Getting water into your house and back out again is the simple role of the plumbing system in your new home. Regardless of how careful you are, problems come up with the plumbing. If you're prepared for them, you might have a few minutes of inconvenience while you fix them. If unprepared, you may find yourself on the stairs watching your basement flood. Here are the five most likely plumbing problems you might face and how to be prepared to deal with them.
1. Sinks that drain slowly
Regardless of what devices are used to prevent sinks from clogging, they eventually do. In the bathroom, hair and skin cells can get through most strainers. Grease and food particles are the culprits in a kitchen sink clog. The first step is to clean the drain plug, if you have the type that pops up out of the drain. Material can cling to the underside of the plug. If that doesn't fix the problem, at the hardware store, pick up a snake to clear out the inside of the drain.
2. Reduced water pressure
If the water is running slower out of a faucet when either the cold or hot water is turned on, it may be the aerator. Unscrew this from the end of the faucet, being careful to keep the pieces together. Pull them apart and rinse off any grit that may be blocking the water from coming through it. Reassemble and screw this back onto the faucet.
If it's only the hot water side that is slow, you may have a mineral buildup in the hot water pipes. You'll need a plumbing service to inspect the pipes for this buildup and replace that section with a new pipe.
3. Jammed garbage disposal unit
Never put your hand into the garbage disposer while it's plugged in. Look under the sink for where the disposer plugs into an outlet and disconnect it. Try the switch by the sink to make sure the disposal is really unplugged. Look for a large hex wrench attached to the side of the unit. If it's there, remove it and place it into the hex nut on the bottom of the unit. Rotate the disposal with this wrench back and forth until it moves freely. Use a flashlight to look into the unit from above to see if an obstruction, such as a rock or piece of silverware, is obvious. Remove this, plug the unit back in and try running it again.
If the hex wrench is not available, find a large wooden stick, like the end of a broom or plunger. Place the wooden end into the garbage disposer and push against the blades, first one direction, then the next, until it moves freely. If this fails, keep the unit unplugged and call one of your local plumbing contractors to inspect it.
4. Frozen water pipes
If your water stops running in freezing weather, you may have a frozen pipe. Look for any water pipes that go through un-insulated parts of your house, such as a garage. These are the pipes most likely to freeze. Since water expands as it freezes, frozen pipes can split or burst. Try placing a space heater or heat lamp near the pipes to thaw them out. A hair dryer or heating pad may work, too. Once thawed out, turn on the water for a few minutes to flush any remaining ice out of the pipe. Contact a plumbing service to put insulation in around the pipes to prevent a recurrence.
5. Leaky faucet
This is something that's hard to be prepared for unless you keep parts handy for all of the different types of faucets you have in your house. There are ball faucets, compression faucets, and ceramic disk faucets. They all use one or more rubber washers to prevent leaks and these are typically the problem if you have a dripping faucet.
A plumber will have all of the parts necessary, if you don't want to deal with it yourself. If you do want to try to fix the leak in a compression faucet, then:
- turn off the water to the faucet from below the sink
- remove the screw that holds the handle on, and pull off the handle
- loosen the nut under the screw and unscrew the stem that slides down into the faucet
- the stem will have one or two rubber o-rings or washers that you can remove and replace to fix the leak
- take the stem to the hardware store and match the o-rings or washers needed
Other faucet types are a little more complex but you can also repair them yourself. Carefully take apart the faucet, laying the parts out on a paper towel. Find the rubber seals, replace and reassemble the faucet. For assistance, contact a plumbing contractor.