Top 10 Plumbing Issues You May Encounter
Plumbing installations are essential in all homes. However, plumbing installations often come with a myriad of issues. Some are minor and relatively inexpensive to repair, such as running toilets and dripping faucets. Others are complex and a little expensive to repair, such as a backing up sewer system or burst pipes that cause damage to personal property, floors, and walls. This article discusses the most commonly experienced plumbing issues that would demand plumbing work to fix. You can minimize or prevent these problems altogether by knowing what may go wrong. Below are our top 10 plumbing issues you may encounter.
Here are common plumbing problems, their causes, and tips for fixing them. You may fix some of the issues on your own, while others would need the assistance of a qualified plumber to fix them. For instance, if you need help with any larger appliances, you should consider reaching out to an emergency plumber in Portland or a locally based plumber in your area.
Most Commonly Experienced Plumbing Problems
- Running toilet
- Clogged toilet
- Dripping faucets
- Leaking pipes
- Clogged shower drain or bath
- Slowly draining sink
- Jammed garbage disposal
- Poor water pressure
- Backing up the sewer system
- Faulty water heating system
1. Running Toilet
You can incur huge water bills as a result of an unattended running toilet. If your toilet is running, it can waste as much as 200 water gallons daily.
The main cause of this problem is a malfunctioning toilet flapper valve. The flapper valve regulates the flow of water from the toilet tank into the bowl.
Fixing a malfunctioning toilet flapper is quite straightforward. You can easily get a repair kit for your toilet from your local hardware store.
Toilet runs can also result from sediment affecting the normal toilet tank filling and flushing mechanism. However, this cause is less common. Nevertheless, if your water bill is becoming higher than normal, check for unnoticeable leaks. You can do this by pouring some food color into the toilet tank and check whether the color is flowing into the bowl without flushing.
2. Clogged Toilet
If the bowl is filling up after flushing the toilet but doesn’t drain the water, then you’re dealing with a clog.
Toilet clogs usually occur when the toilet drain pipe gets clogged by human waste, toilet paper, and foreign objects that shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet.
You can unclog a clogged toilet using a toilet plunger. In case that fails to work, then try unclogging it with a drain auger or a plumber’s snake to loosen and clear the blockage.
3. Dripping Faucets
Most homeowners have experienced this problem. Besides being irritating, a dripping faucet can increase the water bill. It can waste hundreds of water gallons within a year. Thus, it’s a problem you need to fix as soon as you notice it.
The main cause of this problem is a dislodged, worn, torn, or stiff faucet washer. If you’re a DIY handy person, then you can fix this problem with the right tools.
4. Leaking Pipes
Leaking pipes are not just irritating but can cause severe damage to the floors, furniture, and dampness that encourages bugs.
Leaks mostly occur at pipe joints. You can temporarily fix a leaking pipe joint using fillers, compounds, and tape. A more permanent fix would be replacing the problematic fitting or pipe.
Leaks often occur during winter since water freezes expand, and bursts the affected pipe.
Here are some tips for preventing pipes from bursting during winter:
- When it’s extremely cold, allow water to drip a little bit from the faucet connected to the exposed pipe. If water is running, even if it’s just a little trickle, chances of the pipe freezing are reduced.
- Set the thermostat temperature to be the same at night and daytime.
5. Clogged Shower Drain or Bath
Shower and bath drains are often clogged by the buildup of soap scum and hair. You’ll need a snake or plunger to clear the blockage. You can also pour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down the drain to dissolve the blockage.
The problem may worsen overtime when left unattended. You can minimize or prevent this problem altogether by installing a guard that’ll catch hair.
Here are some tips for unclogging a shower drain with a plunger:
- Apply petroleum jelly along the edge section of a plunger’s suction pad to create a tighter seal.
- Ensure the shower or tab has enough water to submerge the plunger’s cup.
- Plunge the drain opening vigorously until the water starts flowing smoothly.
6. A Slow Draining Kitchen Sink
If your sink is draining water slowly, then the sink drain is probably blocked, thereby restricting the free flow of water.
The kitchen drain may get clogged by food remnants and congealed fat. On the other hand, the bathroom sink is often clogged by soap and knotted hair.
There are several methods you can try to unclog a kitchen sink. A plunger or plumber’s snake to are both great tools for unclogging the sink drain.
You can pour a chemical drain cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down the sink drain to unclog it. If you fail to unclog the sink drain, the clog may worsen and eventually block the entire drain.
Here are some tips for unclogging the sink drain with a chemical drain cleaner:
- Ensure you follow the directions that come with the packaging.
- Don’t use an excessive amount of the chemical.
- Avoid mixing different chemicals. Doing so may produce poisonous gases or dangerous reactions.
- Always wear safety goggles and gloves before handling a chemical.
- Pour the chemical down the affected drain carefully to avoid external spillage.
You should be wary that using chemical drain cleaners regularly can damage the drainage pipes. Thus, a drain cleaning chemical should only be used when it’s completely necessary, and you’ve exhausted all other possible remedies.
7. Jammed Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposals can be very useful and a time saver when doing dishes. However, it can jam when you least expect it. It can jam as a result of running it without water, allowing silver utensils to get into the garbage disposal, or disposing of food substances that shouldn’t be disposed into the disposal such as potato peels and corn husks.
