As you begin your quest for self-sufficiency in earnest, you're planning to build your own house or renovate a fixer-upper. Many plumbing projects can be accomplished by a do-it-yourself type while using an instruction guide or a video for assistance. However, some plumbing work is best left to the pros, so until you complete a certain amount of training, call a plumber if you need any of these tasks done.
Some Projects That Aren't Great DIY Opportunities
Replacing the Sewer Pipe
Normally a homeowner never needs replacement of the section of the pipe installed above ground. Underground, however, sewer pipes often develop tiny cracks that tree roots grow into, causing sewer backups that can become relatively frequent. To resolve this disagreeable problem, replacing part of the sewer pipe is necessary.
This is a large project, requiring some form of excavation equipment. If your home is connected to a municipal sewer system rather than to a private septic system, it may not even be legal for you to do the task without an appropriate license.
Working With Natural Gas or Liquid Propane
If you want to replace a water heater, and a gas line is involved, call a plumber. Attempting to save money by doing it yourself isn't worth the risk. That's true whether you are replacing a gas water heater with another one or with an electric model, or whether you want to switch from electric to gas.
The sudden, dramatic risk involves explosion, but a more gradual problem can develop due to inadequate venting of a gas water heater -- issues with carbon monoxide accumulation that are lethal.
Installing or Maintaining a Septic System
Installing your own septic system may not be legal where you live unless you have a license to do so. Check the regulations; at the very least, you will probably need a permit. If DIY installation is illegal and you get caught, you'll need to pay to have the system removed or brought up to code, and you'll be assessed a hefty fine as well.
Even if you're allowed to install the system yourself, the installation is a huge job, probably requiring a backhoe. You also need to know all the relevant laws. For instance, the Center for Disease Control notes that a septic system should be at least 50 ft. from the well, a guideline that will likely be reflected in your local regulations.
If you make any errors and the system leaks, your property will be condemned once the authorities learn about the situation. You'll be required to resolve this very expensive problem.
Pumping and inspecting your own tank also is illegal unless you have a license. The work is dangerous for a person who isn't properly trained, and carries a big risk of contaminating your property and groundwater.
You can accomplish certain big projects safely, but those tasks can be time-consuming and inconvenient. If you're working full-time, for instance, completely remodeling your only bathroom might take months. You may wind up not being able to shower without draping tarps along the walls, or you may not be able to use the bathtub for a long time. Have realistic expectations about how quickly you can complete this type of project.
There are plenty of plumbing jobs that homeowners feel comfortable doing on their own. For example, you might feel ready to replace a kitchen faucet, add a garbage disposal or install a toilet.
Be sure you have the ability to accomplish the job before you start. Watching a thorough video or two can help a great deal. You don't want to have the water shut off for a day or more because you've become totally stuck on how to complete the task -- and then have to call a plumber in the end anyway.
The largest and riskiest projects and plumbing repairs should be done by a licensed professional, so don't hesitate to call one when you need assistance.