Although plumbing problems often seem intimidating, some have surprisingly easy fixes that wary homeowners can perform on their own. Some issues, however, require the expertise of a trained professional. Below are four common plumbing problems and how you can handle them.
Your Sink is Draining Slowly or is Completely Stopped Up
The cause for a slowly draining or stopped up sink is usually simple, and anyone who’s even slightly handy with household tools can quickly fix a clogged sink.
A trap under the sink is designed to catch hair and other debris that gets washed down the drain. That prevents clogging farther down the line. The trap is located just under the sink and is attached to the drainpipe by a nut. You can use a pair of pliers to remove the nut, which will allow you to access the trap. However, if problems persist after the trap has been thoroughly cleaned, that’s an indication of a possible serious issue that requires repair by a skilled plumber.
Your Toilet is Running
A constantly running toilet not only creates an audio annoyance, it also wastes water. Running toilets are usually caused by malfunctions of the parts inside the toilet tank. For instance, the fill valve may not be completely shutting off, or the chain connecting the handle to the flapper may be too long or too short.
A third possibility that happens frequently is that the flapper itself has become damaged to the point where it doesn’t form a good seal. Replacement parts are available in home improvement stores for a relatively low cost and are easy to install — simply drain the tank and follow the instructions on the package.
Low Water Pressure
If the water pressure in your home suddenly becomes noticeably low, that could be a sign that your exterior plumbing pipes have sprung a major leak. A gradual decrease in water pressure, in a specific area, is probably caused by mineral deposits in one or several faucet aerators. This same cause can result in faucets spitting and spraying. This is another fix that you can do on your own without the assistance of a professional plumber. Most aerators can be accessed and cleaned easily. To do so:
- Unscrew the end of the faucets. (A wrench with a rag underneath may be needed or a gripping jar opener to preserve the surface of the faucet)
- Remove the aerator or mesh screen that covers the end of the faucet
- Clean with vinegar until all debris and deposits are gone
- Take the opportunity to clear the faucet, as well. Use a screwdriver or other long utensil and make sure nothing else is blocking water flow
- Drop in the same aerator or a new one, if the old one looks damaged or could not be cleaned
- Re-assemble everything and turn the water back on.
Aerators can be part of sprinklers, sinks, baths, showers, appliances, or on any pipes or faucets leading to those water uses.
Another cause of low water pressure is a water shut-off valve that isn’t open all the way. If there’s a shut-off valve under the sink, try that first; otherwise, the main valve is located on the cold water line going into the main water heater.
If low water pressure persists or there is a major water leak, hiring a plumber will be billed on a per hour basis. Because low water pressure can have a wide variety of causes, plumbing costs depend on what’s at the root of the problem. Average hourly costs are harder to calculate, but HomeAdvisor says that in the Phoenix market, you can expect to pay between $45 to $150 per hour, depending on the job, timing, and location.
Few things interrupt sleep more than the sound of a dripping faucet in a still house in the middle of the night. Although many homeowners reach for the phone to call a plumber the first thing in the morning after listening to a dripping faucet all night, leaky faucets can almost always be repaired using common household tools and buying minor replacement parts.
The problems that cause dripping faucets include worn out or improperly installed washers or o-rings, corroded valve seals, or various loose parts. Replacing or tightening these small parts can usually repair a dripping faucet. To work through replacing a washer, follow these steps:
To repair a leaky faucet, turn off the water near the faucet or the main water shut-off valve. (If you have a two handled faucet, you will have two shut-off valves under the sink.)
- Turn on the water faucets, after, and let any remaining water drain out
- Remove the cap off the handle with a flathead screwdriver
- Unscrew the handle from the faucet, usually with a Phillips screwdriver
- Remove the packing with an adjustable wrench
- Once removed, separate the washer with a screwdriver or other tool
- Take this washer and valve body to a hardware store to get the correct size replacement
- Do everything in reverse to reassemble, and note somewhere the correct sized washer or o-ring for when and if it happens again.
Other parts of the faucet mechanism, usually a spring, is where it can also fail.
The sense of accomplishment you feel when you remove a nagging plumbing problem is one good reason to do these repairs yourself. Saving time and money is another. If you don’t have time to DIY, though, or the problem persists or is clearly more complicated than this, don’t hesitate to call a professional plumber like Isley’s to evaluate and handle the problem.
Find out more about our home maintenance plans for plumbing.