If you’re a bit handy with DIY, you can probably handle a lot of minor plumbing issues at home yourself. However it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew, and take on a larger plumbing problem than you can handle, or you could easily cause more damage. If you make the problem worse, calling in a professional to fix it is going to be even more expensive to sort out. Here’s how to know when to call in the professional plumber for these common home plumbing problems.
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The Tap Is Dripping
A faucet leaking is probably the most common home plumbing issue. The noise of a tap dripping is not only annoying, but the lost water can also drive up your water bill by a significant amount.
The water that comes into your house is under pressure to keep it moving through your pipes. When you turn off the tap, the water is prevented from coming through by a rubber or silicone based washer. These washers can become stiff, torn or dislodged through use, allowing some water to escape. It is possible to replace washers yourself, but it is a trickier job than you might think if you don’t have the specialist tools. If the valve seat is worn or corroded, this is definitely a job best left to an actual plumber. Leaks on ceramic taps also should be handled by a professional, as they work slightly different and a better off with a specialist handling the issue.
The Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On
The garbage disposal not working is a real nuisance, and can seem intimidating. Actually, the problem is often something quite simple. The best place to start is to check the plug. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a plug working loose or being knocked. You might feel a bit silly if this the issue, but at least you didn’t call a plumber to put the plug back in!
If it’s not the plug, press the reset button on the bottom of the garbage disposal and see if this solves the issue. Often, this is all you need to do. Check for a tripped circuit too.
If none of those solve the problem, you have a more complicated issue, and should call your electrician to take a look instead of going any further yourself.
Low Water Pressure
You can tell that you water pressure is low when you’re only getting a trickle of water out of the tap instead of the usual strong flow. This problem could be caused by your pipes or by the water supply. A break in the main water line could drop your water pressure, but this is unusual. It’s more likely that the problem is a build-up of sediment in your faucet aerators.
The water that enters your pipes carries dissolved minerals that will deposit onto metal surfaces. These deposits then end up collecting on the aerators and shower heads, clogging the flow of water.
Most kitchen taps have aerators that are easy to unscrew from the faucet for easy cleaning. Soak the aerator overnight in a vinegar solution. Shower heads and bathroom taps can be more difficult to remove, but the same clean can be done if you can get them off. You could also fill a plastic bag with vinegar solution and attach it over your showerhead or tap with an elastic band. Leave to soak overnight.
If a good clean doesn’t fix the problem, you might have a bigger problem. This is when you should call a plumber.
If the toilet doesn’t seem to be working properly after flushing, you may need to replace the inner workings. If the toilet is running, this usually means the flapper valve, which allows the water to pass from the tank to the bowl, no longer fits correctly, the float is imbalanced or the fill tube is coming loose. A toilet repair kit can be bought online, works for most models and are usually very easy to use, with no need to call a plumber.
Sometimes there may be a bigger problem, however. If the flapper, float and fill tube have all been replaced but the toilet is still running, you may have sediment that is stopping the toilet from properly flushing and filling. If you water bills have gone up and you don’t know why, you might have a leak in the system. To test for leaks, add some food coloring to the tank and wait fifteen to twenty minutes. If the color appears in the bowl, there’s a leak and it is time to call a plumber.
Slow Or Clogged Drains
If the water isn’t draining from your sink, bath, shower or toilet, it’s likely that you have a partial or complete clog. The first tool you should reach for is the plunger. A plunger uses air pressure to dislodge a clog, which is often enough to sort the problem. You can also use a commercial drain cleaner, but be warned that these will damage some pipe materials if you use them too often. An occasional clog is normal, but if they’re happening a lot, ask a professional to take a look and see if there is a bigger problem going on.
Debris in the pipes can slow water drainage. Shine a flashlight into the drain and see if you can spot the issue. Tweezers can be used to dislodge partial blockages caused by things like hair. Install drain screens to stop debris making it into the drains in the first place.
If you are attempting plumbing repairs yourself, turn off the water at the main before you start. Dress to get wet, just in case, and have plenty of old towels on hand. Go slowly and double check everything before you do it. It’s probably a good to have a good plumber’s phone number to hand in case you go wrong and cause a bigger issues that will need some fast help.