Homeownership comes with some downsides, such as having to handle plumbing problems yourself or hiring a professional such as a plumber to fix the issues. Even if you are renting and have a landlord to handle problems, sometimes it’s best to quickly get the problem repaired yourself. The best way might be to prevent the major problems in the first place, either with routine maintenance and plumbing health checks or making sure the problems are fixed while they are minor.
Here are some common plumbing issues and how to fix them or what to look out for. Use this list to create a routine maintenance checklist to prevent a major repair. Give us a call – (856) 408-1046 – to go through a home plumbing maintenance health check to fix or inspect if there are any issues.
Faucets deliver drinking water and if you don’t use a dishwasher, they also deliver the water used to clean your dishes. It’s important your faucet is in working order and running water is clean. There are a few issues that can interfere with that goal such as below:
A worn O-ring or a faulty seal, gasket, loose washer, or valve seat can result in leaks and drips. You may have one or more O-rings between the stem and handle of your faucet. This rubber ring prevents water from leaking between the spout and stem, however they can be worn or broken and need to be replaced if you find leaks around the base of the faucet or spout. Another common reason for leaks is a faulty valve seat or washer. They can become faulty due to friction, being improperly installed, or corrosion due to debris in the line and cause leaks. The debris in the line could be natural such as mineral deposits or impurities in your water, if you have issues such as your faucets losing pressure or clogging repeatedly, it may be beneficial to have your water quality checked and look into water filtration systems to filter the water from your municipal or other water source.
If you have a faulty or clogged aerator, you could have lower pressure. The aerator is the tip of the faucet with the screen or holes that the water exits the faucet from. Sometimes debris in the line can build up or you could have had some grease or other debris covering it from washing the dishes. This part is usually removable to be able to clean or replace if damaged. If you are getting debris in the line frequently, you could have an issue with your water heater and the water heater probably needs to be flushed.
Discolored water is usually from dirt, rust, sediment, iron, or other buildup in your water. If you have an older home or old plumbing, you may have rust or iron in your plumbing and should inspect your water heater and plumbing for damage or old age. Old homes built before 1960’s used galvanized steel which has been found to rust and corrode on the inside and should be replaced. If you suspect the source of the sediment or dirt is in your water heater, you can flush it and inspect for rust particles or dirt. If you have newer plumbing and don’t see obvious signs for damage, check with your local water company or municipality to see if they are working on the municipal’s water lines and may have gotten dirt in the water lines. Usually if the dirt source is from maintenance, it will clear up after a few minutes after the maintenance has been completed.
Toilets have a few systems working together to ensure a working toilet. A toilet pulls water from main water source then it has a system that flushes the waste down the sewage system. The most common failure is the flushing system however the other systems can have common issues as well.
Sometimes toilet leaks are obvious and there is water on the floor, however a not uncommon leak is when there is a leak at the seal between toilet and sewer line and it’s not easy to see. The water from that leak could be damaging your floor. You can check for this type of problem by feeling the area around your toilet for any dampness or soft areas and check for a musty smell coming from mildew or mold. You may or may not have mold or mildew with the leak, however its smell or visible presence makes it easy to see a moisture issue. When you change your wax O-ring on your toilet or have a professional plumber change it, you or your plumber can check for visible water damage from a leak.
Toilet leaks that leave water on the floor can come from cracks in your toilet, the connector that attaches the water line to the toilet or potentially the water line off/on valve.
Leaks from inside of your toilet can cause water to go down the tank and cause your toilet to run off and on without flushing. This is because the water in your tank is leaking and causing it to refill. The most common cause of this type of leak is the flapper inside the tank. The rubber flapper can become loose and allow water to leak. The flapper failing and allowing leaks, usually requires just replacing the flapper with a new one rather than try to adjust it or repair it. One way to check for this type of leak is to use food coloring in the tank and to check your toilet bowl in about 20 minutes to an hour to see if the water in the bowl has any coloring from the tank.
Most clogs are fixed with a plunger as they are just a temporary blockage in your plumbing. However, frequent clogging is indicative of a more serious issue and usually requires a professional plumber to check out the cause. There are chemicals advertised that can break up clogs in your plumbing, however it’s not recommended to use them if you don’t know your plumbing system. Some older plumbing can’t handle the harsh chemicals and they will break down and cause damage to your plumbing. Some of the chemicals work by creating pressure to clear a clog and adding a lot of pressure to your plumbing can result in a burst pipe if there is already damage present. A plumber can perform a video inspection to see if the clogging issue is from a large clog or damage in your sewage system. If it’s a large clog, they can use professional tools to break up the clog safely, without damaging your plumbing.
Pipes and Plumbing Issues
The main plumbing and pipes in your home can have a few common issues that if overlooked or neglected can cause large issues. Checking for damage should be included in your routine home maintenance checks, especially after the winter season where pipes are more likely to burst.
Too low of water pressure usually leads to more water usage to be efficient in cleaning or showering, while high water pressure can damage your pipes causing them to burst or tear, cause your pipes to knock or bang, cause faucets seals to leak, and damage appliances such as your dishwasher. You can check your water pressure with a water pressure gauge, which are usually found at any hardware store for less than $20. Attach the gauge to any spigot or threaded connector and turn on the water. You should see a reading between 40-60 psi for an ideal pressure, however some municipalities or utility companies supply water at a higher pressure. If your water pressure is above 80 psi, you might want to install a water pressure regulator or give a plumber a call to check your pressure and offer solutions.
