How to Diagnose Plumbing Drain Problems
How to Troubleshoot Plumbing Problems
This article should help a do-it-yourselfer find the cause of ordinary plumbing problems in the home. Low water pressure, excessive water usage, slow drains, noises, or other problems relate to specific elements of your plumbing system. The following steps may help you locate the source of a plumbing problem and describe some of the most basic repairs for each type of problem.
High water usage (or water bills)
Listen for dripping sounds.As simple as this step may seem, it may be overlooked in a busy, noisy home. Even though a dripping faucet may not seem to waste significant amounts of water, over the course of day, each individual drop adds up to thousands and thousands of drops, or gallons and gallons of water. Choose a time when there is little or no activity, such as early in the morning, or late at night, when the house is very quiet.
Look for evidence of a leak along the base board of walls near the location of your plumbing fixtures.Pipes that contain water under pressure can become corroded, develop loose fittings, or crack because of freezing, allowing a continuous loss of water until repaired. Mildew or mold, darkened surfaces, or even puddles of water may occur below leaks. If the problem is inside the wall cavity, it may be necessary to remove the paneling, plaster, or wallboard to correct it.
- Pipes also maysweatwhen cold water passes through them in warmer interior air-spaces in the home, and this water condensing on the surface of pipes may drip, causing moisture problems to appear where no leak exists.
Look under vanities and sinks for drips or similar evidence noted in the previous step.Use a flashlight to follow the path of exposed pipes, looking for droplets of water that will accumulate at the lower section before dropping off, and run your fingertips along these pipes to feel for wetness.
Listen for noises from your commodes/bathrooms, to determine if they are running at unusual intervals, when no one has recently flushed them.When there is a seal leak in the water closet (toilet), the tank will drain slowly over a period of time, until the water level drops sufficiently for the float valve to open and replenish it. Sticking flush valves and leaking seals in toilets can waste a lot of water, since, like dripping faucets, the flow, although perhaps very small, is continuous.
- Check the supply valves on lavatories and commodes if they are leaking. Thepacking, which seals the valve stem of a typicalstop(water valve) seals when compressed just enough to "pack off" leak paths, but not so tightly that turning the handle is difficult. Turn the packing nut (top nut surrounding the stem) slightly clockwise (shouldn't require more than 1/8 turn or so) and see if this stops the leak around the stem. #*Supply valves are meant to be fully opened or completely closed. Turn the valve off by turning the handle clockwise until it stops; Open the valve by turning the handle counter-clockwise (anti-clockwise) until it stops. Occasionally, a very slight leak of a stem will stop if the valve was partly opened and is either fully closed or opened fully.
- See also How to Fix a Running Toilet and How to Fix a Slow Toilet.
Check your water meter.Municipal water systems use a meter to measure the amount of water used, and by turning off all faucets and appliances that consume water, the flow to your home will cease. Locate your water meter, read the amount displayed, note it, then wait an hour or two, and reread it to see if water has gone through it when none was being used in your home. Very small leaks will not appear to move the meter over a short period of time, so these will be harder to detect using this method.
Identify the problem that is occurring with your drains, specifically, the individual drains which are not functioning correctly.Some typical problems are these:
- Slow sink or tub drains.
- Waterbacking upin the bathtub, shower, or sink.
- Wet areas in walls or along floors in rooms adjacent to walls containing drain pipes.
- Wet areas in the lawn near drain piping.
- Unusual gurgling or bubbling sounds when water is draining.
Try to determine the extent of your "slow drain" problem.If it is isolated to only one sink or other fixture, it is probably localised to the individual pipe that connects that fixture to themainline. In other words, if only the kitchen sink drains slowly, the problem is in the sink trap or drain line that connects to the larger pipes which additionally carries water from other sinks, the commode, and the bathtub.
Determine the route the waste water takes to reach the main drainpipe.Many times, the individual drain pipes are routed though the wall cavity, interconnecting to other pipes, which then go below the floor and exit the home to either the septic system or sanitary sewer.
Flush the drain which is not operating like it should with very hot water.For a bathroom or kitchen sink, this can be done bystoppingthe drain and filling the sink with hot water from the faucet. Unstop the plug, and the water will drain into the material which is clogging the pipes, and it the material is a residue of grease or grease like waste, the hot water may dissolve it sufficiently to flush enough of it out the pipes to restore your flow.
QuestionWhen water is turned on in the kitchen, only the sprayer sprays water and nothing from the faucet. Is this a connection problem?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe sprayer may be faulty. If the sprayer's valve is stuck open, the faucet will not work.Thanks!
