The most common home plumbing issues may not seem like big problems, but even the slowest drip, if left uncorrected, could lead to massive damage and higher water bills over time. Thankfully, when these issues are still small nuisances, most can be solved by anyone with some repair experience– no plumber required! But, when the leaks or clogs are hidden out of view or behind walls, it can be a good idea to book a professional inspector. Their expert eyes are trained to uncover carefully hidden problems. Whether you’re trying to buy a home with some common plumbing issues or are getting ready to sell your property, getting your plumbing inspected before the transaction is finalized can save a lot of headaches later on.
This article discusses the seven most common home plumbing problems and suggests ways to deal with them.
1. Dripping faucets
Almost everyone has dealt with a dripping faucet before. Although a dripping faucet or valve isn’t dangerous in itself, it leads to substantial waste and a higher water bill. You can calculate how much water you’re losing with this handy drip calculator provided by the United States Geological Survey. A slow drip may not seem like much, but a faucet that drips water at the rate of one drop every minute will lead to a waste of more than 104 gallons of water a year! Left to continue dripping, the water can also erode or damage surrounding surfaces over time.
To fix a dripping faucet, you probably don’t need to call a professional– most homeowners can fix this issue on their own. Dripping faucets are usually caused by a stiffening, dislodgement, or tearing of the internal washer or O-ring. To begin repairs, just switch off the water and disassemble the faucet. Then, assess and replace the faulty washer or O-ring, and reassemble the faucet.
Other reasons for dripping faucets include corrosion of the pipes or plumbing fixtures or improper faucet installation. In these cases, you may need to call a plumber. Paying a professional plumber to fix a dripping faucet will cost anywhere between $65-$150. Replacing a faucet will cost anywhere between $150 - $400, depending on the cost of your hardware.
2. Low water pressure
Is your water just trickling instead of pouring or gushing? You might have low water pressure. There are multiple reasons for low water pressure; for instance, the water pipes in an old house may be worn out and corroded, causing them to leak. The leak causes water to escape from the line, resulting in lesser flow (and less water) when you turn on the tap. Some leaks are easily identifiable by sounds or moisture in the area.
Another reason for low water pressure is the buildup of deposits and gunk in your pipes and aerators. This buildup obstructs the flow, causing water to trickle out when you turn on the tap or shower. If the water becomes backed up behind a large deposit, it can damage the pipes and cause a leak or even a powerful explosion.
You can try adjusting your water pressure by loosening or tightening a bolt present on the main supply pipe near your water meter. Make sure to keep an eye on the gauge and check the pressure while you do so; however, we recommend calling a professional.
If there is a buildup of gunk, you can try soaking the aerator or showerhead in vinegar to dissolve the blockage. If that doesn't work, you should call a plumber to clean out the lines or replace the parts.
You can also choose to invest in water pressure regulators or water pumps, which help increase water pressure. Regulators will cost you around $250-$350.
3. Leaky pipes
Leaking pipes are the biggest danger for your home. They can damage your furniture, flooring, wood, the paint on your walls, and much more. A burst pipe with a large water flow could damage your home just as much as a natural flood. Not to mention, the moist conditions caused by the leak are a breeding ground for bacteria, cockroaches, mosquitos, and multiple other pests.
Pipes commonly leak around the joints, where the pipe segments are fitted together. While fillers and tape can temporarily fix this, they’re not a permanent solution. It’s best to hire a professional to replace the parts or strengthen the fittings.
Leaks are most common during winter when water in the pipes may constantly freeze (expand) and thaw (contract), adding pressure to the pipe walls and causing them to burst.
How do you prevent this? Turn on your taps frequently during the cold months since running water is less likely to freeze in the pipes.
Clogged pipes can also cause leaks as water backs up against the clog or obstruction, creating pressure on the pipe walls until they burst. If you suspect your pipes might be clogged or partially blocked, don’t just leave them as they are. You can attempt to dislodge the clog yourself, or call a plumber and get your pipes cleaned or replaced.
Here are some things to look out for if you suspect leaking pipes in your home:
- Wall discoloration indicates a leak behind the drywall
- Bubbling paint or a bulge in the wallpaper could suggest wearing off due to moistness
- Dripping sounds
- Musty or wet wood smells
A plumber will charge you approximately $100 to detect a leak location and $150-$300 to fix a leaking pipe. If the leak damages your drywall, the whole process can cost you between $150-$850, depending on the extent of the damage. And if the leak grows so bad that it becomes a deluge of water flooding your property, you could end up spending thousands of dollars in repairs and replacement costs.
