DIY Plumbing Tips And Tricks

Your Home’s Plumbing System: Mastering the Fundamentals

Picture this: You’re in a plumbing emergency, desperately searching for the shut-off valve. But you can’t find it! Many homeowners are in the same boat. Most of us only dial a plumber’s number when the plumbing stars align against us – a burst pipe, a disgruntled garbage disposal, or a water heater throwing a tantrum. So, being a proactive homeowner who knows the ins and outs of a well-maintained plumbing system can save you from plumbing drama.

Don’t wait for a plumbing catastrophe to knock on your door. Embrace the wisdom of understanding your home’s plumbing system and its trusty sidekicks, your appliances. This knowledge could be your lifeline when you least expect it.

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Find Your Shut-Off Valves and Learn How to Use Them

To get started, create a checklist of the non-negotiables regarding your plumbing system. Firstly, and as previously mentioned, ensure you’re well-acquainted with the whereabouts of your shut-off valves and have a good grasp of how to wield them in a plumbing crisis. You’ll find yourself in situations where turning off the water is a must, whether it’s a faucet replacement or a toilet upgrade, and you’d rather not embark on a city-wide water shutdown expedition. These handy valves typically lurk in your garage, on an outside wall, or within your utility area. They often sport a lever handle and go by the name “ball valves.” You might still encounter the wheel-type gate valves in some older residences, usually colored red.

Locating Your Plumbing Systems Shut-Off Valve

Here’s a simple method to find that valve if you have yet to stumble upon it. Just visualize a straight line from your water meter to your house. Remember that the shut-off valve connects to the water supply line coming from the street meter. It should be there before it branches off to your appliances, like the water heater. In older homes and places with milder weather, such as California, you might spot the shut-off valve along the outer edge of your house.

Here’s a handy tip: if you’re planning a vacation, remember to turn off your water to avoid surprises while away.

How Your Water Meter Can Reveal Water Leaks

Every homeowner should also be familiar with the whereabouts of their water meter and understand how to turn it off. Your water meter plays a crucial role in your plumbing system. Surprisingly, you can even use it to detect water leaks in your home. Most water meters feature a round or triangular dial called a leak indicator. If you ever suspect that your home is consuming excessive water, here’s a handy trick:

  • Shut off all the water sources in your home.
  • Wait for a couple of minutes.
  • Inspect the dial on your water meter.

If it remains stationary, you’re in the clear; if it keeps moving, you likely have a water leak to address.

Have the Know-How to Pinpoint Your Plumbing Systems’ Cleanout Locations

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the locations of cleanouts around your home. This knowledge can be a significant asset if you ever encounter a blocked sewer line. A typical cleanout is a pipe with a 4-inch diameter, topped with a screw cap featuring a square knob or indentation. It usually emerges from the ground outside your house, typically between the front and the street, often closer to your house. In most cases, homes have two cleanouts. You can usually spot the second one in your garage or on the side of the house. Understanding the whereabouts of these cleanouts is all part of becoming more acquainted with your plumbing system.

Locate Your Clean-outs in Your Plumbing System

Gain Expertise in Disabling Gas in Your Home

Being proficient in shutting off the gas supply is a skill every homeowner should possess. While you shouldn’t use this as a drill, it’s essential to grasp the procedure in case of a gas leak. You should be familiar with the specific tool, typically a crescent wrench. Furthermore, you should know where to find your gas meter on and off valves. Remember that your gas line is integral to your overall plumbing system.

Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Shutting Down Your Plumbing Systems Gas Line at the Meter

Whenever the situation calls for you to shut down your gas line service at the meter, take the subsequent actions:

1. Locate the main shut-off valve for your gas service, typically the initial natural gas supply line valve emerging from the ground near the meter.

2. Use a wrench to turn the lever until it is at a right angle (perpendicular) to the pipe.

3. Leave the gas turned off, and promptly contact your gas company’s hotline to report your concerns after shutting off the valve.

4. DO NOT attempt to re-open the valve yourself. Instead, wait for your gas company’s arrival. They will restore your gas service, inspect the system, and relight your appliances as needed.

