How to Fix a Plumbing Problem


Plumbing problems can be a nightmare, with the monster rearing its ugly head at a very bad time. In my experience most plumbing problems happen when you have a house full of guests or very little cash. What can be worse than seriously needing a plumber and being broke? Here are steps you can take to fix some plumbing problems yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Plumbing Snake
  • Copper Pipe
  • Brazing Materials
  • Plunger
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe Wrench
  • Smaller Wrenches
  • Some plumbing problems are generally easy to fix. A busted pipe requires a little time and minimal work to fix. To fix a cracked pipe or pipe fitting replace with the exact parts. For PVC pipe use a hacksaw to remove the old pipe and/or fitting, sand the edges of the pipe where you made your cuts, use PVC pipe primer (its purple)around the edges of the old pipe, around the new pipe and inside your new fittings, apply PVC pipe cement to those areas as well and fit your pipes back together. Make sure you let the pipe dry before you turn the water back on and allow water to run through it.

  • If your plumbing leak is in your hot water or copper pipes the process to replace them is called brazing. I have an article on this technique in the resources section. Major problems like tearing out a wall should be left to extreme DIY'ers or professionals only. If you must open a wall to get to a plumbing problem you can be sure it will be costly and time consuming.

  • Simple clogs can be fixed with a plunger or a plumbing snake. These tools are inexpensive and can save you money if you can get to a clog. Your local hardware store should carry a pipe snake for less than $50.00. If you are working on a kitchen or bathroom sink and you have tried the plunger method and it did not work there is a trick you can try. Remove your P-trap and trap arm, these should unscrew without too much trouble. Using a screwdriver try to sweep the trap and trap arm out. If you can reach the clog, this trick will save you a trip to the hardware store. The P-trap will often hold food, grease,or hair and clog anything that may be passed down a drain.

  • If you have gone this far and not found your clog then it is time to purchase a plumbing snake. This tool is simple to use and very similar to the auger that your plumber will bring to your home.

  • You will need to thread the snake into the drain stub-out tighten your set screw and crank the handle clockwise to feed the hose into the drainpipe. Continue turning the snake when you encounter a clog, the end of the snake is designed to corkscrew through a clog. When you have punched through the clog remove the plumbing snake cleaning the line as it comes out. I suggest punching a few holes in the clog if you can by snaking the line again from a different angle. Replace the trap arm and p-trap and try running water through your drain.

  • If you did not reach the clog it could be further down the pipe line. If your pipes are easy to get to then you can try snaking from a different location and see if you have any luck. Most reasonably priced plumbing snakes have a 15-20 foot snake line. Try snaking from a different location that is not too close yet not to far away either.

  • You can avoid most drain clogs by not abusing your pipes. Do not dump grease down a kitchen sink, and moderate the types of food you are putting down your garbage disposal. Foods high in starch, or high in fiber can cause a clog; coffee grounds can also solidify in a drain if they are allowed to cool there.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider installing a shut-off valve if you are replacing leaking pipes in a problem area.
  • Regular use of a drain cleaner can help prevent clogs.
  • As soon as you notice a slow down in drains do something about it, letting the problem build up will only make things worse.
  • Use safety precautions when using PVC pipe primer and PVC pipe cement.

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