QuestionWater is backing up in the toilet on the first floor; could the whole drain pipe be full?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere may be a blockage in the toilet's u-bend or in your soil stack. However it could also be linked to the sewer on your street having fat build up restricting flow from your property. Call a plumber out to have a look at your drainage and soil stack. If they determine there is nothing wrong in your property, then you need to talk to your local council about the sewers as they may need to be cleaned by specialists.Thanks!
QuestionWhat does hammering pipes mean and how can it be fixed?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is called water hammer, and is generally caused by high pressure. It means your main's pressure is quite high and may need a pressure reducer fitted after your stopcock; this needs to be installed by a qualified person. Another cause may be loose fitted pipework. Call a plumber out to have a look and they can make the judgement on what needs to be done.Thanks!
QuestionWhen I use my kitchen sink, the apartment sink downstairs starts backing up, and the water rises in the sink downstairs. We have tried Drano in both sinks and snaking the sink downstairs to no avail. What could be the problem?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt could be caused by too many appliances plumbed into too small diameter of pipe. Call a plumber out to have a look at the drainage system, and they can determine what needs to be done to resolve the problem.Thanks!
QuestionWhy does a trickle of water still run in the toilet basin after you flush?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis generally is because the flush valve is not sealing tight. If the water does not completely stop at some point, it is simple enough and cheap enough to replace. Even a tiny trickle will eventually add up to a larger water bill.Thanks!
QuestionCan installing a new hot water heater have an affect on water pressure in a kitchen faucet?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMore than likely it will not change much, if any at all. It will only affect the hot water supply in any account. On homes with a well pump, the pressure is controlled by a device that turns the well pump on and off at set limits, namely, on at 30 psi and off at 50 psi. A pressure tank sustains this pressure for water distribution.Thanks!
QuestionMy toilet is bubbling or gurgling. Why is that?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is most likely clogged somewhere in the pipes. Perhaps try getting a pipe cleaner and sticking it down into the pipes to see if you hit a clog.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I plug a hole in plumbing in concrete floor until a plumber can come?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou don't. It's called a slab leak because the pipe is in the concrete and must be repaired by a plumber. Shut off the water at your line access from a city meter or, if it's a well pump, switch off the breaker and turn off the main valve.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do for a bad smell coming from the sink drain?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf the smell is constant or frequent, it is probably sewer gas. Check the trap under the sink. If this only happens occasionally, and it is in a kitchen sink with a disposal, try cutting up some lemons and putting them in the disposal while it runs.Thanks!
QuestionWhen I turn on the shower the circuit breaker shuts the electricity off. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCall a plumber and an electrician ASAP. There might be water leakage in the shower lines that is getting into the electrical work and shorting it out. This is extremely dangerous. If you have an electric water heater, it may be drawing too much power when it heats your water.Thanks!
How do I remove a glued trap to replace it?
There is water flow to the Kitchen sink, but there is none to the bathroom area, what is going on?
When I turn on my cold water for the bath tub, water starts slowly dripping from the hot water knob. Is this a problem?
When flushing the toilet a gurgling sound in the tub next to it gurgles; also the kitchen sink.?
Why is there a delay in the water flow when sink valve is turned on
- Look at your home's plumbing system in an analytical way. Normal homes have two separate plumbing systems, one is thesupply, which provides potable water to fixtures in the kitchen, bath, and laundry, the other is thedrain/waste, which removes the water after its intended use, along with the waste it may contain.
- Learn the location of your water supply shutoff, and also individual supply valves so that leaks can be temporarily stopped when they are discovered, and the system can be shut down to make repairs. Commodes, vanities, and kitchen sinks usually have a valve for each supply pipe, and these are normally located on the adjacent wall underneath the fixture.
- Insulating exposed water pipes will help protect them from freezing, which can cause pipes to burst, since water expands when it freezes, putting tremendous pressure on pipes.
- Insulating hot water pipes will reduce the energy used to furnish you with hot water at your sink or bathtub, especially in a situation where a long run of pipe is required to supply it.
- Do not attempt a repair if you are not confident in your ability. Soldering pipes, replacing valves, and changing faucet seats may be better left to skilled persons with proper tools.
- Be educated about the type of pipe used in your home. Older copper pipes were joined withlead solder, and the lead may leach out of the joints and expose you to lead poisoning when you drink the water.
- Read label instructions carefully if you use a chemical drain cleaning product for cleaning clogged or slow-draining pipes.
- When there are rusty pipes to repair make sure that you do not force them too much. It can make the problem worse.
Video: How-To | Common Plumbing Problems With Your Toilet And How To Fix Them
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