Plumbing Systems Gas Meter

Gas Safety Measures During Major Disasters

In the wake of a major disaster, particularly events like significant earthquakes, exercising caution and informed decision-making concerning your home’s gas supply is important. During such emergencies, there is a common concern about the safety of natural gas, which is highly flammable and poses risks if not handled correctly. 

Typically, we advise shutting off the gas line service at your meter only if there are clear and immediate signs of gas leakage. These signs may include:


Natural gas is odorless, but gas companies add a distinct odorant, making it easily detectable. If you notice a strong, unpleasant, and unmistakable “rotten egg” or sulfur-like smell, it indicates a gas leak.


Sometimes, you might hear a hissing or rushing sound from a gas line or an appliance. This audible clue can be another signal of a potential gas leak.

Visible Gas

Seeing visible gas escaping from a gas line, valve, or appliance is an obvious sign of a gas leak that warrants immediate attention.

However, should you decide to turn off the gas supply at the meter, it’s crucial to understand the implications. Only your gas company has the authority and expertise to safely and properly restore the gas service. Turning off the gas at the meter effectively disconnects your home from the gas supply grid.

Get Familiar with Your Water Heater’s Basics

It’s paramount to possess a fundamental grasp of your water heater, including knowing how to ignite the pilot light and adjust the temperature settings. Furthermore, knowing how to keep your water heater in good shape is necessary. For comprehensive guidance on maintaining your water heater, you can DIY by checking out this resource on water heater maintenance. 

Typically, a well-maintained water heater has a lifespan of around ten to fifteen years and can endure even longer with proper care. However, if your water heater malfunctions and it’s significantly younger than ten years, it often requires repair rather than replacement. This information underscores the importance of regular maintenance and timely repairs to extend the life of your water heater.

The Ins and Outs of Your Garbage Disposal

Familiarize yourself with the process of resetting your garbage disposal unit. At the base of the garbage disposal, you’ll find a red reset button; press it gently. If the button doesn’t stay pushed in, wait about ten minutes and then attempt to reset it again. Remember to run cold water when turning the garbage disposal switch to the “ON” position. This action should get your garbage disposal functioning again. If you encounter difficulties resetting your garbage disposal, it’s advisable to contact your plumbing contractor for assistance.

How to Check Your Plumbing Systems Water Pressure Like a Pro

A drop in water pressure can result from various issues, including the accumulation of hard water deposits in your pipes, a possible water leak, a partially closed shut-off valve, or a malfunctioning pressure regulator. These factors can all contribute to reduced water pressure. 

You can also learn how to assess water pressure with a simple tool. A smart purchase is acquiring a water pressure gauge, which costs less than 10 dollars. This gauge attaches to an outdoor spigot, similar to a garden hose. After connecting it, turn on the water. An optimal reading typically falls within 40 to 60 pounds per square inch (PSI). If your reading registers at 80 PSI or higher, it’s considered high water pressure, potentially harming your plumbing system and appliances.

A Decade of Dedication: Our Service in California and Nearby Regions

Having a grasp of the fundamental aspects of your plumbing system can be highly beneficial. When you require a skilled plumbing professional for your home, contact the experts at BIG B’s Plumbing. With over a decade of experience, we have delivered plumbing services to California, encompassing San Marcos, Escondido, Vista, Rancho Bernardo, and surrounding areas. We take pride in our outstanding reputation, holding an A+ rating with The BBB and an impressive track record of over 1000 five-star ratings on platforms like Facebook, Yelp, and Google My Business.

Brandon and Family, Licensed plumbing contractor

Family Owned & Operated

My name is Brandon Mageno. I'm the founder, President, and CEO of Big B's Plumbing Company. As the founder, I never thought about being average or good. My passion for being the best plumbing company in Southern California has always been the same. Providing plumbing services to this great county is simply in my DNA. Nothing makes me happier than to see a satisfied customer. Learn More About Us

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I called Big B's Plumbing because I the hot water would not turn off in our master bathroom. I tried to turn the valve off under the sink and it broke off, so I had to shut off the main water to the house. It was noticeable the valves were original to the home. When I called, the rep stated that I would be informed about the service tech and their experience along with services offered "On The Spot". I was on a bit of a time crunch...
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