Small pools of water in your basement or water leaking around pipe seams, indicates your pipes aren’t healthy and should be looked at. You may have a bad pipe connection or there is so much pressure it’s caused a tear and the cause of the pressure should be looked at. If your pipes are just slightly damaged but conditions change such as the pressure in winter, your pipes could burst open and cause a big leak and possibly in a hard-to-reach area such as behind a wall. This could result in an expensive repair from not only fixing the burst pipe, but also the water damage and possible content restoration or mold remediation. Having routine pipe health checks can help identify issues when they are small or just starting. Look for moisture and small amounts of water and the cause of the water. If you hear your plumbing “knocking” when turning off the water, be sure to locate the source of the knocking to check for damage and if you can’t find it, call a plumber and let them offer solutions to fix the cause of the “knocking”.
The basement is like the heart of your home. It usually contains your water heater, your plumbing accesses and your main gas and water shutoffs so in a way all the plumbing starts here and flows throughout your home and back down into your sewage system. There are a few common issues in this room that should be checked out or fixed while they are minor issues or to prevent a major issue.
The sump pump is something you need to work when it’s time for it to be working. Failure to pump water out of your basement could lead to water damage. There are 2 common issues with sump pumps – not stopping and not going. Sometimes the bobber can become stuck and cause your sump pump to constantly run and burn the motor out. Make sure the bobber rod is clean and can move without too much friction or it may become stuck. You should check that the sump pump is still in working order a few times a year to ensure when the need arises, it will be working.
Water in the basement
If you frequently get small leaks in your basement, check the area for a potential source, such as pipes above or the TPR water release of your water heater. If there are tiny amounts, it maybe condensation on your pipes or a small tear. If the water is more like a small flood, it maybe the ground is getting too wet from rain and is coming into the basement. You might try an easy fix such as adjusting your downspouts to have the water move away from sunken areas of your yard where the rain can pool, and the ground can’t absorb it quick enough. If it’s a bigger issue, then you may want to look into foundation repairs or basement water proofing.
Water Heater Issues
Your water heater takes water from the main source and heats it and send it to your faucets, shower, and appliances such as your dish washer. An inefficient water heater not only can raise your energy cost, but if your water doesn’t get hot enough, it won’t kill the bacteria in the water and could potentially make you sick.
There is a temperature control on your water heater to make it colder or hotter. The EPA recommends the temperature should be above 120 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria in the water. The needs and safety of your home should be a factor when determining what temperature, you need to set it at. A home where there are children, the water should be above 120 but lower than 150 degrees as a child can receive third degree burns in about 5 seconds of exposure. If your dishwasher doesn’t preheat the water than you might want to set your water at 140 degrees, as well as homes with people with more compromised immune systems to ensure bacteria is killed and is safe.
No Hot Water
Your water heater has a pilot light that ignites the fuel used to heat your water heater or an electrical heating element, however, if this goes out, you water will no longer be heated and will eventually go cold. You may have a gas or electric water heater and while the gas ones do have a pilot light, the electric one still may refer to it as a pilot light or have a power light indicator. In the case of an actual pilot light, the light may have gone out and is no longer burning the fuel to heat the water. In an electrical one, you may have lost power and the electrical heating element is no longer receiving power, this may just require pushing a button to get it going again. Check with your manual to determine the type of water heater you have and the steps to get the pilot light or heating element back on.
TPR Release Leaks and Clogs
If you are getting some water around the water heater or experiencing some clogging in your faucets, you may have some sediment in your water heater tank. The small amount of water under the pipe is from your discharge pipe that water escapes from when your TPR (Temperature Pressure Release) valve open’s itself to relieve pressure. This opens automatically if the pressure builds up from too much, which could be from debris buildup in the tank. You can perform a water heater flush to remove the water and sediment from the tank and extend the life of your water heater.
The kitchen has a few areas for issues such as the appliances with water hookups as well as a gas line for your stove or oven, if it’s not an electric stove or oven. There are a few signs to look out for when they are minor issues to catch and fix them before you have an expensive repair and water damage.
Smells from Drain
Smells from the drain is usually due to a clog. Sometimes the clog may be deep down in your plumbing or sewer line and need a professional to break it up. Try to use non harsh chemicals to break up a clog, as harsh chemicals may be hazardous to your plumbing and erode the pipes or cause further damage to already damaged areas. There are many things that most homeowner’s put down the drain that should be throw away instead. These include coffee grounds, eggshells, fats, oils, grease, and starchy foods like potatoes which can get stuck to the sides of your pipes.
Appliances that use water have water lines or connectors that can stop working or break. Your icemaker may stop making ice due to a clog in the water line and your dishwasher’s connector can become loose and start leaking. You can check the water connectors physically, however for clogs in the line, you should flush your water heater every year to two years to keep your lines debris free.
Water Bill Jumps
If your water bill has suddenly jumped, check the last one to determine if your price rate has stayed the same. If you are being charged the same, then your usage has spiked, this could be from seasonal or environment changes such as temporary guest or large social gatherings, or this could be from a small leak. There may be a leak somewhere you don’t notice or potentially underground and it’s causing your water bill to spike. If you think the increase is large and the rate has stayed the same, you might want to get an inspection to your home’s plumbing to see where the potential leak, before there is considerable water damage or a pipe burst.
When in doubt call a plumber to let you know if they should come out and check on the issue for you. The professionals have the training, experience, and tools to see if what looks like a small issue, could be a larger problem if neglected.