Even the most thorough plumbing maintenance inspection won’t prevent the occasional clog or leak, especially in older homes. Many of these common issues have equally common solutions.
Have you ever tried to fall asleep with a faucet dripping in the next room? Maybe wrestled with a kitchen sink that didn’t know when to stop? Then you know how annoying this problem can be. A drippy faucet also drive your water bill higher. A single faucet can send hundreds of gallons of water per year down the drain one drop at a time.
Water entering your home is under pressure to move it through the pipes. When you turn off the tap, rubber and silicone-based washers form a water-tight seal that prevents water from pushing its way through the pipes and out of your faucet. Over time, washers can become stiff, torn or dislodged, allowing water to trickle through, creating that annoying drip. While you can replace washers yourself, the repair job can be more of a challenge than you might think, especially without specialized tools. If the leak has gone on long enough, the valve seat may become worn or corroded, necessitating a more involved repair that’s best left to a professional plumber.
Your regular inspection may reveal a puddle under a pipe or you may get a wet surprise when you reach under your sink, leaks can be a costly annoyance. Leaks usually happen at joints, which is why fitting compounds and commercial joint fillers occupy plenty of shelf space at your local hardware store. These are temporary fixes; a permanent plumbing repair may mean replacing a length of pipe or its fittings.
While replacing a leaky U-joint under your sink isn’t a complex repair, it can be a messy one. You may want to have a professional handle it for you to save clean-up time. Until the plumber can get to your leak, use a compression clamp and a rubber sheet or leak tape. These temporary repairs will keep water from spraying but are easily removed when it’s time for a permanent solution.
When the water that goes into your sink, tub or toilet won’t go out, you probably have a partial or complete clog. In many cases, your trusty plunger can fix the problem. Plungers use air pressure to dislodge a clog, but they can’t remove it entirely. Commercial drain cleaners and clog removers are safe for most drains for occasional use, but these caustic materials can damage some pipe materials if used too frequently. If you’re dealing with clogs on a regular basis, it’s time to call a pro.
Even if you don’t have a complete clog, debris in pipes can slow drainage to a trickle. Shine a flashlight into the drain and see if you can spot the problem. A pair of pliers or tweezers might be able to reach a clump of hair or fallen bottle cap that’s obstructing your pipes. Installing drain screens can prevent detritus from finding its way into drains.
The best way to prevent a clogged toilet from becoming an emergency is to only flush things that should be flushed. Avoid putting heavy paper products such as Q-tips, sanitary napkins and paper towels, rubber, plastics and other items that could otherwise get stuck in the line.
When water that should gush only trickles from the tap, you have low water pressure. This problem might not be related to the pipes in your house but to the municipal water supply. It’s rare, but a break in a main line can temporarily reduce your water pressure. A more common cause of this problem is a build-up of deposits or sediment on faucet aerators.
The water entering your pipes carries dissolved minerals in it that eventually deposit themselves on metal surfaces. If you have a filtration system, these deposits wind up in the filters and get changed; without such a system, these mineral deposits collect on inner surfaces of aerators and shower heads, clogging screens and slowing flow. Most kitchen faucets have easily removed aerators that just unscrew from the tip of the faucet for easy cleaning. Taking off the aerator and soaking it overnight in a vinegar solution will generally dissolve the calcium deposits common in Florida water supplies. Shower heads and bathroom faucets may not be as easy to remove, but you can affix a plastic bag filled with vinegar to the shower overnight to clean it.
If you still notice low water pressure after cleaning aerators and shower heads of sediment and deposits, you might have a more complex issue. A leak or breach in pipes leading into your home is an emergency that could damage your home’s infrastructure or foundation. Sudden and significant reduction in water pressure with no known cause merits a call to a licensed plumber who can pinpoint the reason for the change.
Some issues are too dangerous or complicated to tackle alone. Hire a certified All-Star plumber for the following tasks for your safety and the integrity of your home: