Not every residential plumbing problem requires the assistance of a master plumber. Here are three repairs you can complete on your own, and here are a few tips to help you determine when it’s best to call for some professional assistance.
Leaking faucets: Leaking faucets are prime DIY candidates. Faucets can leak for a variety of reasons, and most often, the repair requires only common hand tools, the replacement part, some Teflon tape and less than an hour of time. Faucets can leak because the seals, O-rings or washers have gone bad. Your faucet might also develop leaks if a ceramic disk inside the fixture has cracked or broken. Diagnosing the cause of the leak requires you to turn off the water to the fixture, disassemble the fixture and replace the defective part. Reassemble the fixture and ensure that your connections are tight.
When to ask for help: Consider calling for help if your leaking fixture doesn’t have separate shut-off valves on the water lines that feed the fixture, or if the shut-off valve is stuck or broken. Also consider calling in back-up if the feed lines are hidden in the wall, or soldered to the fixture.
Running toilets: Water can “leak” into the bowl if the valve at the bottom of your toilet tank doesn’t seal properly, or if the tank is adjusted to overfill after a flush. Water can also leak from a tank that is cracked. The flapper valve at the bottom of the tank is usually just a large piece of rubber that covers the drain hole at the bottom of the tank. Over time, the valve deteriorates and allows water to leak from the tank to the bowl, causing the bowl to periodically discharge the extra water.
If your tank simply overfills after a flush, adjust the float to shut off the water sooner. It’s usually just a screw-type adjustment, so there are no parts needed here. If the tank leaks water because it’s cracked or broken, the only fix for this is to get a new tank.
Replacing the flapper valve involves a quick trip to the hardware store to get a new valve. If you’re feeling adventurous or you don’t have a lot of confidence in the remaining parts of your toilet tank, you can buy an entire kit and replace everything inside the tank at once. Again, just a few hand tools are all that’s needed, and your toilet will be in business again.
When to ask for help: Consider calling for help if your toilet doesn’t have a separate shut-off valve on the water line that feeds it, or if the shut-off valve is stuck or broken. Also consider calling a pro if the toilet bowl needs to be replaced, or wastewater is leaking out onto the floor from underneath the toilet.
Clogged drains: Every homeowner should invest in a drain snake, and an enzymatic drain cleaner, like Bio-Clean. Clogs are usually made of organic materials like hair and food particles that combine with soap residue. Biological organisms can also grow in drains and eventually shut them down altogether. A drain snake is a long piece of loosely coiled metal that can be used to catch a clog and withdraw it from the drain. To clear out a drain, you’ll need to open the trap and drain the pipe to the best of your ability. Introduce the snake into the drain until you encounter the clog. Once you’ve got the clog trapped in the snake, pull the snake back out and your drain should be clear.
Snaking a drain isn’t anyone’s favorite job, so be prepared for a lot of muck, a nasty-looking clog and some unpleasant odors. When the clog has been removed, reassemble the drain and check for leaks. To prevent clogs or to break up a clog without tearing the drain apart, try an enzymatic drain cleaner like BioClean. The enzymes in BioClean will literally eat their way through the clog and open up a slow drain overnight. There is no potential risk to you or your pipes when you use BioClean because it contains no harsh chemicals – just natural enzymes that will gladly gobble up a nasty clog.
When to ask for help: Sometimes a drainpipe clogs because it has calcified and just needs to be replaced. This can be a “worst-case” scenario for homeowners. If you have a drain that repeatedly clogs or always runs slowly, and snaking the drain hasn’t improved its performance, contact a plumber for an evaluation.
You can always count on Boston Standard Plumbing for assistance with all of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs. Call us anytime at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment, or to help out with a plumbing, heating or cooling emergency. We’re available 24 hours a day, and a licensed plumber always answers your after-hours calls.
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