"How hard can it be?" you ask yourself when faced with a leaky tap or other seemingly minor plumbing problem. If you ask that question, it's probably time to call a local plumber
rather than take on the job yourself. There is a reason why plumbers go through a long apprenticeship and must possess a plumber's license before they can practice their trade. Plumbing is far more complex than meets the eye and innumerable DIY plumbing dangers and disasters await you if you grab a pipe wrench and tackle a plumbing job without knowing what you're doing.
What Can Go Wrong?
"What can go wrong?" is another question would-be DIY plumbers ask themselves. At best, you will spend hours doing a job a plumber can do in minutes. At worst, your efforts could make the problem worse rather than better or you could even create a health hazard. Take that leaky tap, for instance. Replacing worn washers is one of the safest DIY plumbing projects you can undertake, but there are many things that can go wrong. After you have turned off the water (did you remember?), you will then have to systematically remove several components, including the:
- Tap bonnet
- Tap spindle
- O ring
- Body washer
- Tap valve
- Stainless steel seal
Do you have all the tools necessary to remove and replace these components? What do you do if one of them is stuck? Which one of these parts needs replacing? While pondering these questions, you drive to your local hardware store
to purchase replacement parts, hoping the sales staff can help you. They will do their best to help and if everything goes well, will have the right replacement parts for you. If all does not go well, you will buy a new O ring or body washer, only to discover the problem was in the tap valve or they won't even have the parts you need in stock. The "best case scenario" is that after hours of work you will successfully fix the leak. The worst case scenario is that you will end up making an emergency call to the plumber after making the leak worse.
When it comes to fixing pipes, things start to become dangerous. There are innumerable stories about homeowners who notice water seepage from a leaking buried pipe. They grab a shovel, start digging and crack a PVC or clay pipe. The lucky ones strike an inflow pipe and get covered in clean water. The unlucky ones hit a sewerage pipe. If they do manage to find the source of the leak without creating a new one, the smart ones call a plumber straight away. When you see firsthand the complexities of doing something as "simple" as replacing a pipe, you know it is a job best handled by the pros.
Don't even consider taking on a DIY plumbing project that involves your hot water system or poses even the slightest risk of mixing water with electricity. There are far too many things that can go wrong and the slightest mistake can be fatal. The same thing is true when working with gas water heaters: there is a real risk of causing an explosion. That is why only licensed plumbers and gas fitters
can legally install or repair gas hot water systems.
There are a few minor DIY repair jobs you may be able to handle yourself in the bathroom. If the water doesn't shut off after flushing the toilet, for example, you may just need to make a slight adjustment to the float ball in the cistern. If that doesn't work, call a plumber. The toilet cistern is made up of an interconnected network of parts, each of which needs to work in harmony with the others.
If you have to ask yourself, "How hard can it be?" or "What can go wrong?" it's probably time to call the plumber. You don't want to find out the answers to those questions the hard way.