Forget all those expensive DIY books: everything you need is here on the Web, if you know where to look. To that end, we've hand-compiled a list of over 150 of the best DIY plumbing pages we could find, helping you to do everything from sorting out your drains to fixing a dripping faucet (tap)—and all on one handy, uncluttered web page!
We've included several different guides to most topics, so you can compare the advice and choose the approach you like best.
Why are plumbers always in demand? That was the question BBC News magazine posed a while ago in this interesting article about plumbing. Apparently, there's been a "flood" of people entering the plumbing business in recent years, largely prompted by media stories highlighting the apparently huge potential to make money fixing people's pipes. Whether there's any truth in that or not, one thing is beyond question: taps will always drip, toilets and drains will always block, central heating will always grind to a halt midwinter, and people will always need pipes fixing.
It's illegal to do your own plumbing work in some countries but, in places where DIY plumbing is legal, you might be surprised how much you can do by yourself. We don't recommend you take on any major jobs without consulting a qualified professional, but for simple things like fixing a dripping faucet (tap), there's no good reason to call out a plumber and pay extortionate rates. With a new washer and a spanner, you can make the repair yourself and be up and running again in about ten minutes.
Even if you plan on getting your job done by an expert, it can still pay you to research the subject beforehand. If you understand the problems and the options available, you'll be better placed to make decisions when your plumber asks you to make a choice. You'll also be able to spot any cowboy tradesmen who are trying to get you to commit to something more expensive than you need.
This Web page is all about giving you background advice on plumbing. It points you to other Web pages that will help with simple repairs and lists lots of do-it-yourself projects for people who feel confident and competent. It covers environmental topics like greywater, rainwater collection, and composting toilets. And it even points you in the right direction if you're considering plumbing as a career.
We hope you find the information here helpful!
Last updated: 19 March 2013: All links fully checked and updated.
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Contents - what's on this page
- Find a plumber
- Safety advice: before you start
- General plumbing advice
- Useful plumbing videos
- Pipe skills
- How-to project worksheets
- Plumbing emergencies
- Fixing dripping faucets/taps
- Central heating systems and radiators
- Drains and drainage
- Choosing fixtures and fittings
- Environmental plumbing (saving water, greywater, composting toilets, etc)
- Plumbing courses
Find a plumber
- UK: Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers: Includes a "Find a plumber" directory of qualified professionals.
- UK: Heating & Hotwater Industry Council: Includes details of how to find a qualified heating installer.
- UK: Gas Safe: Find a registered gas business in the UK, Isle of Man, and Guernsey. (The Gas Safe Register replaced the old CORGI scheme.)
- Scotland/Northern Ireland: SNIPEF: Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers' Federation: Find yourself a properly licensed plumber.
- USA/Canada: There doesn't appear to be a single body licensing plumbers for the whole of the United States.
- Australia: Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australia: How to find a qualified plumber down under.
- New Zealand: New Zealand Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board: The main industry organization for NZ.
Other useful groups
- American Society of Plumbing Engineers: International organization promoting higher standards in plumbing, mostly in America but also internationally.
Safety advice: before you start
General DIY safety
- DIY safety: Advice from the BBC.
- Home improvement: Electrical: Safety Basics: DIY Network: Brad Staggs explains the DIY Basics of workshop safety.
- RoSPA DIY safety advice: General home safety tips.
- DIYnot.com's guide to DIY safety: "Taking a few minutes to plan what is to be done could mean the difference between tackling a job safely and successfully or courting disaster".
- DIY Safety Tips: A quick checklist from DIY2U.net.
- Health & Safety Executive: This UK website is a mine of official information, especially for businesses and workers employed in risky occupations. Includes guidance on assessing and minimizing risks.
Plumbing health and safety
- UK: Plumbers Health and Safety Documents:Risk assessment templates for plumbers from HS Direct.
- Workmen 'ignoring asbestos risk': A BBC News report about the risks of asbestos exposure.
- Asbestos warning for young builders: A BBC Newsbeat report warns that new workers don't understand the dangers posed by asbestos.
- Asbestos: A Wikipedia article summarizing asbestos and its risks.
- Mesothelioma: Another Wikipedia article explaining the rare form of cancer that can occur in workers exposed to asbestos, such as plumbers.