If your garbage disposal jams, the first step you should take to fix it is pressing the disposal reset button. In case that does not fix the problem, then you should open the disposal and free its motor.
Some garbage disposals can be opened with a key. If you have lost its key, free the disposal motor with an Allen wrench.
8. Poor Water Pressure
In case water is trickling from the faucets rather than gushing out with pressure, then you’re dealing with low pressure in the water pipes.
This problem is most common in older houses. This results from worn, broken, or corroded pipes. It can also result from the buildup of mineral deposits and sediment on aerators.
Worn, broken, or corroded pipes should be repaired. If the problem is with the aerator, soak it in pure vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits.
In case the problem is affecting the shower, remove the shower head and soak it in vinegar. If that doesn’t solve the problem, replace it.
Here are tips for cleaning shower-head parts using vinegar:
- First, dismantle the showerhead and clean off dirt.
- Soak a toothbrush in vinegar and use it to scrub mineral deposits off the showerhead.
- Use a toothpick or safety pin to poke any deposits from the holes of the showerhead.
- Soak the showerhead parts overnight in vinegar. Doing so will dissolve any remnant deposits.
In case low pressure is only affecting hot water, then the issue might be with the water heater shutoff valve. In this case, check whether the valve is opened fully.
9. A Backing Up Sewer System
Dealing with a backing-up sewer system can be a nightmare. Backing up sewers is inconvenient, nasty, smelly, and often costly to fix.
In case your drainage system comprises of multiple branch drains, and the toilets aren’t working, combined with a sewer odor, then you’re likely dealing with a backing up sewer system.
Fixing this issue may be your responsibility or that of your local water and sewer company. It all depends on where the blockage is located. In case the blockage is within your property, it’ll be up to you to fix the problem.
However, if the problem is on a public street, then it’ll be the responsibility of your local water and sewer company to fix it. If you’re not sure where the problem is located, then you’ll have to hire a professional plumber to do it.
It’ll help to call your local water and sewer company first since they’ll not charge you in case the problem is up to them to fix.
The sewer system may backup as a result of:
- The sewer line getting clogged. You can minimize this cause by avoiding flush items that can clog the drain, such as napkins, facial tissues, and diapers. Also, avoid pouring grease down the drain.
- Roots are penetrating the drainage pipes and clogging them. Roots can easily penetrate through cracks that may be on the pipes. They can also surround a drainpipe, thereby crushing it.
- Broken sewer pipes. Old sewer pipes can easily break or even collapse under pressure. Older sewer pipes are made of clay or cast iron. They decay with time, thereby cracking.
10. Faulty Water Heating System
You may not discover this problem until the moment you’re taking a shower and all of a sudden, the water gets cold.
There are multiple causes of a failed water heater. In case the heater pilot light goes out, then you’ll need to light it up. As water heaters age and through normal wear and tear, the working electrical parts break down.
Sediment buildup in the hot water tank might also cause problems. The problem can also result from a faulty thermostat.
Today’s water heaters are more efficient with both tank and tankless style models. Find out more about the newest brands and how they can save you money.
Common Plumbing Issues in Older Homes
Besides the aforementioned plumbing issues that affect all homes in general, older homes experience particular plumbing issues. Here’re the common plumbing issues that affect older homes:
- Old fixtures and fittings: Original plumbing fixtures such as handles, spigots, faucets, and valves in older homes may be compromised due to aging. They’ll cause odors, leaks, and inflated water bills.
- Polybutylene pipes: Polybutylene pipes were mostly used in houses built from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Their popularity was a result of their affordability. Unfortunately, these pipes react badly with oxidants, weakening and falling over time.
- Galvanized pipes: Most homes built before the 1960s had galvanized pipes. These pipes are made of iron with a zinc coating. The zinc coating erodes over time, exposing the iron pipe such that it corrodes and breaks. Once the pipe gets compromised, water pressure deteriorates. Corroded pipes also affect water quality. Replacing is often the best solution to fix this problem.
- Pipe bellies: It’s rare for the earth sitting underneath a house to remain completely static. As time passes by, the shifting of the earth may make the pipes bow or buckle. These pipe bends are referred to as plumbing or pipe bellies. They can interfere with the normal water flow, thereby causing clogs.
- Poor repairs from previous fixes: If you buy or inherit an older home, then you’re getting it from a previous owner, or even several previous owners. However, some earlier repairs and installations may not have been done the right way. Maybe a previous owner cut some corners and hired an under-qualified person to do plumbing installations or repairs. Don’t get surprised to discover bungled or inadequate plumbing in an older home.
General Tips for DIY Plumbing
- Always shut off the main water supply before doing any plumbing repair.
- It can be quite messy to do plumbing fixes. Just assume that you’ll get dirty and wet. Thus, dress appropriately for the task ahead.
- It’s very important to have the right tools and prepare for the job. Ensure the measurements you’re taking are accurate. Have everything ready before starting a plumbing fix.
- Keep the phone number of a reputable plumber handy, just in case something goes wrong, and you’ll need emergency help.
Most plumbing issues are easy to fix without hiring a professional plumber. Simply have the right tools with you and get some advice or instructions. If you feel like your plumping problem is too big for you to fix call an emergency plumber.
Remember to turn off the main water supply before proceeding with any plumbing job, and don’t forget to dress appropriately.