Most people do not think about how much they rely on the plumbing system in their home until something goes wrong. Leaking pipes and clogged drains are common household problems that most people will face at some point. Homeowners can save time and money by following these plumbing tips before calling the professionals.
Every homeowner should know how to locate and shut off the water supply to the home and all inside plumbing fixtures. Toilets and sinks have shutoff valves underneath the fixture. Sometimes a sink valve is inside a storage cabinet below the sink. Some, but not all, showers and bathtubs have a shut off valve behind the wall adjacent to the fixture. It may be in a closet in the room next door. If no shut off valve is available, the only option is to turn off the main supply to the building.
For bigger jobs it may be necessary to shut off the main valve. Turning the main valve off will cut off the water supply to the entire house. Most shutoff valves are installed somewhere near the water meter. Water meters are usually mounted to an exterior wall but they may be buried underground. Turning the key 90 degrees clockwise will stop water from flowing into the building. The homeowner will have to use an adjustable wrench if the meter does not have a key.
Fixing a minor leak is often a simple repair that involves applying epoxy or installing a repair clamp. Turn off the water supply to the fixture and dry the pipe with a clean towel. When using a clamp, loosen the screws and position the clamp around the leak. Make sure the rubber gasket is covering the leak before tightening the screws. Restore the water supply to make sure it holds.
Epoxy ingredients are packaged separately and must be kneaded together to before application. Apply the epoxy to the pipe in the area around the leak and allow enough time for it to set. Turn the water supply on and allow water to run through the pipe to make sure no more water is leaking.
Homeowners can clear most clogged sinks and toilets using a plunger or cable auger, a special tool available at any hardware or home improvement sore. When plunging a double sink drain, place a wet rag into the unclogged drain opening to direct pressure to the blockage. Work the plunger up and down to remove the clog. If that fails to work, remove the trap below the sink with a pipe wrench. Insert the auger into the pipe sticking out of the wall and feed it as far as it will go. Play out a foot and a half of cable, tighten the locking screw and turn the handle clockwise while gently pushing forward. Repeat until the pipe is clear.
Most toilets develop clogs in the area where the trap curves upward. If a plunger fails to clear the blockage, using a closet auger will usually solve the problem. Make sure the bent tip is pointing up before feeding the cable into the bowl. Feed three feet of cable into the bowl and then crank the device while pulling upward gently. Clear the drainpipe by flushing the toilet. If the response is still sluggish, feed the auger up both sides of the trap to remove any material adhering to the sides of the pipe.
Using an auger or plunger will remove all but the most stubborn clogs. If the blockage remains after using both tools, it will be necessary to call a professional plumber because the clog is somewhere deep inside the pipe. Avoid using too much pressure when trying to clear a clog because this can cause permanent damage to the pipe or fixture.
A bathtub clog rarely happens overnight. It takes time to build up. Most homeowners will notice that it takes longer and longer for the shower or tub to drain. The first step is to remove any soap residue and hair from the drain trap. If this fails to solve the problem, use a plunger. If that does not work, it is time to try the auger. Keep cranking the auger past the first point of resistance to feed the cable through the P-trap located underneath the fixture.
Sometimes a toilet will continue to run even when it is not in use. A defective rubber flapper or the improper water level can cause this to happen. Remove the lid from the tank and move the float to a lower level with the screw or rod to adjust the water level in the tank. Make sure the water level reaches just underneath the overflow tube when the toilet is flushed.
If the tank flapper is faulty, replacement is a simple task. Turn the water supply to the toilet off and flush to empty the tank. Remove the chain and flapper from the handle rod and install the new part. Reattach the chain, restore the water supply, and flush the toilet. Keep adjusting the chain until the toilet flushes easily.
Sometimes the holes in the showerhead get clogged and the unit fails to spray water evenly. This often happens in homes with hard water because mineral deposits block the holes. This can be fixed with an old toothbrush and white vinegar. After removing the showerhead from the pipe, let it soak in some warm vinegar. It usually takes approximately an hour for the mineral deposits to dissolve. Remove the showerhead from the vinegar and gently scrub away any remaining debris with a soft toothbrush. Rinse the showerhead with clean water and reattach it on the supply pipe.
Learning more about the home’s plumbing system and how to clear clogs, fix leaks, and make other small repairs is less expensive than hiring a professional Portland plumber to take care of these minor problems. Sometimes simple repairs fail to fix the problem. Homeowners should always rely on a reputable plumber with the proper training and tools to tackle the most challenging tasks. If they run into an emergency, they should call a plumber who specializes in emergency repairs.