- State Fund Insurance: Plumbing Safety: A basic review of the health and safety risks that plumbers encounter.
- CCOHS: Plumbing safety: An overview of plumbing safety and health risks from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety.
- CIPHRE: Public Health Aspects of Plumbing: A short introduction to the World Health Organization's "Health Aspects of Plumbing" report, with a download link. Also includes information about public health plumbing issues such as Legionnaires' disease, lead poisoning, cryptosporidiosis, asbestos, and related issues.
General tool guides
- DIY tool guide: Impartial advice from the BBC.
- Painting 101: Tips for buying paintbrushes and other painting tools, from DIY network.
- Choosing tools: A great set of articles about choosing different tools, including saws, drills, hammers, ladders, sandpaper, spanners... and more.
- Ultimate Handyman: Power tool buying guide: Includes guides to drills, cordless drills, power saws, grinders, sanders, rotozips, routers.
- DIYnot.com: Buying and hiring: Looks at the pros and cons of buying and hiring and things to watch out for, including basic safety points.
- Buying guides: Homebase has a very wide selection of buying guides, including helpful articles devoted to circular saws, electric screwdrivers, heat guns, power drills, power jigsaws, pressure washers, and sanders.
Handy tool-buying guides from Homebase UK
- Electric screwdrivers
- Electric drills
- Circular saws
- Power jigsaws
- Heat guns
- Power jet washers
General plumbing advice
- Plumbing pages: This very useful collection of pages from diyfixit covers virtually every plumbing problem and job you're likely to want to tackle.
- Popular Mechanics: How your house works: plumbing: A very clear explanation of a typical home plumbing system.
- This Old House: Plumbing: A step-by-step guide to lots of minor household plumbing repairs.
- Plumbing Forum: Ask and ye shall receive the collective wisdom of other forum readers (or not)! A healthy and vibrant discussion community, currently listing 1650 members and 1489 threads.
- DIY Network: Unclog plumbing problems with DIY Plumbing! In this workshop, master plumber Ed Del Grande helps solve household plumbing problems.
- DIY Plumbing Articles: Various plumbing articles, including central heating.
- DIYnot: Plumbing: An alternative selection of plumbing advice.
- Focus DIY - Plumbing: Advice from British DIY store. (Focus is currently in administration so this link has been removed temporarily.)
- Plumbing Help, Plumbing Information - PlumbingPages: "The UK's largest source of information on plumbing, heating and bathroom installation."
- How to solve plumbing problems: Guide from Channel 4 TV in the UK.
- Ron Hazelton: Plumbing Projects: Expert advice from DIY guide Ron.
- About.com: Plumbing Basics: A decent little summary of basic plumbing advice.
- Plumbing: A very short introduction from Wikipedia. Might be worth a quick look!
Useful plumbing videos
If you prefer watching to reading, start here! These videos cover a few of the very basic plumbing chores we all encounter from time to time, for which you won't want to call on a plumber unless you absolutely have to.
- Plumbing Parts: A good collection of plumbing videos on YouTube from Plumberparts.
- Howstuffworks: Plumbing Videos: Lots of useful how-to videos from Howstuffworks and Discovery Channel.
- Working with copper pipes: A fairly clear, illustrated guide from Do it Yourself.com. This one describes the different types of copper pipes, how to cut them, how to mend them, and how to connect them.
- Tim Carter's great Askthebuilder.com website has a good set of articles about plumbing design and plumbing piping
- Plumbing Basics: How to Sweat a Pipe Joint: An illustrated guide from Popular Mechanics.
- Bending copper pipe: An easy-to-follow, illustrated guide from diyfixit.co.uk
- Bending copper pipes: Diydata.com explains how to bend pipes with either bending springs (and your leg) or pipe bending machines.
- Soldering copper pipes: A brilliantly clear video explanation from easy2diy.
- Connecting copper pipe: A guide to soldering pipes from diyfixit.co.uk
- How to solder copper pipes: A text-based guide from Acme How To.
- Soldering copper pipe: An illustrated photo-guide from Don Vandervort's Hometips.com
How-to project worksheets
Homebase DIY guides
- Plumbing yourself out of trouble
- Replacing a basin or bath
- Installing a shower cubicle
- Plumbing in a dishwasher or washing machine
- Installing or repairing a toilet
- Replacing a radiator
Other worksheets and how-to guides
- DIY plumbing guides: A great collection of simple, illustrated guides from Diyfixit.co.uk.
