Everyone encounters plumbing problems from time to time, and of all the major home repairs, plumbing is also the category people are most likely to try to tackle themselves. After all, it’s not like doing your own electrical work, which can be both extremely dangerous and illegal – plumbing repairs can actually be quite accessible. Still, they need to be done with care and a certain amount of knowledge. Before digging into your next plumbing project, then, it’s important to learn a little more about the most common home plumbing problems.
A Leaky Faucet
Who hasn’t been kept up at night by the persistent dripping of a leaky faucet? It happens all the time, sometimes because someone has failed to turn the water all the way off and, in other cases, due to a more persistent problem. In most of the latter cases, though, the problem can be reduced to a worn out washer or O-ring, which anyone can replace after a quick trip to the hardware store. Depending on your sink’s construction, there may also be a loose screw or other connection that needs to be tightened.
Occasionally, these quick repairs won’t stop a leaky faucet, and that’s when it’s time to call in the professionals. It’s also possible that you’re dealing with corrosion or a larger installation problem. In those cases, you’ll be less annoyed by dripping and waste less water if you let an actual plumber handle it.
When temperatures dip below freezing, there’s a risk that your home’s pipes may freeze, especially if no one is home and using them. This is a problem under the best of circumstances since it means you won’t have running water, but in the worst case scenario, you may have to deal with burst pipes and water damage. Luckily, home insurance typically covers such damages, but this is the sort of problem you want to prevent in the first place.
If you think that current weather conditions could cause your pipes to freeze, there are a few steps you should take. In the short-term, you should run your faucets to keep water moving through the pipes. You want a little more than a drip but not much more than a trickle. In the long-term, however, you’ll want to insulate the most vulnerable pipes – particularly those in poorly heated attics, crawlspaces, and basements – to protect them more fully against freezing.
Have you ever put anything other than water down your sink drains? If so, you could be causing serious plumbing problems, but you might not notice for months or even years. That’s because your drains are only for water, yet too often people put things like grease and coffee grounds into their pipes. Pouring hot grease down the pipes is a particularly common error, as it seems to disappear and then coagulates and builds up further down the drain.
As for the damage done, while you can’t turn back time and improve your plumbing habits, if your sink has started draining slowly because of past abuse, there are several steps you can take to remedy the situation. First, if you think the primary problem is grease, try pouring hot water down your drains. This can re-melt the grease and flush it out of the pipes, though you may need to do this several times. However, if you suspect that there’s a wider variety of debris down your drains, you may want to buy a small snake or other tool to clear out whatever materials have gathered in your pipes.
A Word Of Warning: Plumbing Chemicals
If you’ve ever perused the array of plumbing chemicals available in your local home improvement store or even at the grocery store or pharmacy, you might be surprised to learn that most plumbers would prefer you didn’t use them – and not because they worry it will hurt their bottom line. No, plumbers maintain a suspicion of many of these chemicals because they are highly corrosive and can damage your pipes and, when they don’t work, are hazardous to plumbers and their tools.
Generally speaking, drain cleaner should never be your first choice when encountering plumbing problems, and if you do use it and aren’t successful, be sure to tell your plumber what products you’ve used. Additionally, you should never use multiple chemicals in the same drain as they can react and cause dangerous fumes to be released.
Fixing your own plumbing problems can be simple and quite satisfying, but it does take some background knowledge to do correctly, so don’t start a project until you have a sense of what might be going on. Luckily, with a little help from the internet or a handy friend, you should be able to evaluate the situation and decide whether it’s a DIY you can try or a project for a professional.