Home Plumbing in a Pandemic -- Do You Really Need a Plumber?

Tricia Chadwick

Weigh the pros and cons of hiring vs. DIY.

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Some people enjoy doing home improvement projects for the satisfaction of a job well done, to save money, or because they are good with their hands. 

And then there are people like me, people that do-it-yourself because otherwise, they can't afford to fix it. 

In my house, my family largely ignores the item in need of repair. Save for a few complaints here and there about the inconvenience of living with the damage.

When I have finally had enough, I google some home remedies for the problem and attempt to fix it in the most cost-effective way possible.

Such was the case with my various plumbing problems over the past year, throughout the pandemic. 

I mention the pandemic because it is important to note that I was poorer than usual and tried harder than ever to avoid having someone from outside my family 'bubble' inside our home.

Hence, my hesitancy in hiring a plumber. 

The pandemic is also integral because each drain in my house clogged, one after the other, within weeks. 

Due to the pandemic, my adult daughter moved back and is working from home, my college-aged son is distance learning from his bedroom, and my middle schooler is distance learning from her bedroom. My husband and I are also working from home, putting a lot of pressure on a 1950s pipe system. 

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In the beginning, we had a slow drain in the bathroom. 

Cloudy, slimy, gross water, slowly draining all day. 

In a pandemic. 

Experts on the television were saying it will all be okay if we wash our hands often. 

Not in that sink, my friend. 

Because it was a lockdown and the early days of coronavirus, I didn't want anyone in our house. Sludgy sink or not. 

I tried home solutions to unclog it.

  • Snake
  • Plunge
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Drano
  • Drano Max
  • Drano Max Gel

It wasn't doing the job, and the clog was getting worse. The lockdown didn't look to be easing up anytime soon, and I couldn't imagine living any longer with the sink this way.

I read a how-to article on a slow draining sink. Thank you, Bob Vila. In the checking of the P-trap, nasty by the way, I found my pipe disintegrated at one end. 

Was this the reason for the slow drain? 

Maybe. 

Was this a product of the multiple bottles of Drano I used on the slow drain? 

Also possible. 

I'm not here to point fingers or place blame. 

All I know is that I ended up in Home Depot, in a face mask, looking for a new P-trap and trying to stay 6 feet away from the nearest customer.

On returning home, I found this YouTube video and proceeded to switch out my sink pipes. When I finished, they looked just like the video! 

I was so proud. 

I turned on the sink, and it was still slow to drain. 

Disappointed, I called Roto-Rooter and made an appointment. The man came the next day and wore a mask. I did, too, as did my family members that stayed in their rooms. 

He brought a large snake in a 5-gallon bucket and was in and out in about 10 minutes. 

The cost? 

$364. 

I was adamant that I would be successful if and when we needed another repair. 

The Universe quickly tested my theory, offering my next clogged drain a few short weeks later. This time the tub drain clogged. More than a clog, it seemed to be stuck with the stopper in the up position.

I called the plumber first this time, quickly assessing that I could not afford to hire for this job. Again, I looked up articles, read carefully, watched a youtube video, and went for it.

This time my son ended up in Home Depot searching for parts, bless his heart. He helped me with the fix, and it works. 

Somewhat. 

When taking a bath, it does let a tiny bit of water drain back out. Not the most relaxing thing in the world, but we bought a rubber bath stopper from Amazon, and it suffices.

The last repair was the clogged kitchen sink. The culprit was the garbage disposal, which was a simple fix. Just a simple turn of a screw with an Allen wrench and the kitchen sink drained like a champ.

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The cost of a professional can be steep. Plumbers are definitely worth their price, but it doesn't hurt to do a little research before hiring one. Sometimes repairs can be an easy fix, and you can save yourself some money. 

Use these steps to avoid expensive mistakes. 

1. Read about the repair and examine photos. 

2. Watch the youtube video all the way through before starting. 

3. Examine your drain and restart the video. 

4. Be prepared to run to the local hardware store halfway through.

Pros of DIY-

  • I saved money.
  • I only paid for the replacement parts. 
  • I didn't have to have someone in my home.

Cons of DIY- 

  • The repair took forever. Since I'm not a plumber and this was all new to me, it took me hours, when it would have taken a plumber minutes. 
  • The search for parts was painstaking since I didn't know what I was looking for or part names. The internet helped a little, but certain parts are hard to find since my house is circa the 1950s.
  • I didn't avoid people during the pandemic because I had so many trips to the hardware store for worn out parts. We only have one bathroom and five people, so waiting for an online order wasn't an option.

So after my plumbing adventures, would I recommend plumbing on your own with YouTube, or should you call a professional? 

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Photo by Julie Molliver on Unsplash

Despite the confidence I gained from knowing that I can complete these repairs independently, there is a good reason that tradespeople earn their hourly rates. 

Plumbing is a complicated and uncomfortable job. 

You have to sit in odd positions while huddled inside a tiny sink cabinet. A helmet should be part of the plumber uniform. 

The time spent doing the job myself was excessive, but when weighing my time against the costs and considering it's a pandemic and money is super tight, I would have made the same decision.

If I had more money? Yes. Absolutely, I would call hire a plumber. They are worth every penny.

However, if the choice is a plumber or groceries, give yourself a chance.

You might be surprised at what you can accomplish.

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Small business owner, teacher, and mom. I write about learning, health, parenting, and animals.

Torrington, CT
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