Did you know that a leaky faucet dripping water at the rate of one drop per second wastes about 3,000 gallons a year? Imagine how many showers that could’ve been.
So more than just a nuisance, faulty plumbing can cost you a fortune without you knowing immediately, not to mention the environmental impact of wasting water.
Everybody encounters plumbing issues. Drippy faucets here, clogged drains there…it’s pretty understandable that at one point, you may have considered fixing the plumbing problem yourself.
While more complex plumbing issues and repairs should be left to the experts, there are some that can still be fixed. With the right tools, equipment, and a little experience, here’s how to remedy the five most common Edmonton plumbing problems.
Keep in mind that these tips should not in any way replace professional plumbing services. If you have any doubts about your own skills, that’s probably a sign to call in the experts.
1. Leaky faucets and pipes
Leaky faucets and pipes are perhaps the most common plumbing problems in any home. As mentioned earlier, leaky pipes and faucets will become costly in the long run if not solved immediately.
Damage to the washer is usually the cause of faucets leaking. The washer forms a seal on the tap, preventing water from passing through when the tap is shut.
It can either be torn, dislodged, or stiffened through regular wear and tear. This is unavoidable because of how often faucets are used.
For pipes, leaks can be attributed to damaged joints brought about by deterioration with age, or from high and shifting water pressure.
Faucet parts are widely available, and as such, can be simple to replace. The washer responsible for the leak should be replaced to solve the problem.
Depending on your experience, this can be a DIY job. However, this can be done quickly and more easily with specialty tools plumbers have.
We found this extremely helpful Youtube tutorial to help get you started with replacing the damaged washer:
Leaky pipes can either be simple or very complex and time-consuming. Even those simpler problems like replacing u-joints are more likely better done by an expert.
Leaky pipes or faucets are difficult to avoid because wear and tear from regular use will most definitely cause problems in the future.
As such, it is best to regularly inspect pipes and faucets for any early signs of damage that can worsen when ignored.
The lifespan of faucets can be extended by closing or opening them gently. Also, avoid too much pressure on faucets, and refrain from hanging things on the faucet itself.
Leaky pipes can be hard to prevent, but extra damage can be mitigated by detecting them early. Always check for moisture or small drips coming from small joints, as these are sure signs of pipes beginning to deteriorate.
Other signs of leakage are rust and lime deposits.
2. Clogged drains and toilets
Clogged drains or toilets can be easily spotted. You may notice some standing water around the drain that stays unusually long, and the water doesn’t fully go down when flushing the toilet.
These are caused by partial or complete blockage, thus restricting water flow. Sinks and shower drains may easily be blocked by clumps of hair falling onto the floor after a shower.
Toilets can get clogged because non-dissolvable waste or any other obstructive materials may have been flushed.
The plunger is a simple solution, and it works for both drains and toilets by loosening the clog using air pressure.
This is done by placing the open end of the plunger to cover the entire drain and moving it up and down to create suction. Then, if the blockage is close enough to the opening, it can easily be pulled out with a gloved hand or a pair of pliers or tweezers.
Chemical drain cleaners can also be used if the blockage is lodged too far in or if a plunger is unavailable. Usually made of strong acids to dissolve the clog, they get rid of the blockage without the need for physical effort.
Before pouring it down the drain, make sure to follow the instructions and use only the exact amount. Be careful when handling such chemicals.
Plumbing snakes can also be used, and are also widely available. They are used to dislodge blockages by pushing them along in order to reopen the flow of water.
When flushing waste down the toilet, make sure to dispose of fibrous waste in their proper bins. These include napkins, tissue paper, or wet wipes, which all can’t be dissolved and can potentially block the pipes and build up onto each other.
Use hair catchers that cover shower drains in order to prevent loose strands of hair from accumulating and clumping together, thus clogging the drain.
3. Faulty water heater
A faulty water heating system may not be discovered until the unpleasant surprise of showering with cold water on a chilly morning.
This can be caused by the pilot light going out if the heating system is powered by gas. A buildup of sediment in the tank can also be the culprit.
The thermostat may have also become faulty. In any case, a shortage of hot water is truly a terrible thing.
Water heater issues are generally left up to the professionals. They have the knowledge and experience that will allow them to properly inspect, maintain, and fix heater issues, which can be too complex for quick DIY jobs.
If the heater runs on gas, check if the pilot light is off. Also, check if the temperature setting has been accidentally turned down.
