As you check off your list of spring maintenance tasks around the house and yard, there's one essential system in your house that needs a spring check-in: your plumbing. A regular once-over can help you detect problems early, before they spring into a homeowner's nightmare: a burst pipe releasing hundreds of gallons of water by the hour.
Plus, your water usage is more than likely about to go up, thanks to springtime power washing as well as more frequent lawn and garden watering. Before you get started, check around for breakage and leaks with the help of this checklist, so you can head into summer knowing everything’s shipshape.
1. Inspect faucets and below sink pipes: Check sink, bath and shower hardware for signs of seeping and leaks. While you’re at it, check exposed pipes below the sink as well as in your basement and utility room.
2. Look for leaky toilets: Depending on the location, a leaky toilet can add a lot of money to your monthly bill over time, or cause serious damage to your floors.
For starters, feel the floor around the toilet. If it’s wet, that could be a sign of a failed joint or broken seal. Whatever it is, it should be fixed before the ongoing wetness causes damage to the floor or the ceiling below.
Then, lift the lid of your tank and put in 3-4 drops of food coloring. Wait 30 minutes and check the bowl. If the coloring has made its way into your bowl, you may have a leak.
3. Check your washer's supply hoses: Pull out the washing machine from the wall, checking the floor for signs of drips and leaks. Then, inspect the water supply hoses to the machine from end to end. If the hoses are made of rubber, look for signs of deterioration, such as cracks and bulges. It's important to remember that rubber hoses deteriorate with age, and studies show failure rates increase dramatically in hoses older than five years. If they’re at the five-year mark, replace them. In the meantime, don't run the washing machine when no one is at home.
4. Clean your sump pump: Disconnect the power source, and remove and clean the pump, including the pump screen or inlet. To learn how, consult your owner's manual. The pump screen or inlet should be cleaned every three to four months. Then, return the unit and restore the power, and perform a test run by pouring in some water to make sure it’s working properly.
5. Give the outdoor faucet a test run: After its winter hiatus, you'll want to be sure Jack Frost hasn’t done damage to the hardware and pipes. (Hopefully, the outside water supply was shut off and drained before freezing temperatures arrived.) Turn on the water supply, and throw open the valve. You may hear some rushing air and pops at first. Then, close the valve, checking for leaks and drips. Then head indoors to check the pipes for signs of leaking.
6. Turn the valve of the water main: After years of resting in the open position, the whole house's water shutoff valve can get difficult to maneuver, especially if it’s a turn-handle style. Give the valve a few twists, turning it counterclockwise until it's closed, and then back to the original open position. If you’re in the market for an upgrade, consider installing an app-controlled smart water valve. That way, you and your family can safely turn off the water supply with a mobile device.