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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 require the need for sort of plumbing work. You can prevent or minimize problems from occurring if you know the types of issues that most often happen.
Below are the common problems, causes, and how they can be fixed. Some issues are relatively straightforward to deal with, but some will almost certainly require the help of a professional plumber.
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 it requires the correct tools.
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
Note: Chemicals can cause damage to your drainage pipes if used repeatedly, so I would recommend not resorting to this method lightly.
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
When the toilet bowl fills up and doesn't drain away, you've got a clog. The blockage is normally caused by a 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.
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.
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.
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.
How to clean a showerhead with vinegar
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.
Leaky pipes can be more than just a nuisance, they can cause damage to furniture and floors, and the dampness can encourage bugs like cockroaches. Leaks almost always happen at the pipe joints. Tape, compounds, and fillers can often provide a temporary fix, but for something more permanent replace a piece of pipe or the related fittings.
Leaks are more common in the winter when water can freeze, expand, and cause pipes to burst.
How to prevent pipes bursting in winter
Sewer system backups are, frankly, a nightmare. They are smelly, nasty, inconvenient, and can be expensive to fix. If you have multiple drains and toilets not working and a bad odor of human waste, this is likely your problem.
Responsibility for fixing the issue really depends on the location of the blockage. If it is on your property, then it's your problem. If it's out on the public road, then your water company should fix it. Unfortunately, you may have to pay for a plumber just to locate the blockage, though it's often worth calling your water company first, as they won't charge you if it's their fault.
There are three common causes. First, the main sewer is clogged. To minimize this happening, watch what you flush down your toilet (no diapers, facial tissues, napkins) and avoid tipping grease down your drain. Second, tree roots have invaded the pipes. Roots can push through cracks in pipes or surround a pipe and crush it. Third, old sewer lines may break or collapse. Modern sewer lines are made from plastic, but they used to be built from cast iron, or clay, which are prone to decay over time.
In addition to the plumbing issues founds in homes generally, older houses can present some particular challenges. Below are five common plumbing problems I've encountered when living in and managing older properties.
Question: My bathroom faucet is dripping. Could I fix the problem myself, or should I call a plumber?
Answer: Fixing a dripping faucet is not usually a difficult job, provided you have the correct tools. The problem typically involves replacing an internal washer, which has become worn or dislodged over time. There are plenty of informative how-to videos online that will take you through what you need to do.
Question: My sewer system is backed up, what do I do?
Answer: Responsibility for fixing the problem usually depends on where the blockage is. Unfortunately, you may have to pay for a plumber just to locate the blockage, though it's often worth calling your water company first, as they shouldn't charge you if it is their fault. Pipes can get blocked up for some reasons. They may be blocked by a build-up of debris and waste. Tree roots can sometimes work their way through cracks in old pipes. Old pipes may also fail due to general aging, metal pipes rusting, for example.
© 2018 Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on July 17, 2020:
Drains can be blocked at any point in the system, that can include beyond the boundaries of the property/out in the street. If there is a backup, then that usually means there is some sort of blockage somewhere, which is either limiting or preventing flow. Modern professionals use a camera that they run through the drains in order to locate the blockage and look at the general condition of the pipes. If the blockage is localized, you can sometimes make a reasonable guess as to where the blockage is located by trying out toilets, sinks, showers, etc. If a specific bathtub drains slow, for example, but everything else is fine, then it's likely to be a localized problem, rather than main drainage.
Maria A. on July 17, 2020:
Once a main drain is cleared, is there anything else that can cause back up?
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on June 23, 2020:
I'm wary of giving online advice without seeing something, but if the cause and location of the leak is as you've described, then aside from changing the shower head, which you've done, you can try using pipe compound or wrapping Teflon tape (in a clockwise direction) around the threads where the head connects to the pipe to get a tighter seal. If the pipe is corroded, you may need to replace it. I would still use compound or Teflon tape with the connection to the new pipe to get a tight seal.
Ralex on June 23, 2020:
I have a leak at the stem of the shower head ( first connection point). It has been that way for a while and I tried changing the washer and even changed the shower head, but it still leaks. Could it be a problem with the “goose neck pipe”?
Larry R on April 22, 2020:
My toilet tank once full of water will run for about 20 secs, stops and does it again every 20-25 minutes just started yesterday. Any ideas?
TIM connolly hot tap squeak when I turn it on on March 14, 2020:
Hot tap squeak when I turn it on
Eugene Brennan from Ireland on March 11, 2020:
Lots of interesting info Paul! That joint I was making in the top photo is a bit messy though :)
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on March 01, 2020:
That sounds like bad news, as this can often indicate that the blockage is a much deeper one than a simple drain clog. If you've tried everything in the list without success, you will need to call in outside help.
Robert Miller on February 28, 2020:
When I flush my toilet it backup in tub
Jeanie Pollack on January 04, 2020:
What can be done if kitty litter waste was dumped into toilet and flushed then causing a clog. Can I get a snake or flush system to push it thru or do I need to replace toilet?
Debby on January 03, 2020:
Why does my toilets make a pressure/bubbling noise every few minutes
James on December 30, 2019:
Some of the most common plumbing issues which are faced by both residential as well as commercial property owners include, water leak, clogged toilet, faulty water heater, slow draining sink, ripping faucets, and running toilet. Therefore, it is best to keep the number of a professional plumbing repair service on speed dial, to have them on call in case of an emergency.
Lee Hauser on December 06, 2019:
We snaked clean out with 100ft 3/4 snake tho sewer is 50- 60 ft away we put all 100 ft down with all 4 bits on 4 runs . both clean out lid opin . still have standing water in line ....there was no resistance at any time ...and drain in all new avs black pipe
James on November 29, 2019:
I think leaky faucets is a serious plumbing issue which must be resolved immediately, leaky faucets does not only increase your water bills but can also lead towards seriously damaging your property. In order to fix the issues you might need to replace the washer, however, it is quite hard to find a leak or leaks, therefore it is recommended to hire a professional plumbing company to do the job for you.
Al rugh on November 16, 2019:
Why wont a pump work with a bursted bladder in tank
Carolyn porter on August 17, 2019:
My front restroom bathtub is not getting cold water but is getting hot water what could it be and it doesn’t get used much
KD McMaster on August 14, 2019:
Help! My bathroom sink suddenly stopped draining almost a wk ago. It drained perfectly until that time. I have tried vinegar and baking soda, cleaned the trap, plunged, snaked and have tried commercial products twice. The toilet and shower are draining well. My home was built in the 50's and the pipe going into the wall is cast iron but after appx 1-1/4ft makes a 90° turn down so using a clearing bladder is impossible. Just spent several thousand $ a yr ago having the sewage line replaced from house to main on property line so i really need some ideas as to what else i can try. Thank you in advance.
Jeannette on June 30, 2019:
Ok my water got turned off and it was to late to get it back in and I needed water Soni got it from the water heater now that it's back on I have no water in any faucets cold or hot what do I do
Dean on June 02, 2019:
I recently installed a clawfoot tub in the bathroom upstairs, when the tub drains it drains exceptionally well but, the downstairs powder room sink spits water up through the drain in the sink. Is this a vent problem?
Dennis on April 17, 2019:
I have a combi boiler and the water pressure on the hot tap is very slow I’ve had the pressure tested by the water board and it’s ok up to the boiler the boiler is six years old do you have any ideas what the problem could be
Eamonn McDonagh on November 09, 2018:
Good ideas and easy to follow tips