Tips for Tradesmen: Ten Helpful Plumbing Service Techniques
As a commercial plumbing service, you know how to handle the basics of business and residential plumbing tasks. You can snake a drain, replace a sink trap, and repair a leaky toilet tank with no problem. These are things every plumbing service should be able to provide to their customers, so what sets them apart? What makes your plumbing service a better choice than your local contemporaries? One of the best ways to make a real difference is more subtle than superb customer service and prompt arrival times: You can make client homes quieter and their pipes run more smoothly with clever applications of your industry expertise. With these ten helpful plumbing techniques, you can enhance the quality of your work and increase customer satisfaction.
1 Felt Back Pipe Brackets
Especially in cold weather regions, the pipes that run through and under a house will creak as they heat and cool from weather and hot water running through them. This creaking is often attributed to a house being old or ‘settling’ but in fact, it’s about the quality of the plumbing installations. The creaking itself is often caused by the expanding and contracting pipes scraping against the wall and hanger brackets, especially when those brackets are made of metal as well. You can increase the peace and quiet of houses you work on without changing anything about the pipes with a little bit of felt-backed tape from the hardware store. You can either line the brackets or wrap the pipes where they make contact, eliminating the possibility of grinding as the pipes heat and cool.
2 Plunge the Trap
One of the signs of skilled plumbing is a clean workspace. When you know how to manage where water is in the pipes before you get to work, very little ends up on floors and surfaces. One of the most common types of work order involves repairing the trap under bathroom and kitchen sinks. Due to its shape, the trap almost always makes a mess when pulled. However, water can be removed from the sink trap ahead of time using a simple plunger. Just a few plunges should clear out almost all the contents of the trap, making it much cleaner to remove, unclog, repair, or replace.
3 Piggyback Unreliable Shutoffs
Most plumbing procedures start by closing the water shutoff for sinks, toilets, and washing machines. However, all too often the shutoff itself doesn’t completely close and in some cases doesn’t close at all. This might even be the reason you were called in, when the home or business owners simply couldn’t DIY a solution with a broken shutoff. Rather than turning off the main water valve to work on a single appliance, you can install a fix that will help the property owners for years in the future with a piggyback switch. The piggyback connects directly to the broken shutoff and becomes the new shutoff valve for the appliance. This keeps you from having to manage infrastructure plumbing and permanently increases the ease of all repair procedures involving the piggybacked shutoff for many years after your work there.
4 Reheating Stuck Pipes
Working with old pipes, especially rusted, corroded, or swelled ones, often takes great brute force to open and sometimes even two opposing wrenches can’t budge a stubborn connection. For water pipes you have the interesting option of pulling out a handheld blowtorch. By heating the hardened connection for a few minute, you can loosen the bond and slowly pry the pieces free of each other.
5 Melting Solder Instead of Cutting
The blowtorch is also incredibly helpful for soldered connections. While the usual approach suggests cutting, in some cases the cutting tool won’t fit into the space you have to work with or cutting would leave the pipe too short for another connection. In these cases, your best option is to melt the solder and pull the fitting free, then with gloves wipe off the remaining solder and scour the pipe clean. The surrounding area can be protected with fire resistant cloth to avoid peripheral heat damage.
6 When to Use Thread Tape and Dope
Thread tape and dope are important parts of high-quality plumbing, ensuring that nothing leaks or slips when it’s not supposed to while leaving your pipes and fittings easy attach and detach when the time comes. Tape has the benefit of not being messy and is ideal when working over carpets, but is only for threaded connections. For best results, wrap the tape clockwise so that it won’t unwrap as you screw the joint together.
Dope, despite the risk of mess, is great for almost every plumbing solution, especially if you have a selection of dope tubes for different materials and tasks. It can help settle and seal compression fittings and secure ground fittings. With dope that is both plastic-safe and non-hardening, you can reinforce rubber seals and make repairs easier years later.
7 Replacing with Plastic
Not all plumbing parts need to be made of metal, as nice as that shiny appearance is, and in many cases, plastic has become the superior material. Plastic pieces free you from worrying about rust or corrosion, while usually being more cost-effective than their metal counterparts. When sourcing replacement parts for your service clients, you can do them an enormous favor on both their current bill and future repairs by switching their drain lines and other viable parts out for new sturdy plastic models
8 Creative Scouting with a Digital Camera
When dealing with pipes that are behind walls, ceilings, and floors, often your access points are very small and usually not big enough to get your head in to take a look. If you really need to see what’s in there to track a pipe or find a damaged connection, rather than chopping a bigger hole in the wall, you can check it out with a digital camera or the camera on a mobile device which will fit through the existing opening. It’s not often that plumbers get to show off their tech-savvy skills.
9 Prevent Sink Sprayer Tangles
Want to make sink installations about ten times easier to use for your customers? Because of the way sink sprayer hoses work, often they loop down into the open plumbing area under the sink and all too often they catch on the trap and valve handles when pulled. Having to constantly crawl under the sink to free the sprayer eliminates the intended convenience. With a few lengths of foam pipe insulation, you can wrap the usual catches, improving the quality of sink use for everyone you serve.
10 Expanding Foam for Quiet Installations
Loud kitchen sinks are a surprising and unexpected downside to new steel basin installations. The sound of the water hitting the metal and echoing between the two basins can be inconveniently loud for pleasant cooking experiences. However, with one simple trick, you can give your clients the luxury of whisper-quiet kitchen sinks. Expanding spray foam nestled between the basins and around the edges will deaden the sound of water hitting the surface. Simply spray, wait for it to harden, then cut away any excess.
Most people have tried a lot of plumbing services over the years and with these innovative plumbing service techniques, your clients will notice the difference. With methods that are considerate of the daily users of the fixtures you install and repair, you can drastically increase the quality of life for each one of your clients. If you enjoyed this article and are interested in more tips for tradesmen, contact us today!