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  • Writer's pictureMegan Drew Plumbing

5 Basic Household Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself.

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Like a car or your beautifully landscaped property, routine maintenance on your plumbing system can not only prolong its life expectancy but it can also improve its efficiency and save you time and money down the road. These tasks can be tackled on a weekend morning by your average DIY home owner without having to type those dreaded words into Google search "plumbers near me". (Check out our blog on how to find a reputable plumber near you) You don't to be a plumber to perform these tasks, and perhaps you will even increase your plumbing IQ!

So here we go in no particular order, a list of plumbing maintenance tasks you can easily perform to improve your life.

Treat all your drains with enzymes

It is both amazing and disgusting to witness first hand how clogged most drains are! We hear it every time we clear a drain. 'I never put grease or food down the drains'. The reality is detritus material, hair, fecal matter and food collect on the walls of your plumbing system and reduce its efficiency, not to mention the plumbing odours that will often waft up from the drains. You'll be standing in the kitchen thinking, what is that smell? You wander around the kitchen sniffing everything until you find the culprit. Smelly drain. A close second in stink factor to the green bin someone forgot to empty.

There are several products on the market that will ‘eat” blockages and material lining the pipes using anaerobic bacteria (We use Bio-Attack at Megan Drew Plumbing). They are not only safe but beneficial to septic tanks and waste water treatment facilities, and they will not harm water supplies like rivers and lakes. Look at you being environmentally responsible! These products are readily available at most DIY stores, online, and at most plumbing wholesale stores. Easy peasy, simply follow the directions on the package and treat your drains every few months and they will not only not smell bad, but they'll smell good!

Pipe clogged with food and grease.

PLEASE DO NOT use acidic products on your plumbing! And I cannot stress this enough. Not only are they harmful to the environment but they wreak havoc on your system, not to mention how dangerous they are to handle.

If you treat your drains with enzymes regularly, your plumbing system will thank you by not backing up on Christmas eve and ruining dinner or some other completely inopportune time. Because that's Murphy's Law.

Turn off all outdoor hose bibs

Every year in most of Canada and the northern USA the temperature drops in the Fall and water freezes. Usually winter arrives on approximately December 21. I may not be a genius but it seems to me this change happens every year. The other thing that happens every year is people call to say they did not shut down and drain their outdoor faucets and as a consequence they froze and the pipe split inside the exterior wall. Water ran down the wall and now there is a huge and expensive mess in the finished basement. There is a solution, shut down and drain your outdoor faucets before the temp gets below zero degrees Celsius. To our friends to the south that is 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

In your basement ceiling or under your kitchen sink, there usually is a shut off valve that controls one or more outdoor faucets.

The small round knob on the front is the cock.
  • Simply shut the valve off

  • Drain the water thru a small port on the side called a “cock”

  • Open the outdoor hose bib, leaving it open until spring.

Any residual water should drip out and not collect and freeze. When spring finally arrives simply reverse the process. Don't forget to close the cock before you open the shut off valve.

The exception to this rule is a frost free hose bib. (Pictured below) From the outside of your home, a frost-free hose bib looks the same as a traditional one. The difference between them is what happens inside the house. The pipe on a frost-free hose bib is longer than a regular one, and the shut-off valve is further inside the house where the temperature is higher. If you have one of these you don't need to do anything. Although having said that, I would recommend calling a plumber and adding a stop and waste valve only because they eventually all fail and when that happens you want to be able to shut the water off to avoid a flood.

Drain and refill your water heater

Whether you have an electric water heater or a gas water heater, problems you will face are similar. To begin with you can reduce odours in your water supply and reduce bacteria and viruses by simply shutting it down, draining it, and flushing the contents of the tank yearly. There have been several diseases linked to older hot water tanks including legionnaires disease. As tanks age, a layer of sludge, rust and scale accumulates in the bottom of your tank. This sludge can be a source illness, particularly if the temperature is lower than normal. (approx. 120 degrees)

This sludge can be removed in a few easy steps and I have added a video below.

To empty the tank:

  • Turn off all power to the tank both electricity and gas

  • Turn off water supply to the tank

  • Connect a garden hose to drain

  • Open the drain located at the bottom of the tank and drain to a floor drain (Approx. 45 minutes)

  • Open your cold water supply and flush the tank until water runs clear from the hose into the drain

To refill the tank:

  • Close the drain and refill

  • Open your hot water tap on a faucet on the top floor of your house until all air is out and water flows.

  • You can now restore power and gas.

*note if you do have a gas water heater, I would recommend using a licenced gas technician to stop and start your gas. If you are not comfortable with this project, I would highly recommend calling your local trustworthy plumber, as I am sure they would be happy to help.

Manipulate your shutoff valves

Like your own body joints, valves get stiff over time and will eventually fail just when you need them most. The solution is very easy, simply go around your house and close and open (manipulate) all your valves. By doing this you will break up any rust or scale that may be forming and fusing inside the valve. That way, when you need to use the valve, it won't be seized like my knees first thing in the morning. Worse yet, you end up putting a wrench on the handle and breaking it off, and now you’re scuppered.

By moving the valves regularly you prolong their life and ensure they do not seize. This is also a great time to check for tiny leaks they may have been going unnoticed.

Change washers and cartridges

A surprisingly easy task for any handyman or DIYer is changing washers and cartridges in a faucet. A dripping faucet can cost hundreds on your water bill if left unchecked.

  • First you need to identify the type of faucet you have in order to purchase the correct parts. Every faucet is different but they all follow the same basic style of construction.

  • Without forcing any parts, dismantle your faucet. I recommend keeping notes or video on how it comes apart and the orientation of parts to make reassembly easier.

  • Replace the cartridge or washer that controls the flow of water and reassemble, greasing the moving parts as you go.

Faucet Cartridge

This simple action will prolong the life of your faucet, improve its function and ensure parts won’t seize. YouTube is a great resource for how to videos with brand specific information. All manufacturers have libraries with schematics on all their products available online. There are also buckets of books both at a book store, library, and online. Some DIY stores even offer courses. The info on your specific faucet is available and well worth a quick look before you tackle this project.


With a bit of effort we can all improve our plumbing IQ. There are many resources available and if you adopt a basic maintenance routine, you will not only extend the life expectancy of your plumbing system, but you will save money on costly repairs. And who knows, you may learn something and enjoy doing it! Hopefully you will avoid calling an emergency plumber, and if you are really lucky you could develop a fondness for all things poopy!

“If you consider the contribution of plumbing to human life, the other sciences fade into insignificance.”- James P. Gorman

Through consistent improvement and upright intentions, we strive to forge lifelong relationships which benefit our community.- Megan Drew Plumbing

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