Troubleshooting Common Plumbing Issues

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Home Improvement

Plumbing issues can be difficult, expensive, and time consuming. You may be able to fix some things on your own, but if not, being able to diagnose the problem will make it easier for you to hire a professional to get the job done. Here are a few common plumbing problems you may encounter and ways to overcome them.

Leaky Faucet

Leaking faucets
Leaking faucets can run up your water bill and cause damage if the pooling leaks in a place you can't see. Even a slow drip can cost you 20 dollars a week! In most cases, a dripping faucet is caused by a faulty seal on the valve that holds back the pressure of your water supply. To fix this, turn off the water supply and then remove the faucet assembly. Often, the problem is the seat washer. Take the old washer with you when you go to buy a replacement, as you'll need one exactly the same size.

Slow drains
If only one drain has slowed, it's likely to be a localized clog. In that case, your first step should be to inspect the drain and see if anything obvious is clogging it. There is durable plastic tool you can buy at the home improvement or hardware store that is suitable for use in household drains that is about 20 in. long, with 18 in. of barbed length that you can fish down the drain and use to pull out hair and other solid waste. Once you have the waste removed, try putting a half cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it with a half cup of vinegar. Let that sit for a couple hours and then send down some boiling water. If you believe grease is the problem, use a half cup of salt and a half cup of baking soda and a pot of hot water. Let it sit overnight. Some people may want to try using a plunger to clear it but be careful not to damage your pipes with too much pressure. You can use a toilet plunger or buy one specifically for sinks. Always watch for leaks after clearing the drain. If you experience constant drain problems, look into having the pipes inspected and replaced.

Toilet problems
 If there isn't enough water in the tank, check to ensure the shut off valve is open. There is usually a set screw for the toilet water amount you can try adjusting first. If you're not getting enough water in the tank to fully flush the bowl, try bending the float arm up just a bit. This will allow the tank to fill higher before the water turns off. If there's plenty of water in the tank but not enough makes it into the bowl, check the tank ball on the flush valve and consider resetting the guide.  If none of those solutions work, there could be buildup from hard water in the small holes that sit under the rim of the inside seat. These small holes are where the water comes out, and buildup can block the water. Trying using a mirror to inspect them and if you see clogs, turn off the water valve, flush the toilet water away, put a big towel in the bowl to prevent anything going down the drain while you work and then use a safety pin, paperclip or wire coat hanger to unclog them. 

Just like leaky faucets, running toilets can cost hundreds of dollars a year through wasted gallons of water! In order to find out how to fix a running toilet, you’ll need to know what's causing the leak. Most toilet leaks are caused by a worn-out toilet flapper or a faulty toilet fill valve. 

Broken pipes
Nation-wide, many municipalities face aging infrastructure, including water pipes coming to the end of their useful lifespan. Of course, if you are connected to city sewer and water much of the pipe replacement is the city's responsibility, but some of the financial burden will fall on local residents via taxes and/or assessments.If you are on a private water and sewer system, regular inspection and maintenance are critical to the long term health of your system. Be sure to find a local trusted professional and set up a schedule that fits your usage needs and age of your system. If you're experiencing any signs of a major leak, be it reduced water pressure, damp spots in your yard, or a sewer smell in the house, contact a plumber right away.