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Basic Guide for the Home Plumber

Aug 18, 2007
It helps to have some metalworking experience.
Take care when working with a blowtorch in loft spaces. Be aware that pipes take time to cool after exposure to the blowtorch flame. If you can undertake the basic work yourself, you save money and the inconvenience of waiting for a plumber. Basic plumbing repair needn't be a daunting task, all you need to get started are a few essential tools, a working knowledge of your system and an ability to identify problems.

2 - Preparation

Step 1: Familiarise yourself with the layout of your plumbing - this will enable you to identify the cause of a problem and shut off the water for servicing. The simple skills required for basic plumbing are explained in this project.

Step 2: Locate the stopcock on the rising main - the pipe that brings fresh water into your home. The stopcock controls the flow of water and is used to shut off the entire supply in an emergency. The stopcock may be found under the kitchen sink, beneath the stairs or in the cellar or basement.

Step 3: Check if there are isolating valves on the low pressure pipes to taps, toilet cisterns and household appliances - these valves enable servicing to be carried out without turning off the mains. They are usually located next to the storage cistern in the loft. Make up a kit of basic plumbing tools and a set of spare washers to fit the taps and valves around the house. Keep your plumber's phone number handy in case you are faced with a serious problem. To drain cold water taps in the bathroom/to drain the cistern:

1. If there is no isolating valve, shut off the supply of water to the cistern by tying the arm of the float valve to a batten placed across the top.

2. Run the taps to drain the cistern. Use this method if you ever need to work on the cistern itself.

3 - Draining the system In order to repair a leak, run new pipes or service a toilet cistern, it is necessary to be able to drain various parts of the system. Water is supplied to a house under relatively high mains pressure. In most houses it is directed via the rising main pipe to a cold water storage cistern in the loft. A pipe connected to the rising main feeds drinking water directly to the kitchen sink. All other taps and fittings, including the hot water storage cylinder, are supplied indirectly by a low pressure gravity-fed system from the storage cistern. To drain the cold water kitchen tap and pipe:

1. Close the stopcock on the rising main
2. Open the tap to empty the short length of pipe.
1. Shut off the cold feed valve from the storage cistern in the loft.
2. Run the bathroom taps. drain a toilet cistern:
1. Tie up the float-valve arm.
2. Flush the toilet.

If you need to work on the supply pipe to the cistern, shut off the water supply from the storage cistern in the loft (see above).

Drain hot water taps:
1. Turn off the immersion heater and the central heating boiler.

2. Shut off the supply of water from the storage cistern in the loft to the hot water cylinder.

3. Run off the water from the hot taps. To drain the hot water cylinder: Attach a hose to the draincock at the base of the cylinder. If the cylinder contains a heat exchanger fed from the boiler, this can only be emptied through the boiler draincock.

Save time and water when draining pipes for minor repairs and servicing, install extra valves to divide the system into sections or to isolate individual fittings and appliances.

4 - Fitting extra valves

Step 1: Fit gate valves on the cold feed pipes from the storage cistern. This will save you having to drain the stored water when servicing the low pressure side of the system. If you fit a second stopcock on the in-feed pipe, you can drain the cistern
without turning off the rising main.

Step 2: Fit isolator valves in the supply pipes to taps and appliances. This will enable you to isolate the individual fitting for servicing.

Step 1: First close all taps and drainage points, then open
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