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Household Plumbing Questions You Always Wanted to Ask

Q. Do I need a permit to upgrade my plumbing?  A. When in doubt, check it out. Even an apparently minor plumbing upgrade like water heater replacement may require a permit, and every locale has its own regulations. There's a good chance they will also specify that you hire only a licensed plumbing contractor. PS: Don't forget to find out what's allowed under the terms of your homeowners insurance as well. 

Q. How can I tell if I have a plumbing leak?  A. Be alert to the signs of excessive moisture in your home -- such as damp stains on the walls or ceiling, bubbling and peeling paint, wet floors when you haven't showered recently, musty or acrid odors, and mold growth. To verify whether any of these is the result of a plumbing leak, turn off all the water in your home and check whether the water meter continues to turn. If so, you've got a leak somewhere in your plumbing system. 

Q. What can I flush down the toilet?  A. You can flush all kinds of things down the toilet. Just ask any two-year-old. However, there's a difference between what you can and what you should flush if you don't want to plug up your facilities. Over time, even seemingly flushable substances such as hair clippings and leftover house paint can cause problems in your plumbing pipes. To stay on the safe side, stick to flushing only bodily wastes and toilet paper. 

Q. Is there a normal level for household water pressure?  A. Yes, 40-60 pounds is normal. While water pressure below this level is obviously problematic (you won't get much of shower, for example), it should not be too high either. Over 80 pounds pressure may damage your fixtures and appliances. To test your water pressure, buy an inexpensive gauge. This attaches to an outside faucet and can be used to adjust pressure as necessary. 

Q. Should I buy that gorgeous "fixer-upper" with the 1950s plumbing?  A. Here's a question for you: How attractive is the price compared to other properties in the same area? If it's a real steal, you might want to ask if you can bring in a licensed plumber to give an estimate of how much it would cost you to upgrade the plumbing. This is advisable even before you put in an offer, if the seller will allow it. (Of course, any offer to purchase you do eventually make should be subject to approval by a building inspector, as well.) 

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