Last Updated Oct 19, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider
We're all tempted to do DIY work around the house. We're especially tempted when we consider the cost of hiring a plumber versus the cost of DIY plumbing. It's worth thinking twice before tackling a DIY plumbing job, though. If you don't know what you're doing, you could end up with a DIY disaster. Here's how to avoid a DIY plumbing disaster.
Look online for DIY plumbing advice and it often comes from the U.S. or another country that has different laws regarding DIY plumbing. The law in Australia is fairly strict. Basically, there are only a few jobs you can do. These don't involve installing pipes or welding copper pipes. Some jobs you can handle yourself include:
These are easily accessible and don't require a plumber's expertise. The laws are similar in all states, but there are differences. Before you tackle a DIY job, find your state or territory on Licensed Trades/Plumbing and read about the licensing requirements in your area. For example, if you live in Queensland, you can only do a limited number of jobs. In New South Wales, a licensed plumber is required for any plumbing or gasfitting job.
Many plumbing jobs require a "compliance certificate." A compliance certificate will only be issued to a licensed plumber. Without this certificate, you will be responsible for anything that goes wrong. In some states, a certificate is required for jobs of any cost. In other states, jobs over a certain value require compliance certificates. Check with your local authorities to find out what the regulations are in your state.
You also need to be aware that DIY plumbing jobs can void a warranty. For example, if you or an unlicensed "plumber" install a rainwater tank and something goes wrong, your warranty won't cover the repairs.
If you have a plumbing disaster and need house repairs, your insurance company probably won't cover the cost if it is a result of a DIY plumbing job. Between your warranty and insurance, you have to take steps to avoid a plumbing disaster or your DIY job may end up costing more than the price of a plumber.
No matter what the DIY plumbing job is, there are some basic steps you need to take before you begin:
In some homes, you can turn off the water in separate rooms. In others, you will need to find the main shut-off valve and turn off the water in the entire home until your job is complete. Turning off the water should be a no-brainer, but when you're replacing a washer or fixing a leaking toilet, you may not think it's necessary. It is a safety precaution you should always take. You never know when something will go wrong.
You have a spanner and vice-grips, so you think you're all set. That may not be the case. Some of the basic plumber's tools you may need include:
You may not need all these items, but having them available can prevent a DIY plumbing disaster.
You don't need to know everything about your plumbing system, but you should know enough to be able to turn off the water supply both in the room where you're working and at the main outlet if needed. You may need to turn off the water in a hurry, so know where to go ahead of time and avoid a potential torrent of water if you make a mistake.
You can find installation directions online or they may come with your new taps or showerhead. Don't skip any steps. If the directions say wrap teflon tape around a threaded pipe, don't skip that step because you don't want to make a trip to the hardware store.
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If DIY plumbing is allowed in your state, here are some more DIY plumbing tips to keep in mind.
Replacing a showerhead is one of the easiest jobs you can do. After you've turned off the water, simply:
Fixing a leaking tap can be a little more complicated. You may run into one of three mechanical devices that prevent leaks:
You may not know what device controls your water flow, so be prepared to keep the water turned off until you can go to the hardware or plumbing supply shop and get the right device for your tap.
If you have a two-handle tap, you may have another type of water flow device. A compression tap has rubber washers. Rubber washers wear out faster than other devices and you need to be sure you get the right replacement washers.
A common problem is a running toilet. After you've flushed the toilet, it doesn't stop trying to refill the cistern. If you look in the cistern, you'll see the water and may wonder why it hasn't shut off. Usually the problem is somewhere in the cistern. It may be because:
These repairs can be DIY jobs if allowed in your state. However, you will need to know what you're doing. Look for online tutorials or ask for directions from someone with experience. The last thing you want to do is make the problem worse.
Before you undertake any DIY plumbing job, ask yourself four questions:
If you can't answer these questions in the affirmative, get quotes from licensed plumbers. It may cost more, but you will know the job has been done right and you won't be breaking the law or potentially voiding a warranty or your home insurance.