- How to Fix Noisy Water Pipes: What can you do about banging pipes? Popular Mechanics explains.
The best thing to do in a plumbing emergency is usually to call a qualified plumber!
- Plumbing emergencies: Some things to consider.
- DIY.com: Plumbing Emergencies: Helpful two-page summary leaflet from the UK DIY store B&Q.
- Plumbing Emergencies: More from allabouthome.com.
Fixing dripping faucets/taps
- Mrs Fixit: Plumbing howtos: Clear and simple practical advice.
- Cure a leaking tap - replace the washer: "A straightforward guide to the simple task of replace a tap".
Illustrated photo guides from This Old House
- How to repair a two-handled stem faucet
- How to Repair a Single-Handled Cartridge Faucet
- How to Replace a Bathroom Faucet
- How to Replace Tap Washer and Seat: A good detailed video covering how to replace the faucet washer and seat on a mixer-style unit.
- How to fix a leaky faucet with a single-handle design: Mike Kraft gives a clear three-minute explanation for Lowe's.
- How to repair a dripping tap: A clear and simple guide to replacing a washer.
- Ask the Builder: Easy Faucet Body Installation: Tim Carter shares his top tips for installing a faucet.
- Ask the Builder: Plumbing fittings: Tim explains how to install a faucet that won't leak.
- Ask the Builder: Kitchen Sink Strainer: Tim shows you how to get professional results when you install a strainer yourself.
- Ron Hazelton's House Calls: How to clean a faucet aerator: Ron shows how to stop a tap spitting and sputtering by cleaning dirt and sand from the aerator.
- Ron Hazelton's House Calls: How to replace washing machine hoses: Ron explains why old water hoses can be a problem—and how to replace them with reinforced mesh ones that will last longer.
Central heating systems and radiators
- Water Central Heating - the boiler: This introduction from diydata explains the basic arrangement of sealed and open-vented heating systems
- Heating & Hotwater Industry Council: A good collection of background information for UK readers, including details of how to find a qualified heating installer, how to save energy, and how to get grants toward heating improvements.
- Central heating: A basic backgrounder from Wikipedia.
- Central Heating Systems - balancing radiators: How to make a central heating system more efficient.
- Bleeding a radiator: More good tips from AJ Shadlock
- How to bleed a radiator: Photo guide from the Ultimate Handyman.
- Bleeding a radiator: How to solve the problem of trapped air in central heating system.
- Ultimate Handyman: How To Bleed A Radiator: A two-minute guide to radiator bleeding.
- British Gas How To Bleed A Radiator: A British Gas engineer explains how to use a radiator key to sort out problem with your radiators.
- Ultimate Handyman: Find leaks on central heating systems: A few good simple tips here for tracing leaks in your system.
Choosing a boiler
- Modern Central Heating Boilers: The National Energy Foundation explains the advantages of using a modern condensing boiler, which can pay for its extra cost in as little as four years.
- Boiler Efficiency Database: Which boilers are most efficient? Find out on this website from the UK government.
- Which boiler is right for me?: Explains the difference between combination boilers, sealed system (unvented) boilers, open vent and open vent sealed system boilers, and back boilers; talks you through the cost of a boiler; and explains how much you can expect to save by modernising your system.
Drains and drainage
- Fixing Slow-Emptying Bathroom Lavatory: A basic introductory guide from Michigan State University.
- Fixing a Blogged Sink or Lavatory Drains: Another step-by-step guide from Michigan State University.
- 3 Easy Steps to Repair Your Toilet: Popular Mechanics explains a simple way to empty the water from a toilet bowl prior to making repairs.
- How To Unblock A Toilet: A bit simplistic, but possibly a useful introduction for clueless people with a blocked toilet that's threatening to overflow.
- How To Unblock A Toilet Quickly: This very simple method involves pushing a length of plastic pipe down the toilet.
Other drainage problems
- Tips and tricks: Quick and simple answers to a variety of basic drainage problems.
- Drain unclogging and maintenance: Brief but quite useful answers to quite a lot of common drainage problems.
- How To Unblock A Toilet: Simple guide from Channel 4 homes.
- Waterlinks advice on cleaning your drains: Includes drain tools and how to use them.
