Simple Plumbing Maintenance - Quick Checks to Save You Money

Plumbing is crucial to the environment of the home, but often it is the last thing on the mind of a homeowner until something goes wrong. Besides the inconvenience caused by plumbing malfunctions, significant damage can also be created by problems that seem small and thus go unchecked.

Pipes. Check any exposed pipes for signs of leaks or corrosion, which can present as green stains around metal fittings. Corrosion can cause pipe connections to become unseated and, if left too long, can be a cause of leaking pipes.

Water pressure and drainage. If water pressure is low, it can indicate a possible problem in the water line or a build-up of sediment. Test sinks and tubs at the faucets and remove shower heads to look for sediment that may be affecting water pressure. At the same time, check the drainage; a full swirl should be evident as the water passes out of basins. If bubbles appear instead, there may be a blockage.

Surface damage. Carefully examine tiles and caulking and see if any are cracked, loose, or hollow, which can be an indication of current or past leaks that may have contributed to rot under the tiles. Push gently on the toilet to see if it moves or rocks.

Common plumbing problems

Dripping faucets. Worn parts of a faucet are the most common cause of faucet drip. Since various faucet designs shut off water flow differently, a variety of components can cause the faucet to drip. In a standard two-handle faucet, a worn rubber washer/O-ring or a worn valve seat usually causes the drip. Since a steady faucet drip can waste many gallons of water per day if left unchecked, a faucet drip should be repaired as soon as possible.

Toilet problems. The two most common problems that occur in a toilet are (1) that it will run continuously after flushing and (2) it will not flush at all. Both problems should be attended to as soon as possible. A toilet that runs wastes a great deal of water that can translate into much higher utility costs. In general, this problem is the result of a tank valve or flapper that is improperly seated. After the toilet is flushed, the valve does not settle back into place, thus allowing the water to run out of the tank. Since the water never rises to a level that will send the filler float back into position, the water continues to cycle through the tank. Jiggling the handle of the toilet will sometimes reset the flapper, but if the problem persists, some of the internal mechanisms of the toilet will most likely need adjustment. 

If the toilet will not flush at all and the toilet tank is full, the problem is likely to be that the chain linking the handle to the flapper has become disconnected. Reconnecting the chain to the handle arm is an easy job, but it involves sticking your hand into the toilet tank. (Some homeowners may be squeamish about performing this task but can rest assured that the water in the tank is clean water.)  

If the tank is empty, it is possible that the water supply valve, which is located at the back of most toilets near the floor, has accidentally been turned. However, it is also possible that water from the supply line is blocked, which requires immediate attention from a professional. Be sure to check the toilet valve and the water pressure at other fixtures before calling in an expert.