You just wrap the plumber’s tape around the thread. What can go wrong? A plunger is a plunger, right? And do you really need a permit for that DIY plumbing job?
Plumbing is complicated. Even something as seemingly simple as plumber’s tape can present pitfalls when misused. We’re tackling how to apply it properly, as well as addressing several other common plumbing mishaps.
Applying Plumber’s Tape Incorrectly
You don’t need to be a plumber to use plumber’s tape, but you need to apply it like a pro. Wrapping the tape in the wrong direction will spell disaster down the line.
What is Plumber’s Tape?
Plumber’s tape goes by many names: thread seal tape, tape dope, and, if you want to sound smart, polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE tape. You can also refer to it as “Teflon tape.”
Whatever you call it, the stuff works like a charm if you use it correctly. We use it when connecting pipes together to create secure, watertight joints. Thread seal tape can solve a leaking P-trap, for example. It is both a filler and lubricant, forming a strong union between threads. If you’re replacing a faucet or showerhead or installing a new dishwasher or washing machine, thread seal tape will keep leaks at bay.
Thread seal tape comes in several colors. For household use, use white tape.
How to Use Thread Seal Tape
The misapplication of thread seal tape will prevent a watertight fitting between connections, so use it wisely. Follow these steps to guarantee results:
- Use a rag to clean the male threads at the end of the pipe
- Start your wrap at the second thread from the end of the pipe. The tape should lie flat. Keeping the first thread bare will help engage the fitting.
- This is the important part: Envision turning the pipe into the fitting, and wrap the tape in the opposite direction. This will ensure that the tape doesn’t get bound up and unravel as you twist the pipe into place.
- Maintain tension as you wrap for a snug application.
- Give it three to six good wraps, finishing near the end of the threads (farthest from where you started your wrap.)
- Pinch the tape between your thumb and forefinger and give it a sharp pull to break the tape from the roll. Smooth the end around the threads.
You’re now ready to twist the pipe into the fitting!
Using the Wrong Plunger
There are several different types of plungers, each designed for an intended purpose. Contrary to popular belief, the common flat cup plunger is not always the best tool for dislodging clogs. The flat cup plunger is not a toilet plunger. Its created for clogs in sinks and bathtubs. The flat end forms a strong seal on flat surfaces. For tough toilet clogs, use a flange plunger.
The flange plunger features a sleeve-like extension to fit within the contours of the toilet drain.
How to Use a Flange Plunger
- Firmly place the cup over the toilet drain, filling it with as much water as you can.
- Go slow and easy on the initial plunge. If you go too fast, you’ll force out any air trapped inside the cup, causing a splashback of dirty water.
- Once you’ve gently worked out any trapped air, thrust several times rapidly to dislodge the blockage.
Having both cup and flange plungers will help you better tackle tough clogs. Plus, it’s more sanitary to have one solely for the toilet.
DIYing Without a Plumbing Permit
This one can get you in trouble. If you complete a plumbing project without a permit, you risk doing the job wrong, which will result in faulty operation, leaks, and other headaches. And because it likely won’t comply with the plumbing code, your home won’t pass an inspection process when you go to sell it. So, do the job right the first time.
When Plumbing Permit is Required
In short, if you’re replacing a faucet or a toilet, you likely don’t need a permit. However, if the job involves modifying the home’s pipe, a permit is probably required. Each municipality has its own permitting requirements, so be sure to check with your local building department.