Nobody likes dealing with plumbing problems but you can avoid many of them by being proactive and paying attention to some important clues. Keep reading to find out what to look for and how to troubleshoot some of the top plumbing problems that homeowners face.
A leaking water heater can be caused by several problems and should really be evaluated by a professional. It could be due to condensation, rust, corrosion, or too much pressure in the tank.
Too Hot or Cold
This can usually be solved very easily with a thermostat adjustment on your water heater. Just follow the directions provided in your owner’s manual if you’re not sure how to do this. If you already adjusted the thermostat, the issue could be due to a faulty thermostat or heating element, or sediment in your tank. You can try draining the heater and filling it again to remove any sediment. If the problem persists after doing this, you probably should have the water heater serviced so the thermostat and heating element can be checked and replaced if needed.
Running Out of Hot Water
This can be due to a thermostat issue or the size of your water heater just isn’t large enough for your needs. If you realize the tank size is the issue, you can either upgrade to a larger tank or invest in a tankless (or sometimes called “on-demand”) water heater. Before making the switch to tankless, make sure you have weighed the benefits and drawbacks.
If your water looks discolored when using warm or hot water, this is often a sign your water heater is rusting and deteriorating inside. This can be a dangerous situation as the water can leak gradually or there could be a failure that leads to the entire tank emptying all the water at once, flooding your home and causing water damage. Sometimes the problem is less sever and a sign that the anode rod in the tank needs replacing. The job of the anode rod is to prevent rust from building in your tank. It’s a good idea to get professional service when you see water discoloration so your water heater gets the right diagnosis and repair to avoid a costly leak that damages your home.
Leaking Faucets and Pipes
Check Water Pressure
The first thing to check when you notice a leaking faucet or pipe is your water pressure. When the pressure is too high, it strains your entire plumbing system over time. This makes your pipe joints, faucets, and appliance valves work harder. You can ask your local water department for a pressure reading if you’re on city water, or you can test the pressure yourself using a pressure gauge sold at most home centers. The pressure gauge hooks up to an outside water spigot and provides a pressure reading when you turn on the water at the spigot. The target pressure should be between 45 to 55 psi. Check out this article for detailed steps for testing your water pressure yourself. If you confirm that your water pressure is too high, you should call your local water supplier and ask what should be done.
Check Water Hardness
Another factor that contributes to leaking plumbing is hard water. This is water that is high in naturally occurring minerals, usually magnesium or calcium. These minerals build up over time inside pipes and result in higher pressure inside the pipe due to reduced flow caused by the buildup. If this is a problem in your water, you’ll usually notice a white buildup on faucets and showerheads. You can get a test kit to confirm your water hardness or look at the annual water quality report provided by your water utility company if you are on local city water. Hard water is considered anything over 140 parts per million. There are many different ways to address hard water and the best method will vary depending on your situation – here’s an article that explains the different options in detail.
If you confirm your water hardness is high, you should consult with a plumber for next steps to fix your leaks since pipes or fixtures may need replacing if they have too much buildup. They might find your pipes and fixtures are okay but repairs may be needed.
Repair the Faucet or Pipe Joint
If you know your water pressure and water hardness are healthy, a dripping faucet can be caused by a failing washer on the tap. If the dripping is at a pipe joint, this can be caused a failure in the seal at the joint. Both of these problems are more easily fixed with the right tools which a plumber will have, so it’s best to call a plumber unless you’re up for the challenge yourself.
Common causes of clogged drains in sinks and showers is hair buildup or foreign objects that have fallen into the drain. First check for anything obvious at the point of the drain that you can see and remove anything that’s there with tools, such as pliers or tweezers. If the clog persists, you can try a plunger like you would use on a toilet which creates suction within the pipe as you move it up and down like you would on a toilet. This may dislodge the material that created the clog and it could release and move through the pipe with water, or it could move closer to the entrance where you can remove it with tools.
Some materials that form clogs can be dissolved with chemical drain cleaners while others may require a plumping snake which you can buy at a home improvement store. If you;re up for that challenge, here’s a guide for using a plumbing snake to unclog a drain. If you’re still stuck with your clog or you’d rather not snake the drain yourself, you’re best off calling a professional to fix the clog.
Constantly Running Toilet
A constantly running toilet can be caused by a problem with the flapper valve leaking, a malfunctioning float, or an internal leak somewhere. To rule out a leak, try putting some food coloring in the tank and watch to see if any coloring makes it into the bowl. If the color does make it into the bowl, this would indicate there’s an internal leak somewhere. Another possible cause is the chain attached to the flapper valve getting is tangled with another part in the tank, causing the valve to not fully close. When you’re inspecting the tank, make sure the chain to the flapper valve is free to move as intended, allowing the flapper valve to close properly. If you’re a little bit handy, you can buy a toilet part replacement kit and replace the internal parts and see if that fixes the problem. If you’re not handy or the kit doesn’t solve the problem, you probably need to contact a plumber.