There are a number of common plumbing issues that need professional attention. While some of these problems have at-home fixes, it’s always best for the longevity of your plumbing to let a plumber take care of them.
Some of the most common plumbing repairs include drain cleaning, clogs, water quality issues and leaks. Read on to learn more about these plumbing problems and who should fix them.
We rely on our drains to carry away waste, and it’s only natural that some of that material will build up over time. Clogged drains can lead to slow water flow, backups and even flooding. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve for homeowners with some basic tools and the know-how.
The first step is to shut off the water supply. This will keep any accidental water (like from a running toilet or dishwasher) from entering the clogged pipe and further worsening the situation. You may also want to put in a stopper or cover the drain with a rubber ducky (found at most hardware stores) to prevent further clogging until you can call in a professional.
Most clogged drains are caused by soap scum, hair, food particles and other solids that build up over time in your pipes and pipes’ openings. These clogs are often worse in areas with hard water, which has minerals that can settle and clog pipes. Installing a water softener can help with this problem.
Other clogs can be caused by flushing things down the drain that shouldn’t go in there, such as paper towels, tampons, baby wipes or other items from your toilets. A plunger can usually clear these types of clogs by creating a suction that forces the clog away from the pipe. If a plunger isn’t working, try using a drain snake, which you can find in most hardware stores. These are wire-like devices that you feed into a clogged pipe while cranking the handle, and they break up or pull away clog materials and move them through your pipes.
If none of these methods work, it’s time to call in a plumber. But before you do, try this tip: Pour one-half cup of salt and a half cup of baking soda down the clogged drain. This will cause a chemical reaction that will apply pressure and corrosive action to the clog, breaking it apart and dissolving it so your water can flow freely again. The salt and baking soda are inexpensive, but you might have to repeat this process a few times before it takes effect.
Pipe leaks are a common problem, and they’re usually caused by age-related wear and tear or a bad joint. They may seem like a minor nuisance, but they can lead to water damage, expensive utility bills, and potential mold growth. The best thing you can do is to act fast — and use the right tools — to repair them.
There are a few different ways to fix leaking pipes. The first step is to turn off the water supply. Locate the stopcock, close it, and dry the area around the pipe before you start. This prevents further water damage and makes the job much easier.
The next step is to examine the pipe to determine what’s causing the leak. You can usually find the source of the leak by looking for signs of water damage or listening for hissing sounds. If the leak is in a hard-to-reach spot, you might need to use pressure testing equipment or specialized cameras to find it.
Once you’ve identified the source of the leak, it’s time to make a quick repair. Duct tape is a great option for most leaks, as long as you don’t have a break that spans more than several inches and you’re planning on a permanent solution soon after. To use duct tape, just close off the water supply, clean and dry the area, and wrap a couple layers of duct tape over the damaged section of pipe.
Another great option for a temporary leak fix is a pipe repair sleeve. These sleeves are available at most hardware stores and consist of a rubber gasket patch and a clamp that work together to seal the broken section of pipe. To use the sleeve, simply cut off a piece of rubber that’s about as long as the leaky section of pipe, wrap it around the broken area, and secure it with a hose clamp or pipe-sleeve clamp.
Another good option is a pipe repair patch and clamp kit, which is similar to the sleeve but works for larger breaks and can be used on a variety of pipe materials. Before using it, you’ll need to shut off the water supply, clean and dry the broken area, and sand down any rough edges to help the neoprene patch adhere properly.
Water Quality Issues
Water quality issues are caused by a variety of factors. These include naturally occurring contaminants such as arsenic and other heavy metals, which can leach from pipes and soil; industrial pollutants; and lack of sanitation. Many of these contaminants are carried by rainfall, runoff or stormwater to lakes, rivers, aquifers and coastal waters, where they have adverse impacts on aquatic ecosystems and human health. Some pollutants enter drinking water during treatment or distribution, including byproducts of chlorine bleaching and ion exchange processes. Others occur when water passes through corroded pipes, such as iron or galvanized steel, resulting in rust-colored water and a metallic taste.
Water-related problems are most common in homes with a private water supply, although they can also occur in public and community water supplies. These problems can cause health problems, damage equipment or plumbing, or make water undesirable due to its appearance, taste, odor or staining. Discolored water is usually a sign of other impurities in the water, such as silt or the presence of oxidized metals (which gives it a brown, orange, red, blue, or green tinge). Unpleasant odors are often caused by bacterial contamination or by hydrogen sulfides, which can give the water a rotten egg smell. Other unpleasant effects include dingy laundry or soap that doesn’t lather, greasy rings around bathtubs and sinks, scale build-up on shower heads, tubs and sinks, and gray or white film or spots in dishwashers.
If sewage is backing up into your sinks, tubs, toilets and showers, you have a serious problem. This hazard to your health and safety requires immediate action from a plumber. The first thing to do is shut off water going into all drains throughout your home. Also, turn off electricity if wastewater flows near electrical outlets. Then, if possible, shut off your home’s main water valve until your plumber arrives.
The signs of a sewer backup are clear: clogged toilets that don’t flush, murky-looking wastewater in drains and bathtubs, wet spots around floor drains in basements, garages and laundry rooms, and an unusual smell wafting through your home. In addition, your yard may show signs of damage from a blocked or damaged sewer line. Sewer repair experts can inspect your entire sewer system and make necessary repairs.
Heavy rains from summer storms are often to blame for sewer backups. When storms dump a lot of water at once, it can overload the municipal sewer systems and cause sewage to back up into homes. The good news is that it’s usually easy for a plumber to diagnose and fix this issue.
In some cases, what appears to be a sewer backup is actually just a single drain clog. Hair, grease and foreign objects can get stuck in individual sink, tub or toilet drains and block the flow of water. The best way to address this is with a drain auger or rooter, which can break up and remove the clog.
It’s also a good idea to have your sewer lines cleared every six to 10 years. Professionals can use a camera to look for cracks or damage, then clean and snake the lines to prevent future blockages. Homeowners can also help by not placing tree roots in or near the sewer lines, installing an exterior sewer cleanout and avoiding putting fat, grease and oils down the drains. You should also avoid connecting downspouts, french drains and sump pumps to the sanitary sewer line. These additional lines can cause clogs and even flood your home.