When Things Start To Drip
The fact of the matter is that if you own a home, plumbing problems are going to arise from time to time. It’s a nuisance, and we understand that sometimes it’s a nuisance you’d like to avoid until you absolutely have to do something about it. But that leaky faucet or running toilet? The more you ignore it, the more it’s going to cost you. You’re wasting water, which means higher water bills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), average household water leaks can waste 180 gallons a week, or 9,400 gallons a year. And what might just seem like a minor annoyance can indicate a much larger underlying plumbing problem. The longer you wait to fix it, the more it is going to cost you.
Let’s take a look at 14 signs of bigger plumbing problems in your home:
- Faucet dripping
- Leaky pipes
- Rattling pipes
- Slow draining in the bathroom
- Slow draining in the kitchen
- Drain smells bad
- Gurgling drains
- Low water pressure
- Little or no water on a cold day
- No hot water
- Dishwasher or washing machine leaks
- Clogged or running toilet
- Standing water in yard
- Higher than usual water utility bills
A leaky faucet is in many cases a plumbing problem almost any homeowner can fix. More often than not, it’s simply a matter of replacing a washer or gasket. In some models, you can unscrew the piece where the water comes out, clean the piece free of any debris and replace the washer with the same size washer, and screw it back on. In other cases, you may need to remove the faucet handle itself and replace the cartridge or faucet stem that regulates water flow. Here’s what to do:
- Locate the shutoff valve for the fixture and shut off the water.
- Remove the faucet handle. This may require locating a set screw in the handle that you need to remove either with a screwdriver, a hex key, or an Allen wrench. (For a shower or bathtub faucet, you also need to remove the fixture faceplate, the metal sleeve over the valve, and/or a locking clip.)
- Loosen the faucet cartridge or faucet stem. Pull it out and insert an appropriate replacement.
- Replace the o-ring around the housing.
- Reattach the faucet handle.
A leaky pipe not only just wastes water and costs you money, it is possibly also a sign of much larger plumbing problems. If it’s a leaky pipe in a wall or ceiling, that small discoloration you think you can live with for a while soon becomes an eyesore with a big repair bill attached. If you have an older home, most likely you have old galvanized plumbing, which is prone to corrosion and leaks. Call a plumber.
Rattling pipes tend to occur mostly in older homes. In most cases, the pipe isn’t properly secured to the wall, and when water runs through the pipe, it vibrates and rattles. Of all the plumbing problems you might experience, this is more an annoyance than an indication of a serious issue, and is one you could choose to ignore. If the noise is driving you crazy, and it’s coming through enclosed walls, you could try to remove drywall and reattach the pipes yourself if you are particularly handy. Otherwise, an experienced plumber is your best bet.
The most common reason for slow bathroom draining is a clog caused by the buildup of hair in the shower or, in the case of the bathroom sink, toothpaste. This is an easy fix. Remove the drain cover and use a straightened coat hanger to remove debris and clear the clog. For stubborn clogs, fill the sink or shower tub with water and use a plunger to dislodge the blockage.
Try to avoid using commercial drain cleaners, as these are not often environmentally friendly and in some cases could damage pipes. To prevent a clog from occurring in the first place, put a wire mesh over the drain and flush drains regularly, like every month or so, using a non-corrosive drain cleaner or homemade solution.
Slow draining in the kitchen is similar to the issue in the bathroom, but the cause of the clog is less likely to be hair or toothpaste. The leading cause of kitchen clogged drains is fat and grease. The second leading cause is large food particles and vegetable peels. You can easily avoid this by keeping these substances out of your drain. Pour grease and fats as well as vegetable scraps into a melt-proof container you can dispose of in the garbage. Better yet, use your vegetable scraps for composting. Even if you have a garbage disposal grinder attached to your kitchen sink, heavy reliance on it can lead to potential plumbing problems down the road, not to mention possibly shortening the useful life of the grinding appliance.
