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Never, ever take your home’s plumbing system for granted. Appreciate the ready availability of running water, a hot shower, or even a flushing toilet. And, that’s why, it’s important for you to keep your house plumbing basics in top shape.
Your home’s plumbing may seem very complex, but it’s not. A plumbing system works on the basic laws of nature — gravity, water pressure, and water levels.
And, there are two important parts to the plumbing system: the water supply system for incoming clean, fresh water and the drain waste water vent system for removing the dirty water. And, these are kept separate through vent stack and vent pipes.
Once you get this house plumbing basics right, you can understand your home’s plumbing as well as drainage system and easily fix a lot of common plumbing problems in your house. With timely repairs and renovations, you can save yourself time, hassle, and money.
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Remember that one small leaky joint can cause you damage worth thousands of dollars. Or, an improperly installed drain can clog often — giving you sleepless nights.
That’s why, you need to be aware of some of the most common plumbing problems and their solutions, including when to call a plumber.
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Warning signs of plumbing problems
If your home’s plumbing is going bad, it will definitely give you some warning signs. These include:
- Slow or clogged shower drains and toilet
- Dripping faucets and leaking pipes
- Low water pressure
- Clanging noises in the plumbing pipes
- Foul sewage smell
- Mold or mildew odors
- Wall stains or wall damage
If you experience any of these, you need to attend to the problem immediately. Otherwise, basic plumbing problems can turn into messy, expensive nightmares.
Common plumbing problems and their solutions
Plumbing issues can be really varied — from relatively common problems such as a dripping faucet to a major sewer system backup or a pipe leak. If left unattended, these issues can cause severe damage to your walls, flooring, and even personal property.
Therefore, to help you prevent such a situation, we’ll list out the most common plumbing issues for you. You can minimize any kind of damage if you know the types of issues you have to deal with.
- Clogged drains and toilets
If you see water backing up in the sink or in the drain after you take a shower, or in the toilet bowl — you’ve got a clog. That is to say, something is blocking the drain partially or completely. Usually, hair, diapers, napkins, or food items enter the drain and block the pipe. As a result, it’s impossible for water to flow past the blockage and down the pipes. The water may even overflow in such situations.
The solution: The only solution is to clear the blockage with a plunger. The simple plumbing tool uses air pressure to loosen the clog. You need to place the open end of the plunger over the drain and move it up and down so that it creates suction.
If you’re unable to remove the blockage with a plunger, you can use chemical drain cleaners that are available in most home improvement stores. But do remember that regular usage of caustic drain cleaners can damage the pipes over time. If you’re getting clogs a little too often, it’s time to call a plumber.
- Leaky faucets and pipes
Leaking faucets may not be a plumbing emergency, but they lead to a wastage of money and precious water. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, fixing leaky faucets and pipes could save you up to 10 percent on your water bill.
Fortunately, leaking faucets are easy to spot. The water physically drips out of the faucet, even when it’s turned off. Leaking pipes, on the other hand, are not so easy to identify immediately. There’s usually a puddle below the pipes, a wet patch on the walls, mold and mildew, or a visible damage on the walls. Hidden leaking pipes can cause major damage to your home and its foundation if you don’t catch the problem soon enough.
The solution: A dripping faucet usually happens due to a damaged or a dislodged washer that otherwise seals the tap. Or, it could be a corroded valve seat. You need to replace the part responsible for the leak.
The problem area in leaking pipes is usually the joints. Over time, the pipes may deteriorate, shift, or be damaged due to high water pressure.
When it comes to repairing leaking pipes, it’s best to let a professional handle the plumbing job.
- Water heater issues
Water heater issues are generally easy to identify. The most obvious signs of a faulty water heater include dripping water, insufficient hot water, puddles of water, discolored or smelly water and noises coming from the water heater unit.
A reason for water heater malfunction is that mineral deposits can reduce the efficiency of the water heater. The sediments are also responsible for the strange sounds coming from your water heater as they heat up and explode. There could also be a build-up of scale on the heating elements.
The solution: Many of the water heater repairs require professional help. The job is usually a complex one with potential for danger.
If your water heater runs on gas, it’s a good idea to check the pilot light. In case it’s off, the water heating system won’t produce hot water. Next, look at the temperature setting. In case the cause of your water heater issue is the mineral deposits, you need to drain the water tank and flush out the sediments.
If there’s water pooling on the floor, the heater tank is clearly leaking and you may require a complete water heater replacement by a professional. Before help arrives, remember to shutoff the power to your water heater. Next, turn off the water supply to prevent further leakage.
- Low water pressure
There is usually a problem of low water pressure, especially in older homes, because of which, there isn’t sufficient water level. There are a few causes of a low water pressure. The water main may have a break or a pipe may be leaking within your home. Moreover, the build-up of minerals (in the pipes, faucet aerators, or showerheads) and corrosion could be slowing the water flow, resulting in low pressure.
The solution: Shut off all the taps and check your water meter. If the water meter changes, you probably have a water leak. Get a plumber to fix it. You may need to replace that part completely.
In addition, to clear out the build-up, clean the fixtures thoroughly. You could soak the aerator or showerhead in vinegar overnight to loosen the build-up.
- Running toilet
A continuously running toilet is one of the most annoying plumbing problems that home dwellers witness. This problem often occurs when there’s an issue with the inner workings of your toilet. It could be an ill-fitting flapper valve, an imbalanced float, loose fill tube or a tank leak.
The solution: If you suspect a leak, you can check it by putting food coloring in the tank. The color will help you identify the leak’s location.
In case there’s no leak, you need to thoroughly check each component of the toilet for damage. In addition, make sure that the fill tube is attached toward the overflow tube. Ensure that the float valve is functioning properly and the chain of the flapper isn’t tangled.
- Sewer system backup
Sewer system backups are a nightmare. They cause your entire home to smell nasty. And, they can be quite expensive to fix. If there are drain issues, your toilets are not working properly, or there’s a bad stench of human waste — the sewer system is surely acting up.
You can only fix the problem if you know the exact location of the blockage. If it’s out of your home’s boundary, you can ask your water company to fix it. But, if it’s in your home, you need to find a quick solution. Either your main sewer line is clogged or tree roots have crushed your plumbing pipes. There’s also a possibility that your old sewer line has decayed over time.
The solution: A problem this serious will definitely require the services of a plumber. On your part, you must watch what you flush down your toilet or throw in the kitchen sink. Avoid dumping grease down your drain.
Handy plumbing tips
More often than not, routine plumbing maintenance can help you prevent serious problems in the future.
- If you’re attempting a plumbing repair yourself, always turn off the main water supply through the shut-off valve.
- Keep a professional plumber’s phone number ready. You never know when a plumbing emergency happens.
- If replacing any component, make sure you buy an exact fit and that it works for your water system.
- Prevent clogs by being mindful of the waste products you’re tipping.
- Remove any debris from the drain pipes through clean out plugs.
- In bathrooms, it’s a good idea to use a hair catcher over the drain.
- Regularly inspect your plumbing for any leaky pipes or faucets.
- Keep an eye out for excessive moisture, small drips, rusting or mineral deposits.
- Always maintain your hot water heater or washing machines regularly.
- Install a filtration system to keep the minerals out of your plumbing pipes.
- Look out for moisture, mold and mildew on the walls.
- Keep your sewer lines and septic tanks clean and well-maintained.
In conclusion, to get your house plumbing basics right, you need to take the time to learn how your plumbing fixtures work, and how you can fix certain issues if and when they occur. We hope this article helps you navigate through some of the most common plumbing problems in your house.