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8 Most Common Plumbing Problems

Plumbing issues come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from the relatively minor and inexpensive, such as a dripping faucet or running toilet, all the way to a sewer system backup or a major pipe leak capable of causing severe damage to walls, floors, and personal property.

This article lists the most common issues that can result in the need for plumbing work. You can prevent or minimize problems from occurring if you know the types of things that most often go wrong.

Below are the common problems, causes, and how they can be fixed. Some issues will require the help of a professional plumber.

1. Dripping Faucets

Dripping faucets are so common that it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t experienced this issue. It’s not just a source of irritation, the waste of water can push up your water bill and cost you money. A single faucet can drip away hundreds of gallons over the course of a year.

The cause of dripping faucets in most cases is an internal washer that has become stiff, torn, worn, or dislodged over time. Fixing the problem is often achievable by the average householder, but requires the correct tools.

2. Slow Draining Sink

This problem is normally caused by a blockage that is restricting water flow. Your kitchen sink drain may contain things like congealed fat and food remnants. In a bathroom sink, the blockage is more likely to be caused by knotted hair and soap.

Methods for clearing a clogged sink might involve using a plunger, pouring down baking soda and vinegar or a chemical clog remover, or using a plumber’s snake. If the problem isn’t tackled, then it will likely worsen over time, until eventually the drain is completely blocked.

How to Unclog a Sink Drain Using Chemicals

  • Be sure to follow all the directions on the packaging and make sure not to use too much.
  • Wear gloves and goggles for safety.
  • Don’t mix chemicals. This can produce poisonous gas.
  • Pour chemicals down the drain.

Note: Chemicals can cause damage to your drainage pipes if used repeatedly, so I would recommend not resorting to this method lightly.

Shower drains especially are prone to getting clogged by hair and soap. The problem can be especially acute if the users have longer hair which cause large knots. A shower drain can help to prevent problems from developing by catching hair.
Shower drains especially are prone to getting clogged by hair and soap. The problem can be especially acute if the users have longer hair which cause large knots. A shower drain can help to prevent problems from developing by catching hair. | Source

3. Clogged Bath or Shower Drain

As with slow draining bathroom sinks, bath and shower drains generally get blocked up by clogs of hair and soap. Clearing the blockage may require the use of a plunger, or a snake. Baking soda and vinegar can sometimes dissolve the clog too. The problem generally gets worse over time, if not dealt with. The problem can be prevented or minimized by buying a drain guard to catch the hair.

How to Unclog Your Shower Drain Using a Plunger

  • Adding petroleum jelly to the edge of the suction pad will improve the seal.
  • Make sure there is enough water in the shower so that the end of the plunger is submerged.
  • Plunge vigorously.

4. Clogged Toilet

When the toilet bowl fills up and doesn’t drain away, you’ve got a clog. The blockage is normally caused by mixture of paper and human waste. Clogged toilets can normally be fixed with a plunger. If that doesn’t work then a sewer snake or drain auger can be used to loosen up the blockage.

5. Running Toilet

A running toilet can be costly; up to 200 gallons of water may be lost each day. The most common culprit is a faulty flapper valve which controls the water that passes from the tank to the bowl. This is fairly straightforward fix with a toilet repair kit available at any hardware store.

Less commonly, toilet runs may also be caused by sediment affecting the flushing and filling. If your water bills seem high, check for silent leaks. Put some food coloring in the upper tank and see if it makes its way to the bowl without flushing.

6. Faulty Water Heater

This problem may not be discovered until you are in the shower and the water suddenly goes cold. There are multiple issues that can cause a water heater to fail. The pilot light may go out and you have to relight it. A build up of sediment in the tank can also cause problems. Another time, it may be the thermostat that is at fault.

Generally speaking, you will want a professional to inspect, maintain, and fix your water heater unless it’s something basic like the pilot light needing to be relit.

Low water pressure has a variety of potential causes. If it's only the hot water that's weak, then the problem may just be related to the hot water heater’s shut off valve and you should ensure that it is fully open.

7. Low Water Pressure

If your water trickles out of the tap rather than gushes, this may be a symptom of low water pressure. This is often a problem in older homes.

Low water pressure can be caused by leaking pipes that have become broken, worn, or corroded over time. More often than not, it’s caused by a build-up of sediment and mineral deposits on aerators. You can soak the aerator in vinegar to clean it. If it’s the shower that’s the problem, then you need to either soak the showerhead in vinegar or simply replace it.

8. Jammed Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are very useful appliances, but they do jam sometimes. Running them without water, disposing certain food substances such as cornhusks and potato peels, or allowing silverware to get inside can all cause problems.

Your first step to fix the issue should always be to hit the reset button, but if that doesn’t work, then you will need to open it up. If you have lost the key that comes
with the garbage disposal, then a 1/4 inch Allen wrench can be used to free the motor.

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