If a drain continually emits bad smells, the most likely cause is a clogged or bad P-trap. A P-trap holds just enough water to create a seal that prevents sewer gas from backing up into the drain. First things first: try running hot water down the drain and see if this eliminates the foul odor. If that doesn’t work, you can try to plunge the drain or use a snake to try to clear the clog.
In many cases, there is a cleanout nut or waste line located near the P-trap bend. Make sure you put a bucket beneath the P-trap before opening the cleanout and draining the contents of the P-trap.
Worst case scenario is you need to replace the P-trap itself. Anyone who is reasonably handy can do this, but if you don’t have the time, skills, or inclination, a plumber can easily do this for you.
Gurgling drains indicate a clog or other stoppage that is causing the formation of air pockets as wastewater exits the system. You can try to plunge the drain, but if this fails, a plumber can inspect your system for potential plumbing problems.
Low water pressure can have any number of causes. In a shower, check the shower head for mineral buildup. Cleaning or replacing the shower head could do the trick. But if there is a loss of water pressure throughout the house when more than one faucet or water outlet is used at the same time, it could just mean the plumbing system isn’t adequately designed to meet that much demand. This is more likely to occur in older homes than in new construction. The only fix here is to update the system. Otherwise, just don’t take a shower when the dishwasher is on.
That said, a sudden drop in water pressure that you’ve never experienced before is a sign of larger plumbing problems. There are any number of causes, including a valve failure, clogged pipe, or leak. This is when you need to call a plumber.
Little or no water on a cold day possibly indicates a frozen water supply line. If you have an outside exposed water pipe, you can shut the water off and then try to thaw out the pipe with a hair dryer. Better yet, insulate the pipe to prevent the problem in the first place. In some cases, insulating an entire crawl space and plugging any holes or gaps is the best preventative measure. Keep in mind that a frozen pipe contains water turning into ice, and water turning into ice is an expanding substance that in some circumstances results in a burst pipe. So if you think you have a frozen pipe, act quickly before your plumbing problems get worse.
No hot water indicates a problem with your water heater. Over time, sediment and corrosion can build up in a water heater. This is why it is best to perform regular, once-a-year maintenance on the water heater. This involves draining the water heater to remove sediment sitting on the bottom of the tank, to avoid buildup. If you have hard water, some kind of water treatment is advisable.
If your water heater is visibly rusted or older than 10 years, you might consider a replacement. Also, if you lose hot water when two showers are running simultaneously, the water heater is probably undersized. There are a variety of energy-efficient water heater options to choose from.
If you see water coming from under a dishwasher or a washing machine, the good news is that most likely you don’t have plumbing problems. The bad news is there is a problem with the appliance. Check all the hoses and connections to the appliance for cracking and possible leaks. Replace hoses as needed. Tighten the connections to the water outlets. If that doesn’t correct the problem, consult the appliance documentation for further troubleshooting. You may require a service call to repair and possibly even replace the appliance.
If the toilet isn’t flushing properly, you’ve got a clog, most likely the result of putting something other than toilet paper down the toilet. Typically, plunging the toilet and/or using a snake can dislodge the clog. If the problem persists, you might have more serious plumbing problems deeper in the pipes. Call a plumber to investigate.
If the toilet is continuously running, meaning water is not filling up properly in the tank, you need to either adjust the flapper or replace it entirely.
If your yard is wet even on dry days, there is possibly a leak with your sewer or septic tank connection. Don’t delay; call a plumber right away.
If your water bills are higher than normal, but you don’t feel you are using water any differently than usual, a leak is a likely culprit. If you can’t find a leak or any of the plumbing problems we discussed above, call a plumber.
The Right Plumber for Your Plumbing Problems—Ongaro and Sons
Ongaro and Sons is a third-generation, family-owned business founded back in 1932 by Ernest V. Ongaro in Fairfax, California. We understand better than anyone the importance of good plumbing to ensure your family’s comfort and safety. When you have plumbing problems, Ongaro and Sons provides solutions.
Our fully licensed plumbers are literally just a phone call away. Contact us with any questions about your plumbing problems. Our experienced technicians offer a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee and peace of mind that you’ve chosen the right plumber to solve plumbing problems, big or small.