Tightening Plumbing Fittings Can Be Tricky
Plumbing DIYers…Take the Time To Do It Right!
If you do any of your own simple plumbing repairs, you know that tightening plumbing fittings is not always the easiest task on your to-do list. Taking your time and following these basic tips will help you turn a wrench like a pro without damaging your plumbing fixtures.
- Hand Tight is Right. It seems to go against common sense, but plumbing fittings don’t have to be super tight in order to function properly. In fact, pipes should only be hand tight to help aid the flow of water throughout your home. The unique construction and configuration of pipes means they are made to be tightened just enough; making them super tight can actually prevent water from flowing properly. Over-tightening will also warp the rubber fittings inside the pipes over time, which can increase the risk of leaks. Turn a plumbing fitting only until you feel it tighten, then stop. Continuing to turn past that point can lead to trouble.
- No Stripping. Plumbing fittings look like extra large bolts. Inside each bolt are threads that allow the fitting to screw onto the pipes to create a tight seal. If you tighten the fittings too much, you may strip the threads inside the fitting or on the outside of the pipe. As with any household screw, once the threads are stripped it’s nearly impossible to get the fitting to tighten on the pipe. This makes it more likely that a leak will develop, and it also increases the chance of a cracked or burst pipe in extreme weather or high water pressure.
- Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty. This isn’t just a playground rhyme; it really works. Turning a screw, opening a jar or bottle, operating a faucet, and adjusting a plumbing fitting all function on the same principle. Turning to the left loosens the plumbing fitting; turning to the right tightens it. Remembering this simple rhyme can prevent a bad seal and stripped fittings. It’s also handy in a pinch if you need to shut off the water supply quickly.
- Plumber’s Tape is Your Friend. One of a plumber’s most trusted secret weapons is common plumber’s tape. It is usually made from silicone and helps create a stronger, waterproof seal on pipes and fittings. Using plumber’s tape around fittings while you tighten them will prevent over-tightening, protect against leaks, and ensure a good seal. Plumber’s tape is available at most home improvement or hardware stores in the plumbing section.
- Keep Pipe Fittings Warm. If you’re working on exterior pipes located outside your home, it’s wise to keep plumbing fittings wrapped in magnetic insulation. Water that is allowed to leak or spray from loose fittings outside in cold weather increases the likelihood of freezing, cracking, and bursting—which means big trouble inside your home, too. Wrapping outdoor fittings to protect them from harsh weather will help maintain a constant temperature and ensure your pipes stay in good repair. You can also find pipe insulation at home improvement, hardware, or plumbing supply stores.