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Common Plumbing Problems & How to Fix Them

Plumbing problems are the bane of any homeowner's existence. But we're here to help! Here's how to fix some of your most annoying plumbing issues.

It has been estimated that your average household leak can waste 9,400 gallons of water annually. Unchecked plumbing problems can really hurt your wallet and haunt you when you need water the most. Turning on the shower and never getting hot water is dreadful.

The problem with plumbing issues is that a lot of them can go undetected for a while. When the problem reaches a breaking point, then we’re hit with a huge bill. Don’t let a plumbing issue interrupt your life, prepare and prevent them from happening.

Do you need to call a plumber or can you fix it yourself? Do you have the time, money, and patience to pull it off? This can depend on a number of things, such as experience and budget. 

These are ten common plumbing problems homeowners need to know. Make an informed repair decision by following our guide. 

1. Faulty Faucets

The sound of a dripping tap is commonly associated with insanity. The persistent, rhythmic tone gets tattooed in your head. You start to hear it even when you’re not home.

One drip per second equals 2600 gal per year. As your water bill increases as your patience decreases. Don’t stress out, get the drip fixed by giving it a proper diagnosis.

Worn O-ring

One easy and cheap fix is to replace the o-ring. This is a small rubber ring that goes on the stem screw. It helps to hold the handle in place. 

Over time, this ring gets worn out as the handle get pushed and pulled. At some point, you’ll start to get a leak at the base of the handle.

Old Cartridge

Another big contributor to leaks over time is the aerator. This is the mesh filter at the end of the of the spigot. Over time, mineral deposits clog up the aerator.

You’ll lose water pressure as it clogs and stress is placed on the seals and gaskets. It’s a good idea to replace these every couple of years.

Bad Valve Seat/Washer

Between the faucet and the spout rests the valve seat and washer holding it into place. If these connections wear out or become loose, you can get a leak at the spout. Again, mineral deposits are often the culprit here, corroding the valve seat.

You can also run into problems if the washer was installed wasn’t the correct size. Without a perfect seat, friction loosens the washer and lets water through.

2. Leaking Pipes

Pipes make up the bulk of plumbing problems, especially in old houses. These days, most pipes are made out of PEX. A lot of older buildings still have copper pipes, however. 

Copper is stronger than PEX under normal circumstances. The problem is that copper does poorly under changes in extreme temps. The expanding and contracting that occurs will cause copper to break, while PEX flexes.

Copper pipes are also susceptible to corrosion. There’s lots of maintenance and upkeep needed to prevent leaking copper pipes. Learn how to prepare your pipes for the winter, no matter what they’re made out of.

3. Toilet Issues

Leaks in toilets often go unnoticed. Rather than leaving an obvious mess on your floor, an internal leak in the tank is water down the drain. This means money down the drain if you don’t catch it. 

A toilet that is running all the time could give up hundreds of gallons daily. One of the biggest culprits is the rubber flapper. They can lose their shape and fail to properly seal the tank.

Sometimes the chain attached to the flapper can get twisted, too. This would prevent the flapper from sitting flush on the bottom. Fortunately, the flapper is an easy and cheap fix.

You can buy the entire flushing mechanism for less than $20. You can also perform a toilet leak test at home using food coloring.

4. Worn Out Hose Bibb

Your average hose bibb is not built to last through multiple seasons. This is especially true if you live in a place that experiences frosty winters. The hose bibb will lose its integrity and crack from the change in temps.

If this happens, your hose will leak all over the place. A leaky hose bibb can silently waste hundreds of gallons a month. For those who want to avoid having to constantly replace them over the life of your home, purchase a heavy-duty frost-proof brand.

5. Clogs and Partial Clogs

Another major source of frustration among homeowners are clogged pipes. Clogged toilets are pretty straightforward. The worst clogs may call for a pipe snake or professional, but otherwise, it’s plunge away.

Clogged sinks and drains can be a whole different story. When these get really bad, it can be tempting to reach for drain cleaners. Please, avoid pouring these toxic bottles of waste down your drain.

Sometimes they work, but a lot of times they’re no match for things that can clog your drains. Hair, soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper, sure. Toothpaste caps, brush bristles, and toothpicks will just sit there. 

Your sink should have a drain catch to allow easy access to objects that fall down the sink. If it can’t be reached, you should be calling a professional.

6. The Sump Pump

Sump pumps tend to fail when there’s a lot of heavy rain or snow. You’ll need to have a lot of routine maintenance to avoid sump pump failure in the future. You should also do a check on how it is installed. 

An improperly installed pump will work harder and wind up failing eventually. Power outages can also ruin sump pumps. If you’d like an alternative to using a sump pump, consider re-thinking your irrigation situation.

Realigning gutters to drain away from the foundation is a huge first step. Sloping your surrounding foundation to channel water away is a worthy investment. You may want to re-level any patios, decking, and concrete surfaces to help with irrigation.

