Getting a plumber in to take care of a plumbing problem can be expensive and inconvenient if you have to wait long for them to show up. You can save yourself both time and hassle by learning how to fix some common plumbing problems yourself. This guide will teach you how to handle the plumbing problems you will most likely encounter in your home.
Leaking faucets are one of the most common household plumbing problems. The leak is most often the result of a worn gasket. The first thing to do is turn off the water running into the faucet. There should be a shutoff valve on the pipes next to or under the sink. Turn on the faucet so the water left in the pipes drains out. Next, cover the bottom of the sink with a towel so you don’t lose parts down the drain. It is a major hassle to get them back out. Take the faucet assembly apart following these instructions:
Compression faucets have two handles, one for hot water and one for cold water. When you turn the water off, the handles move smoothly and consistently. There may be decorative caps on top of the handles. Pry them off with a screwdriver and take out the screw underneath. Below the handles is an O-ring supporting a stem, sitting on a washer.
This washer is most likely the culprit if the water is coming out of the faucet. If the water is coming out of the handle, the O-ring is most likely the culprit. You need to replace whichever one you think is the cause of the problem, or both if you can’t tell. Take them out and bring them to a hardware store so you can get identical replacements. Coat the O-ring in grease before replacing it.
Cartridge faucets look just like compression faucets. You can tell the difference when you try to turn the water off, though. As you turn the handles of a cartridge faucet, you have to apply more and more pressure. To fix a leaking cartridge faucet, unscrew the handle remove the retaining clip using pliers. Remove the cartridge and the O-rings, which are probably the source of the problem. Take them to the hardware store to get replacements. Coat the new ones in grease before reassembling the faucet.
Ball faucets have a single handle that moves over a rounded cap. The first thing you need to do is buy a replacement ball faucet kit. Unscrew the handle and pry off the cap with pliers, then use them to lift the collar off of the bearing. Use the cam tool that comes with the replacement kit to remove the cam.
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Instructions for its use should come with the kit. Then remove the ball bearing and the washer. Take out the inlet springs and seals with needle-nosed pliers. Apply a layer of grease to the new O-rings that came with the kit. Reassemble the faucet with the new parts from the kit.
Disk faucets look a lot like ball faucets. They have single handles, but the handle sits on top of a cylindrical body instead of a rounded cap. Unscrew the handle, and remove the metal part situated beneath it. Unscrew the cylinder and remove it and the seal. Take the cylinder and seal to the hardware store to buy replacements and reassemble the faucet.
Take the top off of the tank. There should be a tube standing up inside near a float ball, attached to a rod that is attached to a plastic column. If the water in the tank is running over the top of the tube, bend the rod attached to the float ball a little. When the ball sits lower down, the water level drops.
If that wasn’t the problem, check the flapper valve on the bottom to see if the chain is tangled up in it. If this is the case, shorten the chain’s length by anchoring it to a different link.
If neither of these things works, the fill valve probably needs replacing. That means shutting off the water to the toilet and then draining the tank by flushing. The fill valve is the plastic column that the float ball is attached to. Loosen the nut on the supply line under the tank and pull the supply line out of the fill valve. Remove the fill valve and bring it to the hardware store so you can get a matching replacement. Follow the instructions on the replacement to installing it.
If your toilet flushes by itself over and over again, then the flapper valve seal may be bad. However, first, check to see if the lift chain is tangled in the flapper valve. If that is not the problem, then shut off the water to the toilet. Flush the tank to drain it. If the flapper valve is not positioned securely over the opening then adjust its position by moving it on its mount. If that doesn’t work then replace the flapper valve.
You might think that a leaking pipe is a job for the professionals, but you can actually fix it without too much trouble if it’s in a place you can access easily. First, put some towels on the floor under the leak. Next, turn off the water to the pipe. Then you need to cut out the section with the leak. Place a pipe cutter a few inches to the side of the leak. Tighten it around the pipe until it starts to bite into it. Rotate the pipe cutter around the pipe, periodically tightening it more, until you cut all the way through the pipe.
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Then place the pipe cutter a few inches to the other side of the leak and repeat the procedure. Next, take the cut-out section of the pipe to the hardware store to get a replacement section of the same size and type. You also need to pick up two PVC slip couplings and PVC cement and primer if you have a PVC pipe. Pick up two copper slip couplings, flux, and a small propane torch if you have a copper pipe. To fix the new section into the existing pipe, follow these instructions:
Replacing PVC Pipe
Coat the exposed ends of the pipe and the new section with primer. Coat the insides of the PVC slip couplings with primer as well. Then coat the pipe ends and slip coupling insides with PVC cement. Push the couplings back over the exposed pipe and slide the new section into place. Slide the slip couplings over the joints. Hold the slip couplings in place for a full minute. Let the PVC cement dry for at least 30 minutes before you turn the water on again.
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Replacing Copper Pipe
Slide the slip couplings onto the ends of the pipe and push them back from the ends. Brush some flux onto the ends of the pipe. Slide the new section into place and slide the couplings over the joints. Aim the flame from the torch at couplings, with the tip of the flame barely touching the copper.
Hold the flame steady until the flux starts sizzling. Touch the plumbing solder to the hot joint. It will be sucked into the joint. Do this until you have solder fully around the joint. Do the same to the other joint. Allow the pipe to fully cool before you turn the water on again. Note: read and follow the safety instructions on the torch.
These plumbing problems can be fixed by almost anyone, without any special training. However, if the repair work becomes more difficult than you anticipated, then you should call a professional plumber so you don’t accidentally do any damage.