7 Most Common Plumbing Problems

By: Jennifer Hodorowicz | Affiliate Disclosure

Plumbing problems in your home can be very costly, not just to your monthly water bill, but also because of the potential water damage that can happen in your home if an issue is neglected for too long. How do you know which common plumbing problems you can fix on your own and which require a professional? Keep reading to learn about the issues you can tackle yourself.

Signs of plumbing problems in your home 

If you’re unsure you have a plumbing problem, some signs could include visible water spots on the floors and wall, standing water in a bathtub or sink, leaking pipes and faucets, the sound of a continuously running toilet, or a spike in your monthly water bill.

Others signs may be more difficult to notice, such as a slow drain, dripping faucets, low water pressure, odd sounds in the pipes, and unpleasant smells. Most of these common problems can be fixed by taking a trip to the hardware store and buying the necessary materials and tools.

How to fix plumbing problems in your home 

If you’re planning on fixing these general plumbing issues, there are a few tools and items to have on hand:

Materials

  • A sink auger, tub auger, or plumber’s snake
  • Flange plunger for toilets
  • Cup plunger for sinks and drains
  • Channel-type pliers
  • Plumbers wrench
  • Faucet O-rings and washers
  • Set of Allen wrenches
  • Plumbers tape
  • Goggles and safety gloves

Below are a few ways to address the plumbing issues you’re experiencing in your home.

Dripping faucets 

A dripping faucet may not be high on your priority list to fix as it doesn’t seem to cause any harm to your home, but if left untreated, a leaky faucet can waste hundreds of gallons over the course of a year and increase your monthly water bill.

Often, the cause of a dripping faucet is due to an internal washer being torn, dislodged, or if the faucet has become brittle over time, allowing water to escape even when the tap is off.

Here’s how you can fix a dripping faucet:  

  1. Turn off the water to the faucet. 
  2. Insert a sink stopper or cover the sink drain with a washcloth to prevent any small parts from going down the drain. 
  3. Remove the screw cover on the faucet handle and lift the actual handle. 
  4. Under the handle there’s an adjusting ring—tighten that ring. 
  5. If the faucet is still leaking, you will need to replace the O-ring seal. 
  6. Remove the adjusting ring and remove the round metal stem with the ball, cam, and packing. 
  7. Remove and replace the O-ring seals. 
  8. Replace the ball, cam, packing, stem, adjusting ring, and faucet handle.  

For more information on how to fix a dripping faucet, click here.   

Slow draining sinks  

A slow drain is typically caused by a blockage in the pipe that slows the water flow out of your sink. Kitchen sinks can often get clogged by fat and other food remnants that get washed down the drain, whereas bathroom sinks typically get blocked by hair, soap, and other beauty products.

Make sure to clear a slow draining sink before it becomes completely blocked and causes pipes to burst. You can try the following to clear a blocked drain

  • Pour baking soda down the drain followed by vinegar and then rinse with cold water. The chemical reaction of the baking soda and vinegar can help break up the buildup and clear the drain. 
  • Try pulling the blockage back up through the drain by using a cup plunger.  
  • If you own a plumber’s snake, snake the auger down the drain to dislodge and break up the blockage.
  • Use a chemical drain cleaner. When using this type of cleaner, follow the directions on the product, wear gloves and goggles for safety, ventilate the area, and never mix chemicals.  

Blocked bath and shower drains 

Unlike a slow draining sink, shower and tub drains can become completely blocked due to hair, soap, and other product buildup over time. If you find yourself showering in standing water, you may have a clogged drain.

Like a slow draining sink, you’ll need to remove the buildup to clear the pipes and prevent a blockage that could lead to a burst pipe.