- HomeTips DIY: Sink Drains, How to Clear a Clogged Drain: "Free advice on how to clear a clogged drain with sink drain diagrams".
- Unclogging a stopped drain: This and other plumbing problems explained by China Winds.
- Unblogging drains: Various different approaches explained by Focus DIY. [Focus is currently in administration so this page has been temporarily removed]
- How to clean rain gutters: An illustrated guide from Don Vandervort's handy HomeTips.com website
- Cleaning gutters tutorial: A nice little animated guide from Easy2diy.com.
- Cleaning gutters: Tips on "the art of gutter cleaning". Includes guidance on using pressure washers.
- Gutter cleaning: health and safety issues: How to assess the risks, by the UK's Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
- Septic tank: A basic introduction to the concept of septic tanks (sewage treatment systems for houses not connected to main sewerage pipes).
- Septic Systems: A useful introduction from the the National Environmental Services Center, with links to some useful background documents.
- How sewer and septic systems work: An introduction to the basic technology from Howstuffworks website.
Choosing fixtures and fittings
- Plumbing Fixtures: Tim Carter's dependably excellent Askthebuilder.com website has a huge list of plumbing articles, including quite a few about fixtures and fittins.
- Buying guide: choosing a Lavatory Faucet: An introduction to the various different bathroom faucets from Lowe's.
- Buying guide: choosing a kitchen faucet: A list of things to consider from Lowe's.
- How to choose whirlpool tubs: A short guide to the different kind of water-jet tubs, how to choose one, how to install and maintain it, from ConsumerReports.Org
- Plumbing Your Options in Bathroom Fixtures: Selecting sinks, faucets, and finishes.
Environmental plumbing (saving water, greywater etc)
- H2ouse: Saving water in your home.
- Water saving tips: Simple ideas for homes, gardens, and businesses from Sydney Water.
- Water saving tips: More home water saving ideas from Santa Cruz County.
- Water: Use it wisely: Includes 100 great water-saving ideas.
- A-Z of water saving tips: Lots more ideas from the BBC.
- Safe use of household greywater: A helpful briefing paper from New Mexico State University.
- Greywater Guerillas: A group of people passionate about turning the world onto greywater. Includes practical advice on water recycling and building greywater irrigation systems.
- Greywater: what it is... how to treat it... how to use it: A great basic introduction.
- Greywater: Wikipedia's introduction to the basic concept of recycling domestic water (spelled graywater in the States and also known as sullage).
- Grey Water Central: Another complete guide to greywater, including planning regulations, safety and legal issues, etc.
- Sydney Water's guide to greywater: Topics covered include ways greywater can be used, greywater diversion devices, greywater treatment systems, maintaining your greywater diversion device or treatment system, and protecting your health.
- ECO Design Greywater Recycling System (GRS): An off-the-shelf greywater system.
- Grey water: recycling water at home: A very simple, very clear introduction to grey water recycling.
- The Humanure Handbook: A guide to composting human manure.
- Composting Toilets, Pasteurization and Permits: A guide to composting human manure.
- Composting toilet: An introduction from Wikipedia.
- Composting toilets: More information from the Sustainability Wiki.
- How to build a composting toilet: An illustrated photographic guide from WikiHow. This model is made from empty plastic bottles!
- The dry composting toilet: Everything you ever wanted to know, including 's wrong with flush toilets, why we need composting toilets, how they work, and how to build them.
- NatSol: A British manufacturer specializing in composting toilets.
- Waterless toilets: Short (two-page) leaflet from the Australian government covers the basics, including: what is a composting toilet, how does a composting toilet work, what regulations affect their use, where should you build your toilet, and how should you maintain it (300K PDF file).
- UK: Careers Advice: Job Profile: Plumber: general advice about how to become a plumber. Explains what qualifications and experience you need to be a plumber and discusses apprenticeships, short courses, overseas qualifications, and other forms of training and development.
- USA: American Society of Plumbing Engineers: Education: A useful collection of webinars, online courses, and pointers to other training materials.
- Are fast-track plumbing courses just money down the drain? by Jamie Elliott, 15 May 2010. A useful article from The Guardian that reviews the effectiveness of short courses in plumbing and asks whether they're value for money.
- UK: Careers in Plumbing: A useful introductory guide from The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers
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