11/14/2013 08:00 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

First step to tackling at-home plumbing project is research, says expert

VICTORIA - Home plumbing projects can be successful if homeowners are willing to ask questions and gather information before taking on a do-it-yourself fix, says one expert.

John Gordon, chair of Camosun College's plumbing and pipe trades in Victoria, B.C., says the first step to tackling plumbing projects at home should be research.

Camosun College offers a homeowner plumbing course for the DIY crowd. But for those who don't have access to such a program, Gordon said there are easy ways to educate yourself before you take on a plumbing venture.

"They need to do a bunch of research if they are going to do the job themselves, and even if they are going to hire someone to do it. Homeowners should not just trust what someone else is telling them," he said. "Research was difficult before the Internet, but it's really easy now. We even show YouTube videos in class on how to do things like put a kitchen sink in."

While there is a wealth of information on the Internet, Gordon said the best information always comes from manufacturer documentation.

"If you are putting in a specific sink or faucet you should have the literature from the manufacturer and it will have step-by-step instructions," he said.

Research is an important step in the successful completion of a plumbing project, and according to Gordon it is also a good way first-time home plumbers can assess whether they have the skills finish the task.

"Everyone has a different level of comfort, so what I really think you need to do is do research and understand what needs to be done to finish the project and make a really good informed decision," he said. "If you have a good relationship with a contractor they can actually come in and take a look at it and give you some input on whether or not you can tackle it yourself."

In addition to being an instructor and chair of the department at Camosun, Gordon has worked in the field as a Red Seal certified plumber.

When Gordon is telling his students about home plumbing projects that have gone wrong, he often relays the story of a homeowner who re-did all the plumbing in his house but forgot to glue the pipes together.

"He put all the pipes together but forgot the glue, so everything leaked and we had to take it all down and start over," he said.

Homeowners can often tackle projects like basic bathroom renovations that involve switching fixtures, or replacing a kitchen sink, but if a project involves building permits, Gordon recommends hiring a professional.

Even though a homeowner may be bringing a plumber to help with a project, Gordon said research is still important to having a successful outcome.

"There are a lot of plumbers that aren't quite ready to do the job they are tackling," said Gordon. "If you've done your homework as a homeowner you know what should happen and if it isn't happening, ask questions. If you aren't getting quality answers, you can stop the job."

When hiring a plumber, Gordon said homeowners should ask about credentials.

"We're all licensed trades people but there is an apprenticeship process in place," he said. "You could hire a person who has the credential and is a journeyperson plumber, or someone who is working towards that as an apprentice, but you want to make sure they are heading towards that certification goal, whether they are heading towards it or have it."