Homeowners learn as they go, but a little bit of knowledge can decrease the likelihood of plumbing emergencies and damage. Understanding what is a plumbing system, how it works, and what materials to use can minimize stress when repairs are necessary.
A plumbing system delivers fresh water into a building and removes wastewater. It follows natural laws like gravity and pressure as well as water seeking its own level to keep everything working properly.
Fix a Leaky Faucet
A dripping faucet can waste a lot of water–10 drops a minute can add up to 300 gallons a year. It can also damage your sink finish and create a breeding ground for bacteria and mildew. The good news is that most leaky faucets are easy to fix. You can usually do it yourself in about an hour, assuming you don’t need to buy specialty parts.
The first step in any plumbing repair is to turn off the water supply. You can do this either by shutting off the valves beneath your sink (for single-handle units) or, if they don’t work, by turning off the master water supply for the whole house. Before you start working, put a towel down on the floor underneath the sink to catch any small parts that might fall down the drain. Also, cover the drain with a piece of paper or cloth to prevent water from spraying out as you take apart the faucet.
After you’ve turned off the water, you can remove the handles. Use a screwdriver to loosen the decorative cap on the top of each handle and remove it, then you can unscrew the screw that holds the handle in place. The handle may stick, due to corrosion, so be careful when removing it. Never bang it free; you could break the inner workings of the handle.
Once the handles are off, you can see what’s causing the leak. For ball and cartridge faucets, the cause is usually a worn rubber seal or cracked disc inside the cartridge. You can replace these seals and reassemble the faucet in less than an hour, but be sure to turn on the water afterward so the new seals can cure.
Other common leaks are from the spout, caused by worn O-rings in the spout assembly. These are simple to fix, although you might have to wiggle and pry a bit to get the spout open enough to access the O-ring. These can be replaced with a kit from your hardware or plumbing supply store, but it’s best to bring the old O-rings with you so you can match them up with replacements.
2. Fix a Leaky Toilet
There’s probably no fixture in your home that’s as frequently used or as trusted as the toilet. But when it starts leaking, it can leave you with an annoying puddle to clean up and expensive utility bills to pay for. Plus, if left unchecked, it can lead to extensive damage to your floor and walls.
It’s not uncommon to encounter a puddle of water near your toilet in the morning, especially after a long shower or an overnight flush. It may seem like an alarming and inconvenient problem, but if you take the time to troubleshoot, it’s often a relatively easy DIY fix. The key to a successful toilet repair is knowing where the leaks are coming from and how to fix them.
Leaking Supply Line
The simplest cause of a leaky toilet is a faulty fill valve or overflow pipe at the wrong height. If you’re able to locate and fix the problem, your toilet will stop running and you’ll save money on your utility bill.
Another common source of a leaking toilet is a loose base seal. To correct this, you can use a putty knife to remove the bolt caps from around the base of your toilet. Then, using a wrench, you can tighten the bolts to create a stronger seal.
It’s also worth determining if that pool of water is actually condensation, which can occur when the air is warm and the tank is cold. This is a common issue, but it’s important to make sure the problem is fixed before you attempt any further repairs to your plumbing system.
If the problem is more serious, such as a broken flapper, a damaged tank flange or a sewer leak, then you’ll likely need to contact a plumber. However, by learning the basic principles of plumbing, you can solve a number of household problems on your own to avoid costly repairs and minimize stress. This can give you the confidence you need to pursue a career as a plumber or take on other home improvement projects in the future.
Fix a Leaky Pipe
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll experience a leaky pipe at some point as a homeowner, but it doesn’t have to mean costly damage to floors, walls and ceilings. By knowing a few simple DIY fixes, you can save yourself the cost of hiring a plumber and get your pipes back in working order.
When a pipe is leaking, it’s important to take immediate action to stop the water and call residential plumbing services to prevent any more damage. The first step is to shut off the main water line, which can usually be done by turning off the valve in an area like your garage, basement or crawl space. It’s also a good idea to flush all of your toilets and open up the faucets in your home so that you don’t end up with a big mess of standing water when you turn off the water supply.
Once you’ve turned off the water, it’s time to take a closer look at the damaged pipe. You’ll want to find the source of the leak, which may be a loose connection, a faulty joint or even corrosion. Once you’ve located the source of the leak, it’s time to make a repair.
You can easily seal a leaky pipe with the help of some self-fusing silicone tape or epoxy putty. To apply the tape, simply wrap it around the affected section of the pipe, stretching and overlapping it as you go. Once the leak has been sealed, use a wrench to tighten the included bolts for added security.
If you don’t have access to a wrench, you can try using a screw-on pipe repair clamp instead. These handy tools are available at most hardware stores and come in a variety of sizes so you can find one that fits your pipe. They’re easy to install and provide a quick, inexpensive fix for a leaky pipe.
If you’re still having trouble with a leaky pipe, it may be necessary to remove the affected section of the pipe and replace it. This is a job that’s typically best left to a professional plumber, but it can be tackled by any confident beginner who knows how to follow some basic plumbing basics.
Fix a Clogged Drain
Plumbing pipes carry water and waste to and from sinks, toilets, appliances and more. But if one of these lines becomes blocked, it can cause a wide range of reactions, from slow drainage to dangerous overflows. Some clogs may be minor and easy to fix, while others can require professional help.
The first step to taking care of a clogged drain is turning off the water supply. This will prevent accidental flooding or automatic processes (like a dishwasher on a timer) from pouring water into a blocked line. It will also keep leaking pipes or drains from sending raw sewage into your home.
You can try a few home remedies to unclog a drain, including plungers and homemade “drain cleaners.” But when the problem gets serious—or you’re simply having trouble finding the source of the clog—it’s time to call in a plumber.
Some of the most common causes of clogged drains include food scraps, hair, grease and other organic matter that can build up and form solids in your pipes. In addition, mineral buildup from hard water can create a limescale clog that “catches” everything else in the pipe. Toys and other small objects can also find their way into toilets, drains and plumbing fixtures, especially in homes with children.
More serious clogs can block the flow of water entirely or trap it at certain points in the pipe. This can lead to gurgling noises while draining or flushing, as well as standing water around your sink. A partial clog can even prevent air from passing through your home’s venting system, causing the hollow bubbling sounds.
When the clog is located in a bathroom sink or tub, you can make a quick and easy DIY snake using a wire coat hanger. Loosen the hook at the end and pull out six- to 10-inches of cable. Hook the hanger to the clog, then feed it down the drain until you feel and hear that the clog has been dislodged. If the clog is in the basement, you may need to use a long-handled telescoping drain snake or rent a powered electric snake with a flexible shaft.