Being able to do it yourself is great. It’s hard to beat the satisfaction that comes from tackling those jobs that you’ve been putting off for ages and you can often save yourself a tidy sum in the process. That being said, DIY is not without its dangers.

From the annoying to the downright hazardous, taking on your plumbing tasks can often be more trouble than it’s worth.

Understanding the Risks

While it may not seem as outright risky as some other specialist tasks in the home like working with electricity, plumbing does come with its own set of hazards which can affect both the home and the person carrying out the task.

Personal Safety Hazards

First, let’s think about the risks to the person tackling the task.

Physical Injury

The most likely problem a keen amateur is likely to face is hurting themselves while attempting a spot of DIY plumbing. Tools can be sharp and you’ll often find yourself working in tight spaces with poor visibility. Slips are bound to happen from time to time.

While the most likely thing to happen is a bit of a nick or a banged thumb, as unpleasant as those can be, more serious injuries are possible- slip with a pipe cutter or blow-torch and you’re certainly looking at a trip to the ER at least.

Certain tasks may carry even more serious risks- if you’re working on your plumbing beside an electrical source, there’s always the risk of death by electrocution.

Exposure To Hazardous Chemicals

Some plumbing jobs will require the use of some fairly unpleasant chemicals. Solvents and even things like chemical drain unblockers can produce all kinds of nasty fumes which you don’t want to be breathing in unless absolutely necessary.

Many chemicals used for clearing out pipes are in effect powerful acids too. If these get on your skin, they can cause rashes or burns.

Damage To Your Home

Of course, it’s not just you that could come off worse for wear when you opt for a DIY job. Your home could bear the brunt of the potential damage, and it might not always be obvious straight away.

Something as simple as a slightly loose connection could lead to seepage. Over time, this water could wreak havoc on your home, rotting floorboards, allowing mold a fertile breeding ground and damaging the rooms below.

In extreme cases, you may even be looking at serious structural damage.

Common DIY Plumbing Mistakes

Another element to consider when weighing up whether to tackle a task yourself is the chance of making a mistake through not having the sheer level of knowledge a trained plumber will have. Common mistakes which could end up costing you include:

  • Incorrect materials: opting for the wrong type of pipe or tank could lead to leaks or corrosion, costing you far more to fix than the original job may have.
  • Over-tightening connections: You may think that tight is right, but if you crush the olive (the bit which makes a joint watertight) it may well leak. You may even crack a pipe, making the situation worse than when you started.
  • Improper sealing: the slightest gap in the silicone around your fittings (it’s trickier than it looks) and you could be looking at a leak. Over time, even the smallest leak will cause some pretty serious damage to your home.
  • Ignoring local codes and regulations: building codes and regulations are there for a reason. Ignoring them, even though ignorance, can lead to hefty fines and invalidating your home insurance, not to mention the health and safety risks.

Jobs For The Professionals

While there are a plethora of tasks that an amateur could probably deal with, there are some which are certainly best left to the pros:

Anything Involving The Main Line

The main line is the pipe which brings water into your home. It’s usually under considerable pressure and making a mistake can lead to disaster.

Not only are you looking at a lot of water pouring out, if you damage it before it reaches the stopcock, you may have to turn the water off outside your property and, if you share a supply, this will certainly annoy your neighbors.

Water Heaters

There are a number of different designs of water heaters out there, from the traditional element-in-a-tank to more modern combi-boilers that deal with both water and ambient heat. Whatever type you have, leave dealing with problems to the pros.

Water and electricity don’t mix and gas can be incredibly dangerous, so anything involving either of these should be left to someone who really knows what they’re doing. Add into this the risk inherent in dealing with a pressurised container filled with nearly boiling hot water and you see why anything involving a hot water tank isn’t a task for a DIY enthusiast.

Installation of New Pipes and Fixtures

While it’s reasonable enough to replace like-for-like yourself, anything that involves a new run of pipe or putting a sink, toilet, shower or other fittings where there was none before is a task for a professional plumber.

The risks of making a mistake, especially in pipe-work which is likely to be hidden behind a wall or under a floor are just too great. Something as simple as not tightening or over-tightening a nut can lead to disaster.

Tips For Safe DIY Plumbing

While we may have sounded a bit doom-and-gloom about the prospects of DIY plumbing, there are plenty of things you can easily tackle yourself, so long as you take the time to find out how to do them properly.

Here are some top tips:

  • Educate yourself: there are a huge number of tutorials out there and google is your friend. Knowing what you’re doing is half the battle, so do your research before you start.
  • Invest in the right tools: some tasks require specialist tools, others are simply easier with the right spanner or wrench. Investing here makes everything much simpler.
  • Know when to stop: sometimes things go wrong. It’s important to recognize when things are getting out of hand and there’s no shame in calling in a professional when you find yourself in over your head. If something doesn’t look right, help is only ever a phone-call away.

There’s certainly a lot to be said for DIY in the home, but sometimes, it really is best left to those who know what they’re doing.