Where would we be without safe, reliable plumbing? From the minute you wake up in the morning until just before you go to bed, odds are good that you’re using your plumbing in one way or another — whether you’re washing your hands, brushing your teeth, filling up a pot to boil pasta at dinnertime, watering your outdoor plants, flushing your toilets, or taking a nice, relaxing shower. 

Here in Chicagoland, it’s easy to take your home’s plumbing systems for granted…until something goes wrong. Then, it’s all too easy to notice how much you depend on your plumbing, from morning to night. 

Plumbing issues can be incredibly inconvenient at best, and dangerous and expensive, at worst. One of the most important things you can do to help avoid serious outages and accidents is to make caring for your plumbing a key part of your household’s “to-do” list. 

Adding even a few maintenance steps to your regular routine can help keep your plumbing operating more efficiently and help to significantly improve its longevity — allowing you to save money and reduce your stress levels over time. 

So, what can you do to keep your Chicago home’s plumbing systems in tune, all year long? Here are a few simple upkeep and maintenance ideas to consider to protect your home’s most important plumbing elements: 

1.) Take Regular Steps to Prevent Clogs

While they may seem like a minor annoyance, clogs can cause serious trouble over time, damaging your pipes and making it harder to use your showers or sinks. Fortunately, effective clog prevention can be as simple as: 

  • Watching what you put down your kitchen sink. Avoid dumping grease, oil, coffee grounds, and other common clog culprits down the drain. 
  • Saving trash for the trash can, instead of the toilet. Regularly flushing foreign objects down the toilet can lead to blockages and other serious issues over time. 
  • Adding a clog catcher to your drains. There are many sizes and styles out there, including simple, easy-to-clean mesh sieves. 
  • Skipping the garbage disposal. Fibrous, starchy, and stringy foods are difficult to grind, and can clog up your disposal over time. 
  • Cleaning your drains. Keep the drains in your shower and bath clean and clear of soap scum, debris, and other potential sources of clogs. 

2.) Don’t Ignore Minor Issues or Concerns

With plumbing, it can be easy to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. That is to say that many homeowners try to put off making little fixes or repairs for as long as possible. Eventually, though, those little warning signs can turn into major disasters. 

Keep an eye out for any potential signs of trouble around your house, and don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional plumber with questions or concerns. Some common things to look and listen for include: 

  • Leaking faucets and running toilets. Collectively, these minor plumbing annoyances can waste thousands of gallons of water per year, which can seriously drive up your utility bills. 
  • Wet spots, dark spots, mold and mildew, or “damp” odors. Check your basement, attic, and any areas where pipes tend to run, such as under the sink in your kitchen or bathroom. 
  • Old or ill-fitting hose lines to your washing machine or dishwasher. These can easily wear down and burst, and should be examined — and potentially replaced — on a regular basis.
  • Water coming out of faucet valves or handles, or dripping from pipe fittings.
  • Visible corrosion, rust, mildew, or wear on pipes, fittings, and valves.
  • Rattling, banging, gurgling or hissing from pipes. Odd noises could be a sign of trouble, from loose fittings to major clogs. 

3.) Protect Your Plumbing During the Winter Months

Winter weather can be tough on a home’s most important systems, including the plumbing. This is particularly true in our home base of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, where we’re known for our cold and blustery winters. 

As the chill settles in, it’s important to take some basic precautions that can help you winterize and safeguard your plumbing, inside and out:

  • Consider lowering the water temperature on your water heater, to improve its seasonal efficiency. 
  • Outside, disconnect all hoses and splitters from bibs and faucets, and turn off exterior faucets and spigots. Be sure to drain the water line completely to avoid the potential for freezing and bursting. 
  • Wrap your pipes in insulating material. This can help prevent your exposed pipes from freezing, and improve the efficiency of your system overall. 
  • On freezing days, leave cabinet doors open and let a slight drip flow through your faucets. This can help prevent the potential for dangerous frozen pipes. 
  • Know how to access the shutoff valves in your home. In case of emergencies, it’s important to know how to quickly and safely cut off the flow of water. 

4.) Clean Your Faucets, Showerheads, and Fixtures

When you go into your bathroom or kitchen, keep a lookout for signs of wear or damage to your: 

  • Faucets
  • Showerheads
  • Tub spouts and spigots 

In particular, look for accumulated sediment, which can easily build up and eventually reduce the flow of water coming from your fixtures. In some cases, you may be able to get rid of sentiment by gently cleaning your faucet screen, or wiping down your showerhead. In other cases, you may benefit from updating these fixtures with newer, more efficient models. 

5.) Schedule Regular, Professional Service

Finally, remember that plumbing can be incredibly complex, and there are many jobs that should be left to the professionals! For even the most knowledgeable homeowners, there may be elements of your plumbing system that you cannot access or see without a professional’s help. That’s why it’s so important to have a local plumber regularly come out to service and inspect your system. 

Many experts recommend having a plumber perform a full evaluation twice per year, or every six months. During this routine visit, your plumbing pro will most likely perform important services (such as draining your water heater and taking care of minor clogs), while looking out for bigger problems that you may not have noticed, including the potential for trouble with your septic system, sump pump, or drainage. 

Windy City Home Inspection Is Here to Help

Interested in buying a home, and want to have the plumbing system and other key elements inspected by an objective professional? Getting ready to sell your home and want a thorough, unbiased eye to detect potential buyer concerns? Love your current space, but want to look for mechanical concerns, potential safety hazards, and basic system maintenance? 

Whether you’re buying a property, selling a property, or just need the best information for how  to maintain your property, Windy City Home Inspection has an inspection for you.

With Windy City, you can expect a competent, thorough inspection that covers all the bases and never cuts corners. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our signature Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them — even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards — yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.