Indoor Plumbing for the Home DIYer

If you’ve excelled at your past few home improvement projects and even tackled some large-scale ones, you’re well on your way to becoming a DIY guru. Now you’re ready to move up to the next level and make the move into the world of plumbing. So grab that mushroom or star and get your Mario Bros. on.

When it comes to your home’s water supply and water waste lines, you need your DIY indoor plumbing projects to work smoothly and reliably without leaks or clogs. It can be done—but you need to be prepared.

What kinds of things do you need to know before you dive headfirst into installing your new shower, sink, or clawfoot tub, or when you’re dealing with a pesky clog? Well, we’re about to tell you.

Know Where Your Shutoffs Are

No matter how big or small your project is, the very first thing you always need to do before you start any plumbing project is to locate your shutoff valves and know what they control. 

If you have a basement, you’ll likely find your valve controls in the basement, though sometimes your valve controls may be hidden behind a panel elsewhere in your home. If you’re lucky, you may have shutoffs for each bathroom and for your kitchen. If you don’t know what each valve controls, you can always shut it off, then turn on faucets and flush toilets until you discover which valves handle each part of your home. It’s a fun little game.

Once you’ve figured out what each valve controls, you can label each one so that the next time you take on a plumbing project, you remember where each valve goes and won’t have to repeat this process. 

Above all else, you need to know where your main house shutoff is. Typically, this is located at the same point where your water line enters your house. While you’ll soon be plumbing like a pro, it’s a good idea to know the fastest route to get to this shutoff in the event of an emergency.

Learn How to Sweat Copper Pipe

Have you learned how to sweat copper pipe yet? This skill is the cornerstone of modern plumbing. Once you give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how easy—and how fun—it can be. 

With just a few tools you can pick up at your local hardware store—solder, flux, and a small torch—you can solder your copper piping by yourself in a cinch. While you should read up in detail about how to sweat copper pipe (especially before you use a torch in your own home!), the basics are simple:

  1. Clean the copper pipe
  2. Add some flux
  3. Heat the joint
  4. Apply the solder

It’s a fairly painless process that sounds harder than it is. If you’ve ever changed the oil in your car, it’s the same thing; changing the oil isn’t quite as impressive as it sounds once you learn how to do it. Sweating copper piping is the same! Once you learn how, you’ll be able to make small fixes and add valves around your house when you need to. So start sweating the copper, and you won’t have to sweat the small stuff anymore. 

Do Your Research

You may have a grasp on the general concept of plumbing, but do you know the basic concepts of plumbing and how they apply to your home? You’ll want to do your best to map out your home’s plumbing so you understand how it all works.

If you have an unfinished basement, this may be a quick process. See if you can determine which walls have pipes and where the main waste line leaves the house. The more information you have about the home, the easier it will be to troubleshoot any problems you encounter during your plumbing project. 

Your main drainpipe will run horizontally with a slight downward slope under the lowest floor in your home, either to your municipal sewer main or out to your septic field. It’s typically about 4 inches in diameter, and depending on the age of your home, it will be ABS or PVC plastic, clay, or cast iron. This mainline is usually quite visible, as it will run under your basement or foundation slab. You can rent a utility locator to help find your underground water lines.

Be Sure You Have All the Tools You Need

The most frustrating thing is to be in the middle of the project and then realize you don’t have the tools you need. You have to run to the nearest hardware store and pay a premium for tools you may never use again. That’s when renting comes in very handy.

What kinds of tools might you need that you haven’t considered yet?

  • Sewer Camera: Borescopes, or sewer cameras, are cameras that are attached to a long, flexible cable. These cameras are inserted into drains and supply lines so you can take a look at what might be obstructing your pipe or even evaluate the condition of the pipe itself. This tool is standard on every essential plumbing tools list because it gives you more information about what might be going on with your pipes. 
  • Drain Cleanouts: There are all kinds of things that can clog your home’s pipes, and some are more stubborn than others. Cleanouts like drain snakes can help you take care of the problem when a plunger just isn’t enough. There are multiple kinds and lengths of drain cleanouts depending on your plumbing system:
  • Pipe Threaders and Vises: As you navigate the world of DIY plumbing, you may also find that tools like electric pipe threaders and electric pipe vises are useful to hold pipes in place for threading and cutting segments of pipes. You may also want pipe die in the appropriate sizes to cut pipe threads. 
  • Pipe Freezer: A pipe freezer can come in handy when you are looking to fix water pipes without having to cut the water off to the rest of the line. You can freeze water to prevent mess and spillage when you have to cut a section of pipe out and replace and weld a new pipe back in place. 
  • Scissor Lift: When you need to run plumbing up on a ceiling or above a drop ceiling, a scissor lift is the easiest way to work up toward the ceiling without having to run up and down a ladder all day.
  • Core Drills: Your plumbing is hidden away out of sight—just where you want it until there’s a clog or an urgent fix that needs to happen right behind your drywall. Plumbers use core drills and core bits to drill circular holes in floors and walls, and you can rent one to use when you need it as well. Core drills stand up and have a vacuum available to ensure that your drill stays still while drilling. 

You Can Do It!

Home plumbing doesn’t have to be a mystery—and it can be done without having to break the bank to fill your toolshed with all kinds of tools as you go. Northside Tool Rental has all the equipment you need to ensure that your home plumbing project comes off without a hitch.

Whether you’re looking to test out a pipe freezer (trust us, it’s pretty cool) or you need a cleanout tool for a massive clog, we have what you need. Are you ready to learn more about the tools we have in stock for your next DIY project? Contact us today!