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Expert Interview Series: Greg Chick on DIY plumbing

The idea to offer online plumbing advice came to Greg Chick in a dream.

In the dream, customers would tell him what problems they were having and he could make a living offering answers through pictures and videos.

Nearly 20 years later, he does just this on his site DIYPlumbingAdvice.com.

We recently caught up with Greg, who has 40 years of contracting experience and owns Ramona’s Plumber, to learn more about the common plumbing problems he comes across in homes and the dos and don’ts of DIY plumbing. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you think are the most common plumbing mistakes homeowners make?

Corrosive hazardous drain chemicals, buying cheap imported faucets and fixtures, thinking that a brand name promises quality – simply because they recognize the name, they are convinced it is a good product? Get real. “Lifetime warranty” claims fool so many.

What DIY plumbing jobs can a novice tackle safely?

The ones I provide videos for on my site for free. The difficulty is labeled; some things are easy for some ,while other tasks are easier for others.

One easy task is installing a point-of-use water treatment system like the one in my videos. A smart idea, too – bottled water is many times the cost of even the expensive systems. For the easiest, I say the shower head replacement. For the toughest, I say some kitchen faucets or widespread lavatory faucets.

What’s worse is taking on a shower valve repair that they do not understand. If they break that, the water to the whole house might need to remain off till a pro takes over. I have seen over $1,000 mistakes, and it likely happens every day.

What advanced jobs do you think a plumbing novice should avoid?

Anything they are not completely educated in because of the domino effect that can happen. These may include all gas pipe and appliance repairs, sewage ejectors, water heaters, and many shower valves. Things can go south fast and get costly; I get calls and emails daily about these issues.

What would you love to see more homeowners and/or professionals doing in improving how water is used in a house?

Everyone needs to realize that water may just come out when one turns on a faucet, but this water is underpriced and thought of as infinitely available in a useable form.

The reality is, water is undervalued, overused and wasted. People have come to expect – even demand – it be running, hot, cold, fast and cheap. Times have allowed population to outgrow the easily available, cheap and clean, unpolluted water. We have the same water on Earth as forever, but 7 billion people now where there was only 1 billion just 200 years ago.

What do you think are the most commonly overlooked plumbing issues in a house? Why should homeowners care about these areas?

Pressure is a cause of blown supply tubes; most people confuse pressure with flow and demand high pressure that can cause leaks and floods, when all they really need is good flow. Good flow can be had at 50 psi. Code limits pressure at 80 or less, but many homes have 120 PSI.

When it comes to home inspections, where are the typical plumbing “hot spots”?

Angle stops and supply tubes are real causes of floods, as well as poorly-installed and even dangerous water heaters.

What is the best way for contractors who want to learn plumbing skills to gain experience?

Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) has an academy system across the country, and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials does as well. These organizations are top of the open market sources for education.

Then there is the United Association (UA) that is, to some, the best schooling available. Continued education is offered at all wholesale supply houses, and the internet is an endless source of training, which includes certificates to prove the education. Green Plumbers training is available online and is what I consider the most important

Connect with Greg on YouTube.

Enroll now to start ICA’s home inspection training course.

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