Plumbing problems can be intimidating, but with the right know-how, many are simple to resolve. Here’s a rundown on common plumbing problems and how to fix them DIY-style.

Running Toilets
A running toilet is perhaps the most common plumbing issue that homeowners face. Luckily, it typically requires a quick and simple fix. The leading cause of a running toilet is a flapper that won’t seal. You’ll need to purchase a new flapper, taking care that it’s the same type as the old one. Then flush the toilet to drain the water out of the tank and install the new one according to package directions.

Clogged Drains
The key to properly taking care of a clogged drain is to address the problem as soon as you notice drainage that’s slower than normal. You’d be surprised at how quickly a clogged drain can worsen if not taken care of at the first sign of trouble. Minor clogs can usually be dealt with swiftly using a plunger. Plungers are especially handy for bathroom or kitchen sinks. Fill the sink halfway with water and then work the plunger up and down to loosen the plug. For a double sink that is connected to the same drain, stuff a wet rag into one drain while you plunge the other.

You should also start with a plunger for a bathtub or shower clog. First, remove the cover from the drain and use a bent wire hanger to clean out any hair or soap that might be close to the surface. This might do the trick, but if it doesn’t, cover the holes under the overflow plate with a wet rag and start plunging the drain.

If the clog is more severe in your sink, tub or shower, a plunger may not be strong enough to take care of it. In that case, you may need to buy an auger with a hand crank or rent an electric auger from a home improvement store.


Weak Water Pressure
Poor water pressure is usually caused by clogged pipes. If you’ve already determined that clogged pipes aren’t the culprit, here are a few other issues that could be causing your water flow to slow:

A water shutoff valve that isn’t fully open. Make sure that the shutoff valves near your water meter are fully open. Your water pressure should improve immediately if they weren’t open all the way.

Your city’s water supply is delivered slowly. If you have city water, schedule a pressure reading with your area water department. There could be a larger problem with the city’s delivery system that is impacting your neighborhood’s water pressure. Keep in mind that some municipalities choose to regulate water usage and will not be able to increase your pressure. In that case, you may need to install a water booster pump.

You have a leak. Leaking toilets or water mains are a leading cause of low water pressure. To determine if you have a toilet leak, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait for 15 to 20 minutes. If you see colored water in the bowl, you have a leak. If the water in the bowl is clear, you don’t.

Clogged Garbage Disposal
First, let’s discuss how to prevent garbage disposal clogs. Disposals typically can’t handle items like chicken bones, corncobs and fruit pits, so avoid having them near your sink.

If your garbage disposal does clog, never put your hand in the disposal, even if it’s switched off. You never know if a switch might be faulty. Instead, make sure the disposal is switched off, grab a flashlight and take a look. You may be able to spot the problem right away (usually it’s a large item, like a fork). You can use a pair of pliers to reach into the disposal and pull it out.

If you don’t see anything, use the handle of a broom or wooden spoon to probe the blades. Rock the handle back and forth until you feel the blades moving freely.

For more information on plumbing maintenance, visit our blog.