11 Plumbing Tricks of the Trade for Weekend Plumbers

11 Plumbing Tricks of the Trade for Weekend Plumbers

More than any other type of home improvement job, plumbing can drive a DIYer crazy. Problems arise, projects grow, frustrations multiply. Even pros are not immune. But one way to manage the frustrations and achieve a successful plumbing project is to allow plenty of time—at least twice as much time as you think the project should take. Another smart step is to learn some tricks of the trade. Here are a few of our favorites.

Reheat Solder When You Can’t Cut a Pipe

The best way to disconnect a soldered pipe is to cut it. But sometimes you can’t—either because you can’t get a cutting tool into the space or because cutting would leave the pipe too short to make a new connection. The solution is to heat the joint and pull off the fitting as the solder melts.

Have a wet rag handy and immediately wipe away the molten solder before it hardens. (Wear gloves to prevent burning your fingers!) Sometimes a quick wipe will leave the pipe ready for a new fitting. More likely, you’ll have to scour off some excess solder with sandpaper or emery cloth before you can slip on a new fitting.

Replace Metal Drain Lines with Plastic

Metal drain lines under sinks look a lot more reliable than plastic. But plastic is better in almost every way. It’s cheaper, easier to install, and easier to adjust or tighten if a leak develops. And unlike metal, plastic won’t corrode. So when a metal drain leaks, often the smartest move is to replace the entire assembly with plastic.

Loosen Stuck Pipes with Heat

When a threaded connection won’t budge, heat sometimes does the trick, especially on ancient connections that were sealed with pipe dope that hardened over time. Be patient. Getting the metal hot enough can take a couple of minutes. Protect nearby surfaces with a flame-resistant cloth. This method is for water and waste pipes only, never for gas or fuel lines.


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