4. Water heater problems
Water heater problems can be annoying, especially during the winter months. The most common water heater problems are that the water is getting warm but not hot enough or that it suddenly goes cold while you're showering with warm water.
There are several reasons your water heater may be malfunctioning, including a problem with the pilot light, a thermostat issue, or a sediment buildup. A small water heater with crossed hot and cold connections can also cause problems.
Ideally, you should get your water heater checked by a professional every few years. This is because mineral deposits and sediments settle onto the heater tank floor every time water is heated, and these deposits can build up over time to corrode and damage your tank. A professional will be able to tell you if your water heater is suffering damage from these deposits and any repairs it may need.
If your pilot light is out and needs to be relit, you can fix this yourself. However, most other water heater issues require a professional's services. Since most water heaters run on natural gas, which is very explosive, trying to make repairs without having the proper skill or experience could lead to very dangerous accidents. Professional repairs can cost you between $150-$700, depending on the problem and how large your heater is.
As a rule of thumb, if your repair cost is more than 50% of the replacement cost, you should opt to replace the water heater entirely. Having a recently replaced water heater can actually be an attractive selling point for property buyers.
5. Slow draining sink
A blockage in your sink's drainage pipe will obstruct the water flow and cause your sink to drain at a slower rate. Food particles or congealed fat can get stuck in kitchen sink pipes and cause obstruction, whereas you'll typically find soap and strands of hair stuck in bathroom sinks and drains. Whatever is clogging your sink, the repair method will be the same: get the clog out.
You can try unclogging your sink or drain using a plunger, a plumber's snake, or a chemical clog remover. Always wear gloves and refer to video tutorials to avoid any mishaps! You can also buy a silicone drain guard to collect hair, food, and other obstructions before they enter the drain.
If using a chemical clog remover, you can buy one or make one yourself with half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of table salt. Pour the remover down the clogged drain and leave it overnight, following up with a pot of boiling water. Abandon this method and call a professional plumber if you see no improvement after two uses, or if the problem reoccurs soon after use.
Most plumbers charge an hourly rate to fix your drain, and this rate varies between plumbers.
6. Clogged toilet
Clogs are caused by a mixture of paper and human waste being flushed down the toilet, which causes the toilet bowl to fill up. This problem is unsanitary and can get even more toxic if left untreated. The last thing you want is human waste overflowing from the toilet and flooding your bathroom or home. Typically, you can fix a clogged toilet yourself using a plunger or a sewer snake.
However, if your toilet repeatedly clogs up, you should get a professional to help you unclog the toilet. This typically costs between $100 and $275.
To protect your pipes, always avoid flushing down things like baby wipes, cotton balls, paper products, and feminine hygiene products. Unlike toilet paper, these items do not dissolve in water and will likely clog your toilet. Instead, use the waste bin for all these items.
7. Dirty water
If you notice dirty water running through your taps, here are some common reasons:
- Rusty pipes
- Corroded pipes
- Mineral and sediment accumulation in the pipes
- A disturbance in the main water supply that stirs up these deposits
Usually, you don't need to worry if you notice dirty water running in your taps. If it's caused by a disturbance in the main water supply, the water will clear on its own within a few hours. You can try running cold water from that tap for about 10-20 minutes, and if the water turns clear, you are good to go.
If your water turns brown often, you should consider a water filter system that removes iron particles from your water supply. However, first, you should get the problem checked by a professional to ensure there’s no scope for it to become a severe health hazard.
How Inspectify can help
The most common plumbing problems aren't generally dangerous or tough to fix; however, they're tricky to detect until the situation escalates. For example, most of us will fail to notice a small leak until it ultimately damages our drywall. But if ignored for too long, even the smallest of leaks will result in costly water damage– not to mention the increased cost of wasted water.
You can recognize where plumbing issues are most likely to happen in your home or deal with issues before they get worse by getting a home inspection from a professional inspector. It is always a good idea to have your home regularly inspected to help you detect potential causes or signs of leaks. A qualified home can identify the signs of a plumbing problem or even point out faulty installations or upkeep that can lead to problems in the future.
If you have any other questions about how an inspection can help you as a homeowner, please drop a comment below or reach out to Inspectify. We are more than happy to chat!