Common Plumbing Issues
Some plumbing issues are relatively minor, like a leaky faucet or a running toilet, while others can cause substantial damage and require immediate action such as a backup in the sewer system or a major pipe leak. Depending on the severity of the issue, costs will vary from low to high. The following article details the most common plumbing issues and the usual repair methods associated. Some repairs can typically be carried out by the average person whereas others will require the expertise of a trained plumber.
Most Common Plumbing Issues
Below is a list of the ten (10) most common plumbing issues:
1. Leaky Faucets
Most people will experience the frustration from an incessantly leaking faucet at some point in their lifetime – it’s that common! One of the worst consequences of this issue is an increased water bill as that small steady stream of water can really add up. All that unused water is really a waste, too. The usual culprit for a leaky faucet is a loose, tight and/or damaged washer. Basic tools can be utilized to turn off the water supply, remove the faucet, replace the faulty washer, and reassemble the faucet again. This fix will usually remedy this most common plumbing issue.
2. Slowly Draining Sink
When water drains abnormally slowly in a sink, this is usually a signal that there is a blockage somewhere in the drain and/or the pipes below. The kitchen sink most often gets clogged by excess grease and large food particles, whereas the bathroom sink typically displays an issue when too much hair or soap residue builds up. Effective answers to this common plumbing problem are drain plungers, plumber’s snakes, and natural and chemical cleansing solutions poured down the drain. One or a combination of these methods will usually solve the problem in most circumstances. Careful when using harsh chemical drain cleaners as they can be harmful to your eyes, skin and respiratory system and also are not beneficial for your pipes if used too often.
3. Clogged Bath/Shower Drain
Much like that of a clogged sink, bath and shower drains get clogged overtime due to a buildup of materials in the pipes. Baths and shower drains usually have issues from excessive amounts of hair and soap residue. A plunger or plumber’s snake works great for these types of jobs. Equal parts of baking soda and vinegar can be mixed together to help dissolve the blockage as well. If using a plunger, make sure there is enough water to submerge the plunger and then align it over the bath/shower drain opening and vigorously pump it back and forth a few times before removing plunger and determining if the block was dissipated.
4. Clogged Toilet
A clogged toilet is a nasty issue that needs to be fixed to allow human waste to exit the home in a sanitary manner. This common issue is usually caused by a buildup of toilet paper in the toilet bowl before flushing. The best method to break up this type of clog is by using a standard toilet plunger. If the blockage persists, try using a plumber’s snake to crank away lodged materials.
5. Running Toilet
After a toilet is flushed, water is sent back into the toilet bowl to prepare for the next use. Sometimes a faulty flapper valve causes this process to go on continually, leading to an excessive amount of wasted water and an increased water bill. Most hardware stores carry a kit that can be used to fix this issue relatively easily. If the kit does not remedy this issue and your water bill remains high, consider adding food coloring to your upper tank to check for small leaks incessantly flowing from the tank to the bowl.
6. Malfunctioning water heater
When a water heater isn’t working properly, the obvious occurrence happens: the water in your house will not get hot. Various reasons contribute to this problem, including but not limited to: pilot light is out, sediment build up, and thermostat failure. Unless the pilot light just needs to be relit, most other water heater complications are best repaired by a professional water heater professional.
7. Inadequate water pressure
Low water pressure can signify a few different problems and is more commonly an issue in older homes. Leaky pipes can cause this issue, as well as sediment build up inside of faucets and shower heads. If the pressure only appears to be low when hot water is turned on, ensure the hot water heater valve is fully open. To clean a shower head that may be gunned up with mineral deposits over time, remove it from the pipe and use a vinegar-laden toothbrush to clean around it and toothpicks to poke through the water holes and then soak the whole shower head in vinegar for several hours to remove anything else still attached.
8. Garbage Disposal Jam
Beyond getting food and grease clogged in your kitchen drain, other bulkier items such as potato skins, fruit pits, and accidental silverware drops can cause the blades on the garbage disposal to jam. The first step to take to fix this problem would be to press the reset button. If this does not work, open up the disposal under the sink using the provided key or by using a ¼” Allen wrench.
