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How to Fix Common Household Plumbing Problems

All household plumbing problems are not created equal. While some may require professional assistance, there are many repairs you can tackle yourself. With the right tools and a little plumbing knowledge, you can save time and money by doing some common plumbing fixes yourself.

Tools to Make the Job Easier

Before you start the job, you'll want to check your toolbox for these items: 

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Plumber's grease
  • Utility knife

Keep a large bucket and some paper towels on hand for easier clean-ups and to avoid making a big mess.

Tips Before You Start

Before doing any plumbing repairs, you need to shut off the water. Most newer homes are equipped with a shut-off valve under or near sinks, toilets, showers, and faucets. In some cases these may be located in your basement. You may need to follow the pipe below the room you'll be working in to find the correct valve.

Stay safe. Make sure there are no electrical appliances near the water. This can be a highly dangerous situation if water gets into electrical components. There's a risk of shorting out, fire, or even electrocution, so always use caution.

You'll likely need to purchase parts to fix the plumbing problem. Most home improvement and hardware stores carry replacement parts for a fast turnaround. Consider an extended down time if parts need to be ordered online or through a store. If you only have one shower, make sure you have everything you need before taking it apart.

At any time during the job, If you aren't comfortable or feel as if the project is beyond your capabilities, contact a professional plumbing expert for assistance. A Puls technician can be at your home the same day, if needed.

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Leaky Faucet

Save water (one drip every minute adds up to 34 gallons per year) and your sanity, repair your leaky faucet. Determine if you've got a compression or washerless faucet. The first type has washers and the second doesn't.

  • Turn off the water at the shut-off valve.
  • Open the faucet to release any water remaining and close the drain.

Compression Faucet:

  1. Remove decorative cap over knob(s.)
  2. Remove screw at center with flat-head screwdriver, then remove knob and nut underneath.
  3. Rotate stem in the "on" direction. Inspect for damage and replace if needed. If it's okay, soak in vinegar and water for 15 minutes and clean with a wire brush.
  4. Check the washer at the bottom of the stem. Replace it and the screw that holds it in place.
  5. Reassemble.
  6. Turn the water back on.

Washerless Faucet: (Uses a disc, ball or cartridge - probably one handle)

  1. Remove the decorative cap and center screw, then lift off the handle.
  2. Pull out lock nuts, retaining clips and additional screws.
  3. Inspect the O-rings under the disc or ball. Replace in matching sizes after rolling plumber's grease on the new seals.
  4. If your faucet uses a cartridge beneath the handle, you'll need to get a new cartridge. Make sure to install it the same way as the old one or you'll mix up the hot and cold.
  5. Reassemble.
  6. Turn the water back on.

Clogged Drain

If you've got a clogged bathroom, kitchen, or bathtub/shower drain, try to avoid using harsh drain cleaning solvents. They can cause pipe deterioration over time and cause a huge problem. Use vinegar and baking soda to keep drains running smoothly. Avoid pouring grease or large food particles down the kitchen sink. Use a hair catcher in the bathroom to stop hair build-up.

For bathroom hair clogs, use a plastic snake (inexpensive tool from a home improvement center.) Pull out the stopper or drain grate, fish the snake down into the drain and pull up hair and gunk blocking the water flow. Do this several times until water flows smoothly.

For kitchen grease clogs, boiling water might do the trick. Remove as much standing water from the sink as possible, then pour a pot of boiling water into the sink. Let it sit and dissolve the clog for about five minutes. Remove water as before and repeat several times until the water drains freely.

If boiling water doesn't clear the clog, you may need to clean out the drain's P-trap (the curved pipe under the sink.) Place a bucket under the drain to catch any water or debris. Unfasten the pipe with a wrench and clear out anything that's stuck inside. Replace the P-trap, tighten all connections, and run warm water to make sure the clog is totally obstruction-free.

If the clog is further down the drainage system, you may need an auger or plumber's snake to handle this. While you can do this yourself, you may want to enlist a professional to get to the root of this problem.

Running Toilet

Another common plumbing problem occurs when the toilet doesn't shut off after flushing. This is another huge waste of water and annoying to hear. A defective flapper is usually the culprit. This can be found at the bottom of the toilet tank. When you flush, the rubber stopper lifts to release water into the bowl. The rubber deteriorates after years of use so it no longer seals tight to stop water from escaping.

  • Shut off the water to the toilet.
  • Flush to drain water from the tank and bowl.
  • Remove the flapper from the flush arm. Take note of the type of flapper and length of chain needed for a tight seal.
  • Install a new flapper (purchase from a hardware store.)
  • Turn the water back on and test the seal by flushing the toilet.

Thaw Frozen Pipes

During extended periods of unusually cold temperatures, you may have a problem with frozen pipes. If only a trickle of water comes out of the faucet, this may be your problem. This can be a dangerous situation if left unchecked as a pipe burst can cause thousands of dollars in flooding damage to your home. Follow these steps to thaw the frozen pipe:

  • Turn on the faucet so that the running water will help melt the ice and push the blockage through.
  • Apply heat to the pipe with an electric hair dryer, electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, hot towels wrapped around the pipe, or a portable space heater to warm the room. DO NOT use a torch or any device with an open flame as this can start a fire.
  • Continue to apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
  • If you can't access the frozen area or thaw it yourself, contact a licensed plumber.

Puls—Plumbing Made Simple

Plumbing jobs can be intimidating, so if you're unsure of how to handle your household plumbing problems, let a Puls' professional help. We take pride in making quality repairs and replacements that are done right the first time.

From replacing faucets to installing a water heater to repairing a burst pipe, our licensed plumbers are ready to tackle your job quickly. We offer convenient appointments, same day if needed, so you don't have to wait for the job to get done. We provide complete, accurate quotes and will never charge emergency or hidden fees. We won't start the job until you approve it. All appointments are backed by our 90-day guarantee for your peace-of-mind.

Don't put off that plumbing fix another day, call or click to schedule an appointment today and a Puls' expert will be on the way. 

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Debbie D.
Debbie D.
Debbie Dey is a professional writer with over three decades of experience in residential construction. Her background gives her a wealth of knowledge about all kinds of home improvement projects, which she enjoys sharing through her writing. She has been a Puls staff writer since 2018. In her free time, you can find her relaxing by the water or cruising with her husband in their sports car.

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