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5 Plumbing Maintenance Tasks You Should Really Address Before the Summer Months By Realtor.com

By Ana Durrani | May 4, 2021

(Getty Images)

Can it really be? Summer is finally right around the corner. And after a year of being stuck indoors, you probably have plans to seriously enjoy the warm-weather months and live life as carefree as possible. Your home’s plumbing is likely not topping the list of things you want to be thinking about right now. But performing preventive maintenance before those summer days come can give you peace of mind all season long.

“You might be hosting families and friends over the summertime and your home’s plumbing system will see an uptick in usage, so it’s important that you conduct the necessary maintenance now to avoid unexpected plumbing issues,” says Jack Pruitt, brand manager at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. “Be proactive instead of reactive.”

Make sure you accomplish the projects below to ensure a plumbing-disaster-free summer.

1. Clear your home’s drains of residue

Drains can get gunky and build up residue over time due to daily hand-washing, showering, and other tasks. While you’re performing your pre-summer maintenance tasks, it’s important to clean the drains to avoid unexpected clogs.

“While some homeowners rely on commercial drain cleaners to get the job done, that’s not always the best or safest option,” says Pruitt. “Consider using an all-natural and less expensive option to clean your drains.”

He suggests pouring a half-cup baking soda down the drain, then a half-cup vinegar. The chemical reaction will help dissolve any clog. After 10 to 15 minutes, slowly pour hot water to clear out lingering residue.

“If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, swap it out for lemon juice—the acidity of lemons can have a similar effect on cleaning your drains,” says Pruitt.

2. Clean the gutters ahead of summer rainstorms

Many plumbers consider gutters part of your plumbing system because they carry water away from your house. If gutters are overtopped with water, it can damage the home’s foundation and walls of the basement, creating cracks that may grow over time.

Pruitt says all kinds of debris can land in your gutters, including leaves, twigs, seeds, and even wind-borne trash like plastic bags.

“When this happens, the first part of your home in danger of water damage is the roof, as pooling water can rot your fascia, shingles, and the edge of your roofline,” he says.

“To clean your gutters, use a ladder on leveled ground that locks in place,” he says. “Hook an empty bucket to the top of the ladder to collect the debris you remove, and be sure to use work gloves as you’re removing the debris.”

Using a handheld garden tool such as a trowel can be useful while cleaning gutters and can help scrape up sludge from the bottom of the gutter. Once the gutter is clear, use a hose to wash it completely clean and ensure the water is flowing freely through the downspout.

3. Test your toilets for leaks

A likely source for leaks in plumbing is a faulty flapper, a small piece of rubber that acts as a stopper, separating the tank from the bowl. When the toilet is flushed, the flapper lifts, allowing water to flow into the bowl below and flush away the waste. But over time, the rubber can degrade, wear out, and develop cracks. 

“A good way to test for a leaking flapper is to add a few drops of food coloring to the top of the tank where the flapper and flush valve are. Check to see if the water inside the bowl is turning the color of the food coloring you added,” says Aaron Mulder, co-owner and operations manager for Mr. Rooter of San Antonio.

4. Flush the water heater to remove built-up sediment

This is one of those annual tasks that should be tackled with the rest of your spring-cleaning. Throughout the year, calcium and magnesium that can accumulate in your water heater solidify, and potentially mix with dirt and other inclusions, becoming sediment that accumulates at the bottom of your tank. The sediment could increase the chances of a leak coming out of the bottom of the tank and prevent your water heater from heating as effectively.

“Flushing your water heater is a generally simple task. All you will need is a hose that can connect tightly to the flushing valve on the side of your tank and a large bucket,” says Don Glovan, franchise consultant with Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

He says to first shut off the gas or electrical connection to your tank and connect the hose to the drain valve. Make sure the other end of the hose is in a large bucket or storm drain, open the drain valve, and let the water flow out. At the same time, open your temperature and pressure-relief valve.

If the bucket has sediment crystals in the bottom, then continue letting the water drain through. When new crystals stop appearing in the bottom, close the drain valve and let the tank refill. 

“Then restart your pilot light or turn your electrical connection back on, and your tank should heat up again,” he says.

5. Inspect and maintain your septic tank

If your house runs on a septic system, it’s a good idea to make sure your septic tank is ready to handle the extra use that occurs during the summer. This means keeping your system well-maintained and practicing good septic hygiene.

“Regular maintenance can help prevent problems before they occur, so you don’t end up with sewage backing up into your yard or home,” says Pruitt. “How often you need inspection and maintenance depends on the specific type of system you have, but most need to be checked by an inspector at a minimum every three years.”

He says a septic inspector will look for leaks, clogs, and other malfunctions and determine if the tank needs pumping to remove the solids, the frequency of which will depend on the size of your system, how many people use it, and how much waste you produce.