9. Leaky Pipes
Pipes that are leaking can be fixed relatively easily if caught early but may also pose a substantial risk to your flooring, furniture, walls, etc. if not. The area where most leaks occur are at the pipe joints. You can temporarily stop a leak with tape, fillers, and/or compounds but a permanent and trusted repair will need to be done by a knowledgeable plumber will likely replace a piece of the pipe or surrounding fittings. Beyond just leaky pipes, cold winters can potentially freeze pipes, leading to expansion and actually to bursting. To avoid this, allow cold water to continually drizzle out of faucets that are connected to outside pipes when weather will be very cold and keep the thermostat set at the same temperature at all times.
10. Sewer System Backup
By far the most disgusting and expensive plumbing issue, a sewer system backup is unfortunately a common issue that will likely need professional assistance to clear up. One way to notice this is the problem is when multiple drains and toilets will not function properly at the same time. There may also be a foul odor that is present in the house as the contents of the sewer creep up through the drainage system in your home or building. If the blockage is located off of your property, the public water company will need to be contacted and they will need to contract professionals to fix the backup. If you suspect the sewer system backup is on your property, you will need to hire a skilled plumbing company to inspect and repair this issue. Some causes of the sewer system backing up could be from a clogged drain line, tree roots crushing the pipes, and old sewer lines decaying to the point of complete destruction. Make sure to hire professional help to remedy this type of concern.
Older Home Plumbing Problems
The following list details five (5) common issues that can arise in old houses:
1. Galvanized Pipes
Before the 1960’s, many homes were built using galvanized pipes which are made from iron and coated with zinc. The zinc coating breaks down over time, causing the pipes to weaken and break. Oftentimes the only way to repair this issue is to replace those sections of piping. Signs this form of piping has decayed could be reduced water pressure and poor water quality.
2. Polybutylene Pipes
Between the late 1970’s and 1990’s polybutylene pipes were installed into many homes because they were a more affordable option. It was discovered that this material of piping would react to water oxidants and erode and break over time.
3. Poor Plumbing Installation & Repair
Since older houses have had many years to have the opportunity for plumbing maintenance and repair, the chances of low-quality and inefficient plumbing repairs is increased. Trained professional plumbers may need to be hired to sort out past plumbing mistakes and establish a higher quality foundation.
4. Pipe Bellies
When the earth below houses naturally shifts over time, “pipe bellies” can form which are bowing pipes that can disrupt proper water flow to the home/building.
5. Old Fixtures
Although older fixtures such as faucets and sinks can add charming character to an older home, sometimes they are not in good shape anymore and cause more problems than they are worth keeping. At that point, old fixtures will need to be replaced with newer ones that function as desired.
Winter Plumbing Problems
Below is a list of three (3) of the most common plumbing issues that typically present themselves in the cold winter months:
1. Frozen Pipes
When pipes get cold enough they can expand and suddenly burst. One remedy would be to install insulation around the pipes to prevent them from being exposed to the extreme temperatures. Also, you can allow a faucet that is aligned with the exposed piping to continually drip a small amount of cold water because moving water through the pipes will make it less likely to freeze.
2. Water Heater breakdown
Naturally during the colder winter months hot water is of greater demand. This added need can stress the water heater and cause it to malfunction.
3. Splitting of Water Pipes
Aside from a complete burst, cold temperatures can expand pipes just enough to crack leaks in the water lines.
Emergency Plumbing Issues
- Burst, leaking, or frozen pipes
- Blocked drain
- Sewer system backup
- All toilets broken
- Gas leakage
Many of these issues will cause flooding and massive damage to your property if not addressed immediately by a trained plumber.
Basic Plumbing Tips
- Turn of main water supply before proceeding with any plumbing repairs
- Dress properly to work on messy plumbing jobs
- Utilize specific tools and equipment to accurately perform repairs and replacements
- Have an emergency plumber’s contact information available in case their prompt services are needed