Plumbing Problems That You Can Fix
A brain surgeon called a plumber to fix a plumbing problem that he was having in his house. After the plumber had fixed the problem and given his bill to the surgeon, the brain surgeon exclaimed, “This bill is outrageous. It’s more than I charge for doing brain surgery!” The plumber replied, “It’s more than I used to make performing brain surgery, too.”
You can save a lot of money by fixing minor plumbing problems without the help of a plumber. Simply knowing the cause of typical plumbing problems and having the proper know how and tools to fix the problem will make you a hero in your house.
Let’s look at some of the typical plumbing problems you will see and can fix in your house:
Before you begin any plumbing repair, first locate and turn off the water supply. Most water supply lines have a shutoff valve where the water supply line emerges from the wall. Tubs and showers should have a shutoff valve behind a removable panel on the back side of the wall or in the basement. If you can’t find, or the appliance doesn’t have a shutoff valve, then you will need to shut off the water to the entire house. This shutoff valve is usually located in a position that you will spend the better part of a weekend trying to locate, and when you do, will be so old and rusted that you will break off the handle trying to shut it off.
Leaking Faucet: Most faucets drip water because the washer inside the faucet has worn out. To fix a dripping faucet, shut off the water supply, remove the handle by unscrewing the screw holding on the handle. (It may be hidden by a cover on the handle.) Remove the valve stem by turning or unscrewing the valve from the faucet body. The washer will be held on to the valve stem by another screw, which will often be rusted, so be careful. Pry out the old washer, and replace it with a new washer of the same size, reverse the steps you took to disassemble the faucet, and you’re done. Test the faucet by turning on the water supply. (You may observe that there is a small amount of ‘gunk’ that comes out of the faucet initially, this is normal)
Dripping Drain Pipe: The trap of drains will often corrode and leak over time. To replace a corroded chrome sink drain pipe, begin by untwisting the 2 nuts on each end of the trap, using a pipe wrench or adjustable pliers. You may break the trap, but that’s OK, because you are replacing it anyway. Remove the leaking piece and replace it with a new piece, using new plastic or rubber washers and tightening the nuts snugly. Typically kitchen sink drains are one a half inches in diameter, and bathroom sinks are an inch and a quarter in diameter.
Running Toilets: Either the water inlet valve is faulty or the flapper is faulty. First turn off the water to the toilet tank. If the water runs out of the tank into the bowl, then your flapper is bad. If the water remains in the tank, but the sound of running water is eliminated, then your problem is the water inlet valve.
To replace a leaking flapper, turn off the water supply, and lift the flapper to drain the water out of the tank. Look to see what type of flapper you have, remove it (usually you just need to unhook the two arms) and take it to a local hardware store and get an identical replacement. Replace the flapper; adjust the length of the chain so that the flapper seats completely, turn on the water supply to see if your problem is solved.
To replace the water inlet valve, turn off the water supply, drain the water from the toilet tank, and remove the supply line from the inlet valve. Use a small bowl or thick towel to catch the water that will escape. Remove the nut holding the water inlet valve tight to the tank from the outside bottom of the tank. (More water will escape) Replace the water inlet valve by slipping the rubber washer on the bottom on the valve (it goes on the inside of the tank) and hold it in place by tighten the nut on the bottom of the tank. Reattach the supply line, turn on the water supply and your problem should be solved. Be sure to properly install the bowl refill tube so that your bowl refills with water after each flush.
Repairing most plumbing problems is not brain surgery, though the plumber you call may think it is similar.