5 common household plumbing problems & how to fix them

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Most of us have an aversion to dealing with household plumbing issues, not least from a fear of doing something wrong and making the problem worse. But calling out a plumber every time your toilet gets blocked or you have a leaky tap can be prohibitively expensive, particularly when an easy fix could be in your hands. In the following we look at 5 of the most common household plumbing problems and what to do when they happen to you.

1. A blocked toilet

This is by far the most common plumbing issue and, understandably, one that few people are keen to tackle; however, it is also pretty easily remedied and doing so can save you a lot of money and time.
A blocked toilet is usually caused by an obstruction in the pipe, most commonly in the u-bend. Fixing this is could be as simple as getting your hands on a plunger, donning some rubber gloves and shifting the blockage. If the plunger doesn’t do the job you could try using a plumbing snake, which extends further into the pipe and can dislodge difficult to reach blockages. Finally, if your efforts fail to solve the problem, you may need to call a plumber to carry out some further investigation.

2. Blocked drains

You know when you have a blocked drain when the water in your bathroom or kitchen sink or your shower or bath starts to pool in the plughole and refuses to drain. In the bathroom, the cause is generally hair, while in the kitchen, food scraps and grease are the usual suspects. Again, before you call a plumber, use a plunger to try to unblock the drain — a bellows-style plunger can have excellent results in the case of a tough blockage. If plunging doesn’t work, you may like to give one of the environmentally safe drain cleaners a go, which contain activated enzymes that break down the blockage and are particularly effective against food and grease. Something to look out for is multiple blocked drains around the house at the same time. This is usually an indication that there is a mains blockage and it’s time to call a plumber.

3. Leaky taps

Leaking taps can waste over 2000 litres of water a month, which, in the second driest country on earth, is a lot of water. They can also impact on your water bill. For this reason, it’s important to attend to a leaking tap as soon as you notice it. In most cases, this means replacing the washer, the O-ring and the body washer in the tap, although sometimes the leak is in the tap spout, which will more than likely need a plumber to attend to it.
Before you begin, check the regulations in your state as to what DIY plumbing tasks are legal. In NSW, for example, replacing tap ware can be legally performed by someone who is not a licensed plumber.
Next step is to inspect your tap ware to determine what size and type of washers you’ll need. While there are some standard sizes and shapes, some very old taps might have parts that are difficult to find at your local hardware or plumbing supplies store.
Once you’ve purchased the appropriate parts, turn off your water at the mains and start to dismantle your tap. You’ll need a few tools for this job, including a shifter/wrench, multi grip pliers, a flat-head screwdriver and a Phillips head screwdriver. (Make sure you remember the steps for when it comes time to put the tap back together again!) Replace the washers and O-ring, re-assemble your tap and turn the water back on at the mains. Now, test your taps for leaks. If they’re still dripping, you’ll probably need to call a plumber as the problem is potentially something more serious than a worn out washer.

4. There’s no hot water!!

We’ve all had the experience of turning on the shower and getting nothing but cold water, and it’s not pleasant. It also means you have a problem with your hot water heater, which is not great news but is pretty common, as hot water heaters do wear out over time. But, before you panic, check the pilot light on your heater (only if it is easily accessible). If the pilot happens to have gone out, you can try to relight it using the ignition button. If the ignition button doesn’t work, immediately contact a plumber as DIY work on hot water heaters is both extremely dangerous and illegal. (Note that electric hot water systems are being phased out in Australia due to their massive consumption of electricity. For this reason, the above refers to gas hot water heaters. If you happen to have an electric hot water system that breaks down, you will have to replace it with a gas or solar heater.)

5. Weak water pressure

Have you noticed a drop in the water pressure in your shower? Well, this is often caused by a build-up of lime scale inside the showerhead. An easy fix lies in removing the showerhead and soaking it in a de-scaling solution for a few hours or overnight if possible. (White vinegar can be used as a cheap, effective and environmentally safe option for de-scaling.) Then, give the showerhead a good scrub around the holes and attachment areas and replace it. Test the water pressure and, if it’s improved, you’ve solved your problem. If you are still experiencing dramatically reduced water flow, you might want to call a plumber for an in depth diagnosis.

At Seymour Building Supplies, we stock an extensive range of plumbing supplies, including bathroom, kitchen and laundry tap ware, sinks, basins, showerheads & accessories, alongside hot water heaters, garden irrigation, rainwater tanks and industrial plumbing supplies. Call us today on 9816 5999 or visit the website.

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