This may sound expensive, but in the long-term, it could save you thousands in repairs and replacing sump pumps.

7. No Hot Water

Finding out your water heater isn’t working is a rude awakening. Unless your home is hot inside, cold water showers won’t be a fun activity. A hot water heater should last 8-13 years, but that can be cut short if you’re not careful.

Corrosion and Rust

Water heaters are only as good as the enclosures built around them. If they’re located inside the home, you have a better start. Over time, though, the water heater can develop issues with outside elements.

Anode rods prevent corrosion from forming, however, they lose potency gradually. As the rods get old, they deteriorate and the tank can corrode.

Sedimentary Build-up

Hard water contains various minerals which can settle on the bottom of the tank. As water gets pumped through into the home, this sediment can clog and reduce water flow. You’ll need a professional cleaning in order to prevent permanent damage to the water heater itself.

Inadequate Size and Pressure

Not all water heaters are appropriate for all homes. 1-2 bedroom apartments need a smaller heater than a 4-5 bedroom home. In fact, if your heater is compact and is needed for long periods of time, it will not last long.

The heating elements in a water heater need proper cooling cycles or risk shortage. You’ll need to make sure the water pressure level is properly configured for your needs, too. Water pressure that is too high can reduce the longevity of the water heater.

What to Watch

If your water heater is failing, you’ll start to notice some issues during usage. Water will take on a metallic or rusty smell when using hot water. It might take more than a few minutes for your water to heat up.

If you notice these issues, take a look outside while it’s on. Any unusual crackling or popping coming from it means it needs immediate repair. Same goes for leaks, no matter the size.

Take proper precautions based on the type of heater, electric or gas systems.

8. Sewer Problems

This is probably one of the least favorite plumbing problems to have to diagnose. Sewer systems can get backed up and create gag-inducing odors. When the sewer line gets clogged, it can cause all your drains to become clogged.

You’ll know its the sewer line when every flush act like a clog and your sinks start to pool water. We recommend all sewer line repairs get handled by a licensed plumber. The best practice here is prevention when it comes to sewer problems.

Going Down the Drain

Be careful with what you’re flushing. Certain types of facial and makeup wipes are too fibrous to break down fast enough. These can and will combine with “other” materials to create a sort of toilet concrete.

Food is another culprit for sewer clogs. Flushing foods down the toilet is a bad idea. If you have a garbage disposal, try to be smart with how often you use it.

Slowly scrape food down there, don’t lob your whole plate, even if it can chew through it. Sometimes larger pieces of food make it past the disposal and can back up the sewer line. Watch the grease, too. 

Pouring grease down the drain is a big gamble. It can go down as a liquid and solidify later. If you must, though, run hot water after for a few minutes to ensure it’s clear.

Trees

If your home sits next to large trees, you could run into sewer line problems. Roots from large trees can push, break, and squeeze sewer lines. This can be a difficult thing to diagnose without an experienced plumber.

9. Water Line Break

The biggest threat to water lines is the winter frost. If you have a small leak in your water line already, the frost can break it completely. All it takes is a small pinhole-sized crack for a pipe to split.

Inspecting your water line to ensure all pipes are crack-free is worth the investment. If your water line is older, this could save you thousands in major breaks and leaks. Water damage to your home or foundation could put you into financial ruin.

10. Water Pressure Too Weak

Probably the most annoying problem, outside of that leaky faucet, in most homes is low pressure. Having weak water pressure makes showering less enjoyable and washing dishes a pain. Sometimes the low pressure can correct itself with a new shower head or faucet.

For all other cases, low water pressure may need correcting at the valve or pipe-levels. If you do have a leak that you don’t know about, this could be a red flag to take note of. 

Check for all other problems listed above and you should have solved the water pressure problem.

Plumbing Problems You Can Handle

We want to emphasize that for the average person, plumbing is a tricky job. Most people don’t like getting wet to fix their problems. There are a few fixes you can do without making things worse, though.

If you are going to attempt any DIY tutorials online, make sure you do the following:

  • Shut off the main water supply before you do anything.
  • Buy the proper tools and parts–don’t be cheap!
  • Don’t wear anything you don’t want stained.
  • Call a plumber for advice if you don’t understand something.

Take the Plunge

We hope that if you’re experiencing any of these plumbing problems that you act fast. A small leak or clog can quickly turn into a huge headache. Replacing a cartridge for a faucet is only a few bucks–the faucet might be $40.

Having a trustworthy local plumber on speed dial is ideal. Plumbing issues usually hit you when you least expect it. If you ever run into a problem with water overflowing, you want someone fast, experienced, and fair.

Contact Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, & Electrical anytime you have questions, need a quote, or an emergency fix. We promise to do the job right the first time, every time.