Some plumbing repairs are easy enough for many homeowners to tackle on their own. Plumbing includes all water lines, waste pipes and all other connections within the home. Repairs to these areas can be done successfully with some basic knowledge of plumbing, and tools from most home improvement stores. A professional should tackle larger or more complex problems and repairs.
A common problem happens when anything gets into a drain and stops it from draining properly. This typically happens in bathroom and kitchen sinks and in shower or tub drains. While some clogs can be cleared with drain cleaner, cleaners are not recommended for toilets and other areas that can cause splash back because the chemicals are caustic and can cause burns.
Try these other methods of clearing a drain first:
- Fit the plunger over the drain to make a tight seal. For toilets, this may mean putting the plunger over the drain at a slight angle.
- Pump the plunger up and down. This will make a vacuum.
- Remove the plunger. If the drain is cleared, the water should immediately run down.
- Repeat if necessary.
Remove the P-Trap
- Turn off the water at the source of the drain.
- Place a pan under the drain to catch water.
- Remove the pipe by loosening the nut at the connection point with a wrench.
- Remove the clog in the pipe and replace.
- Seal with plumber's tape.
Snake the Drain
- Unwind the plastic snake so the teeth are facing up toward you.
- Feed the snake down the drain until you feel resistance.
- Work the snake up and down by pulling and pushing it through the drain until you feel the resistance start to free up.
- Pull the snake back toward you and remove the hair or clog from the teeth of the snake.
Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of warm vinegar down the drain monthly. This will remove or loosen debris lining the pipes.
If these steps do not work, you may need to contact a plumber to find out where the clog is. If there is a significant back up of water and debris, the main drain line of the home or building may be clogged, requiring professional snaking.
Replace the Water Lines
The water lines run from your water supply to the faucet. While newer lines are made of flexible stainless steel, older lines are typically solid copper. They may leak over time, which requires a repair. They can be easily changed out with a wrench.
- Turn off the water to the faucet at the valve and turn on the faucet to drain the lines.
- Locate the hot and cold faucet lines leading from the faucet to the lines connected to the valves.
- Loosen the nuts holding the faucet lines to the water lines and disconnect. If needed, mark which is the hot and which the cold faucet lines for later reference.
- Loosen the nuts holding the water lines to the valves and disconnect.
- Wrap plumber's tape around the threads on the valves and connect the new water lines. Tighten with the wrench.
- Wrap plumber's tape around the threads on the other end of the water lines and connect to the faucet lines. Tighten.
- Turn on the water and turn on the faucet to test the lines.
Repairing a Leaky Faucet
Leaky faucets are not only annoying when they drip at night, but they can be costly. You can lose a significant amount of money per year from a faucet that has even a very slow drip.
- Turn off the water to the faucet.
- Pull off the cap at the top of the faucet's handle. This will expose a screw.
- Remove the screw in the faucet handle. The decorative part of the faucet handle will come off.
- Remove and replace the washer and O-ring on the faucet. Take the pieces with you to the hardware store to get the correct sized parts. If you are able to identify the faucet model, contact the manufacturer for a repair kit that contains the correctly sized washers and O-rings.
Fix a Running Toilet
If your toilet runs until you jiggle the handle, your float needs to be adjusted to cover the valve more securely.
- Remove the toilet tank lid and set it aside.
- Examine the interior of the tank. There should be a tower, a float and a rubber valve covering the drain in the bottom. If you lift the float, its chain should move the valve.
- Examine the top of the tower. If there is a cover on the top, remove it. There should now be a screw visible.
- Try tightening the screw. Flush the toilet. If the running stops, the repair is done. If the running is worse, try loosening the screw. The key is to adjust the valve until it covers the drain completely.
If adjusting the screw does not work, clean the valve with white vinegar to remove mineral build up and help the valve to close more tightly.
Do It Yourself Or Call a Professional?
Problems and repairs that require extensive work should be handled by a professional. Call a professional right away if you are experiencing problems with large leaks and flooding, a hot water tank that's not working, or pipes that have burst. For immediate help in these situations, contact your local water company, too; they may offer some help for emergencies.
Become a Problem Solver
Most minor plumbing repairs can be handled on your own with a little time and effort. Remember to turn off the water supply each time you conduct a repair, and to take any parts that may need replacing to the hardware store to get an exact match.
Once you've completed a few repairs on your own, you'll find you have the confidence and the knowledge to avoid some big plumbing bills for some relatively small repairs.