If you think sediments or mineral buildup may be the case, try draining the water from the tank to flush out the sediment. If there is water pooling around the floor, the problem could be that the tank is leaking and should be left to a plumber.
As always, regular checking of the pressure valve for drips and leaks is important to detect damage at the outset. It is also important to flush the tank periodically before too much sediment causes problems.
4. Low water pressure
Low water pressure is surely a bummer, because it makes showering and rinsing dishes such difficult chores. While this problem is common in older houses, it can also occur in newer ones as well.
This problem can occur suddenly or can gradually get worse over time. There are a bunch of factors that affect fluctuating water pressure.
If neighbors experience low water pressure regularly and all at once, this means that there may be a water main break. On the other hand, localized low water pressure can be brought about by leaking pipes within the house.
To determine if there is a leak within the house, it may help to shut off all taps, wait for a few hours, and then check if the water meter moves even a bit. If it does, this is definitely a sign that there is a leak.
Other than these reasons, low water pressure can be caused by sediment buildup inside the pipes, in the faucet aerators, and shower heads.
There is an easy fix for sediment buildup issues in aerator or shower heads, and it can be found in your kitchen. Unscrew the end of the faucet tap or aerator and soak it in vinegar overnight.
This solution will loosen the buildup without having to replace the entire showerhead or aerator (which can also be done for thicker mineral buildup).
You may instead fill a plastic bag and tie it onto the faucet or shower head if they can’t be unscrewed, making sure the affected parts sit in the solution.
For issues other than sediment buildup around aerators, help from plumbers may be needed.
It’s best to install filtration systems that filter minerals from the water, helping avoid or slow down any future buildup that will restrict the flow of water over time.
5. Frozen pipes
In places like Edmonton where winters are harsh, exposed pipes are prone to freezing over. This can restrict water flow, and in worst cases, cause pipes to burst.
When standing water in the exposed pipes freeze, they expand and cause strain, damaging them and causing leaks once the ice melts.
Pipes should be wrapped in insulation to prevent the water inside them from freezing and causing problems. It is hard to find a remedy to pipes that have already frozen over, so it might be best to anticipate the problem before it causes damage.
Pay attention to weather forecasts. The likelihood of particularly cold spells in winter makes exposed pipes vulnerable to freezing.
In such a case, allow the faucets fed by exposed pipes to run a little bit. The logic behind this is that flowing water is less likely to freeze than standing water within the pipes.
When should I call a plumber?
We’ll put it out there: for any average person trying to fix plumbing problems for the first time, the job will be tricky. Even those mentioned above, which are the most common, can cause some difficulty.
As such, the number of plumbing problems that can be DIY-ed is still limited to some degree. More complex plumbing issues are best left to the experts.
If you believe your skills can cover the repair job at hand, it helps to first determine whether the damage or blockage is localized, i.e. occurring within your property.
To do so, take a look at different sinks, toilets, or drains around your house. For example, if a shower drain is clogged and all the other drains or sinks are fine, the clog may just be in that particular spot, and not in some pipe leading out into the street.
Such matters can be DIY projects or a task for the plumber, depending on the complexity of the issue.
Damage found outside your property that causes problems to your plumbing or water supply is a case for the water company. Large-scale damage to water lines such as those caused by the roots of trees causing pressure calls for plumbers as well.
With these in mind, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to enlist the help of these experts if you ever think that the plumbing problems you have are too complex for you.
Some Tips Before Fixing Plumbing Problems Yourself
Before attempting to fix plumbing issues, make sure to follow these measures:
- Shut off the main water supply before doing anything, such as dismantling shower heads or faucets to avoid water going everywhere.
- Invest in proper tools and replacement parts. This makes your work much easier and more efficient, and the parts will definitely last longer.
- Don’t wear clothes you wouldn’t want wet or stained, because plumbing is usually a fussy, messy job.
- Keep a trusted plumber on speed dial if things go unexpected, if you have any questions, or encounter a larger problem that you may not be able to fix.
Keeping an Eye Out for Plumbing Emergencies
These plumbing problems are considered emergencies and are common in residential properties. As such, an emergency plumber should be called and no attempt to take care of it yourself should be made.
- Burst pipes
- Sewage backup
- Non-functional toilets
- Gas leaks
If you ever run into these, keep the contact information of these emergency plumbers within reach at all times.