“First things first: Call a plumber immediately if you have a leak, no matter how small. People often assume that little drips will stop on their own, but most get worse. And when water seeps into your walls or damages your floors, the repair can run up to several thousand dollars. If you have a number of nonurgent issues besides the leak, like a slow-draining sink or a faucet that needs to be installed, ask that all the repairs be made in one visit; your bill could be up to 25 percent lower than if the plumber makes multiple visits. And tell him if a family member or a friend referred him. He may do a small fix gratis, which he wouldn’t do for a cold-call customer.
“Also realize that there are some jobs you can do yourself. For example, if a toilet won’t stop running, you can replace the ball cock. (That’s the mechanism that controls the flushing system. Instructions can be found on the packaging.) It’s a straightforward switch that will cost you about $15 at a hardware store—a lot less than the $150 you would pay for a plumber to do the same thing. And to keep your pipes clear, use a green drain cleaner, like TerraCycle Natural Maintainer & Cleaner ($9, amazon.com) to remove excess dirt and debris. That will save you at least $100 for every unclogging job.”