  • Remove the drain cover—Sometimes, the blockage will be wrapped around the cover and removing it will clear the hair and other buildup. 
  • Use a plumber’s snake—Snake the auger down the drain to dislodge and break up the blockage.  
  • Use a long wire—If you don’t own or want to purchase a plumber’s snake, use a pair of needle-nose pillars or a long wire (a straightened wire hanger can do the trick) to reach and dislodge the blockage.  
  • Opt for a cup plunger—If the blockage is too far down the pipe, you can try a cup plunger. Make sure you have a good seal around the drain opening and plunge vigorously until the blockage becomes dislodged.
  • Pour drain cleaner down the drain—As a last resort you can use a chemical drain cleaner if there’s no standing water in the tub. Never leave this cleaner in standing water, as it poses a danger to pets and young children.

Running toilet 

The sound of a continuously running toilet is annoying, especially when trying to sleep at night. Not only is it an annoyance, it can cost homeowners more money by wasting gallons of water each day. This problem can be tackled with the right tools, patience, and time. A running toilet can be caused by any of the following problems: 

  • A broken flapper
  • A leaky valve
  • A float that’s too high
  • A short chain

House Method has provided a detailed explanation of how to fix a running toilet. Additionally, you can go to a home improvement store to purchase a toilet repair kit.

Clogged toilet

A clogged toilet wastes water and can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, in most cases, you can solve the issue on your own. Here are a few ways to unclog a toilet:

  • Use a plunger or drain snake to remove the clog.
  • Pour dish soap into your toilet bowl and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour hot water into the bowl—the clog should break free.
  • Mix baking soda and vinegar and pour the solution down the drain. Pour hot water into the bowl and wait for the clog to become loose.

Low water pressure 

If you’ve noticed a significant drop in water pressure in your home, it may be a symptom of a bigger plumbing problem. A drop in water pressure, especially in older homes, may indicate a leaky pipe that has become worn over time. However, it could also be a buildup of sediment on showerheads or faucet openings.

Here are a few steps to help you fix low water pressure:

  1. Try soaking the showerhead or faucet head in vinegar overnight to break up the buildup. You can fill a plastic bag with vinegar and use a rubber band to seal it to the head so that you don’t have to remove the fixture.
  2. After soaking, use an old toothbrush to scrub and remove any remaining sediment.
  3. Flush cold water through the shower or faucet head.

If you still notice low water pressure, call a professional plumber to investigate and confirm you don’t have leaky pipes that could cause a lot more damage to your home if not addressed.  

Jammed garbage disposal 

Garbage disposals dispose of those leftovers we scrape off dishes with just a flip of a switch. However, if you put the wrong items down your disposal, such as vegetable and potato peels, too much food, metal, or plastic, or if you run the disposal without water, it can become jammed.

Here’s how to unclog a garbage disposal:

  1. Before unclogging the disposal, locate and press the reset button.  
  2. If you know it’s clogged from vegetable peels, try a cup plunger. Similar to unclogging a stubborn drain, place the plunger on the opening and plunge vigorously.
  3. If this doesn’t work, try using one of these garbage disposal cleaner ideas to unclog your drain.
  4. If the disposal is still jammed and clogged, you’ll have to open the unit up to dislodge the block.
  5. Turn off the power to the disposal by turning the circuit breaker off at the electrical box. If you don’t have the key that came with the motor, you can use a ¼ inch Allen wrench to open and dislodge the motor.

General DIY plumbing tips

Here are a few more tips to consider when trying to fix the plumbing problems in your house:

  • When tackling any plumbing project, make sure you know where the main water shut-off valve is in your house in case you run into a bigger problem and need to turn off the water.
  • Always turn off water to faucets and toilets prior to working on them.
  • For projects that require you to turn the power off, know where the circuit breaker box is and turn off power to the appliance before working on it.

When to call a professional plumber 

You may need to hire a professional to take care of a plumbing repair if any of these emergencies arise:

  • Broken pipe 
  • Overflowing toilet, sink, or tub 
  • Sump pump failure 
  • Hot water heater failure 
  • Gas leaks 
  • Sewer line blockage 

It’s helpful to have a recommendation for a plumber prior to needing one should an emergency arise.

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