mold.
  • Water heater. Check for puddles underneath.

When you see a leak, contact a plumber who can identify its source and make the repairs.  

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2. Invest in a water leak monitoring and shut-off system.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends investing in a water leak monitoring and shut-off system. A water leak detection system can help you avoid expensive water damage down the line by detecting big and small leaks in your pipes and shutting off your home’s water supply. 

According to Consumer Reports, the best systems on the market utilize flow sensors and remote wireless detectors to stay on top of leaks when you’re away from your home.

3. Prevent clogs before they start.

From the accumulation of debris in your sink’s P-trap to the entire sink drain backing up, clogs are a common plumbing issue. However, with preventative maintenance, you can stop clogs before they start. The following dos and don’ts of drains can help you avoid a backed-up sink or shower.

Drain dos:

  • Do use drain guards to catch large debris from being flushed down your sinks.
  • Do hire a plumber annually to clean your drains. Over time, it’s common for food particles, debris and soap scum to build up in your drains. A plumber can effectively clean your drains, preventing massive backups. 

Drain Don’ts:

  • Don’t pour grease down your drains.
  • Don’t put just anything down your garbage disposal. For example, garbage disposals are not equipped to handle fruit pits, rice, pasta or eggshells.
  • Don’t rely on harsh chemicals as a long-term solution. Instead, hire a professional to snake your drains. 
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4. Maintain your water heater.

Your hot water heater serves a valuable purpose. From baths and showers to washing your dishes, a water heater makes it easy to access hot water at the turn of a faucet knob. 

However, water heaters are also the source of many common plumbing problems. To keep yours in good condition, do the following: 

  • Examine your anode rod every 2-3 years to figure out if it needs to be replaced.
  • Drain the tank to get rid of debris and sediment.
  • Check the temperature-pressure relief (TPR) valve.
  • Lower the temperature to 120 degrees to lower your energy costs. 

If you don’t know how to complete the steps above, schedule a maintenance appointment with a hot water heater company or professional near you. Here are a few signs that suggest it’s time to perform preventive maintenance or schedule repairs for your water heater:

  • The pilot light has gone out.
  • There’s no power going to your electric water heater.
  • You run out of hot water too quickly.
  • The water takes a long time to heat up.

For more tips, read our guide on troubleshooting water heaters.

5. Prevent frozen pipes.

For homeowners who live in a cold climate, the winter months can lead to serious plumbing headaches. To prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting, do the following: 

  • Turn off sprinklers and outdoor faucets in the fall.
  • Invest in a frost-proof faucet outside of your house with the shut-off valve extending into the heated house to prevent freezing, recommends the CDC.
  • Consider adding insulation to outdoor faucets, as well as pipes in your crawl space and basement.
  • Hire a plumber to repair all leaks before cold weather hits.
  • Run a trickle of cold water from a faucet that’s served by exposed pipes. According to Consumer Reports, this can help prevent freezing.
  • If you have water supply lines in your garage, keep the doors closed.
  • Open your cabinet doors so warm air can warm your pipes. 
  • Seal and insulate your home to get rid of drafts. 

Check out our fall and winter maintenance checklists for more tips on how to protect your home during the colder months.

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6. Get your water-using appliances serviced.

Every year, inspect your water heater, dishwasher, washing machines and refrigerator ice maker hoses, recommends the III. Oftentimes, these hoses need to be replaced every five to seven years.  

For example, with washing machine lines, inspect both your hot and cold water supply lines every month. Watch out for these common signs that indicate lines might be failing, states the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS): 

  • Blisters in the hose
  • Tubing that looks worn
  • Cracking
  • A loose connection between the washing machine and the water supply line

And if you see corrosion on your water heater lines, it’s time to replace them, according to Hunker. Don’t hesitate to ask a plumber to inspect your water heater if you’re not sure if there’s corrosion.

7. Maintain your septic tank system.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends pumping your septic tank every three to five years. If you have a system with mechanical components, electrical float switches or pumps, get it inspected once a year.

You should also practice being more efficient with water usage and avoid flushing anything that’s not human waste or toilet paper down the toilet. And you should take steps to protect your drain field. For example, plant trees far away from your field, so the roots don’t grow into your system. And never drive or park on your drain field.

8. Don’t forget about your sump pump. 

Typically located in your basement or crawl space, sump pumps help protect your home from flooding and water damage. Take care of your sump pump by utilizing these maintenance tips from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors

  • Perform annual maintenance.
  • Keep it clean and free of debris.
  • Make sure the float isn’t tangled or jammed.
  • Make sure it’s working properly by pouring water into the pit.

You can hire a sump pump professional to help you stay on top of maintenance and handle any repairs. 

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9. Hire a plumber for a thorough inspection.

Hire a plumber to inspect your home’s plumbing system if you start to notice any signs of common issues. A plumber will be able to quickly and accurately diagnose the issue, as well as help you determine whether a repair or replacement is the better option.

For example, hire a plumber if:

  • You see a sudden increase in your monthly water bill. This could be caused by an unnoticed leak, which is critical to address immediately.
  • You hear banging pipes. This isn’t simply part of the charm of an older home. It’s a sign something could be wrong with your plumbing.
  • You see water stains and moisture build-up on walls and floors. This could be due to an undetected leak. 
  • You see wet soil near your home’s foundation, which might be caused by leaking pipes — an issue that can lead to permanent damage to your home’s structural integrity. 

A professional can also give you plumbing tips and preventative maintenance advice so you can avoid the need for future repairs.

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By adhering to the above plumbing maintenance tips, you can prevent costly plumbing failure and the need for further home repair. In many cases, plumbing disasters are avoidable simply by performing regular maintenance and taking care of small issues as quickly as possible.

Stay on top of maintenance by finding plumbers and other specialists in your area. Start with a search for a local plumber near you on Thumbtack, and read the customer reviews for several of them. Find at least three to five that seem right for the job, and ask each one for a cost estimate. Give them as many details about your plumbing system, the last time you completed maintenance and any issues you’re experiencing. 

And take note of how easy (or difficult) it is to get a hold of the plumbers — and how quickly they respond to your questions. Communication is key, especially if you wind up having a plumbing emergency.

A plumber can help guide you through common issues, ensuring that your plumbing continues to work the way it should for years to come. Start searching for one today.

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Sources:  CDC, Consumer Reports,  Environmental Protection Agency, Hunker, Institute for Business & Home Safety, Insurance Information Institute, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, The Spruce, U.S. Department of Energy.

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