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  • July 28, 2015

Rosie on the House: Stop leaks, save cash

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:00 am

Arizona’s Fix-a-Leak-Week is coming up soon, and we’re celebrating by giving you advice on fixing and avoiding leaks in your own house.

Before working on any water pipes or fixtures, find the shut-off valve for your whole house water supply. There should be one outside, sometimes near the front of the house where the water pipe travels into your home, but sometimes toward the back, particularly if there is an alley behind your home.

It’s not that you have to shut off all your water before you do a repair job; you can also shut it off at the fixture itself. But with any repairs, you need to know where that valve is in case something goes really wrong with a project and you need to cut off all water quickly. If you don’t have a whole house shutoff that is immediately available and in good working order, have a plumber install one soon.

Is the faucet leaking? It is still possible for a handy homeowner to fix a leaking faucet in a bathroom or kitchen sink. Remember when fixing a leak was as easy as using a screwdriver? All you did was wrench off that handle and replace the washer inside with something you had in a bin of screws and washers out in your garage? Forget that! It’s not your grandfather’s faucet anymore.

You’ve seen hundreds of different faucets for sale at plumbing and hardware stores, of course. Most, particularly the upscale, one-handle models, have cartridges inside that use an up-and-down motion to control water flow and temperature. That cartridge is often your problem in a leak.

The first step is turning off the water valves under the sink. Next, remove the handle for the faucet, not the faucet itself because a leak usually stems from a problem in the on-off handle.  

You can usually remove that handle by prying off a small, decorative cap on top of it and then unscrewing some screws. The cartridge can then be pulled out with pliers. Sometimes, however, you have to remove a retaining clip first or use an angle key device. A screwdriver and needle-nose pliers may also come in handy.

Once the cartridge is out, you can replace it or the rubber O-ring at the bottom of the handle that also can be the problem. Maybe you should do both just to be safe so you don’t have to do this job twice.

Leaky faucets or toilets are easy to spot — or hear — in your home, but other issues can be less obvious and eventually cause huge expenses.

Replace all the old-style angle-stops on water lines.

Besides replacing valves on the water lines, replace those old black rubber supply hoses on your washer. Cracks in hoses for washers can cause flooding even when you are not doing wash.

Water supply lines to toilets, sinks and your refrigerator should be replaced if they are not braided stainless steel.

Leaks under sinks start quietly enough with tiny drips that are easy to ignore. But after a while, floors and walls of cabinets may start curling up, and you may have more serious repairs on your hands.

If your lovable vintage home, built before the 1960s, has galvanized pipes rather than copper, plumbing problems are never do-it-yourself projects. Call a plumber.

Remember, utilities throughout Arizona, including the Salt River Project and Tucson Water, will celebrate Fix-a-Leak Week from March 17-23 with special activities including a 4-mile race in Peoria. Check out www.fixaleakweekaz.com for information.

Next week, we’ll talk repainting your house inside and out. What are the best new choices in colors? Can you really do it yourself?

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For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program.

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