Common Plumbing Problems for Chicago Homeowners
Depending on the cause and location of a clog, drain cleaning may or
may not be effective. Additionally, because clogs in multiple places
can contribute to the problem, successfully clearing one problem spot
might not solve all long-term problems.
Toilet clogs. Toilet clogs
can often be cleared with a toilet plunger. If, however, the clog is
difficult to remove with a plunger, plumbers can use special tools
called augers, or snakes. Snakes are long, flexible, spring-like tools
that are inserted into the clogged drain and rotated to manually break
up the clog.
Grease clogs. Grease clogs
may represent a more difficult problem. Grease clogs usually occur in
the two-inch drainpipe connecting the kitchen sink to the main
four-inch drainpipe that handles toilet waste and leads to the sewer.
Because the washing machine pump forces water into the same two-inch
drainpipe, a grease clog is commonly misdiagnosed as a clogged washing
machine drain line.
Because grease naturally sticks to the walls of drain lines, it is
relatively difficult to remove. In some cases, the most economically
feasible alternative is to replace the two-inch drain line. However,
because of the high cost of replacing the line, the first attempt at
alleviating the problem is to use a plumber’s snake to punch a hole
through the grease and remove as much of the grease as possible.
Because this repair cannot remove all the grease, in time the line
usually reclogs. If the same drain repeatedly clogs, you may need to
replace the line instead of investing more money in additional snaking.
Clogs in the main sewer line.
Broken seals, joints, or pipe sections are the primary causes of most
sewer line clogs. These breaks allow tree roots to penetrate and grow
in the line, gradually filling it and blocking the flow of water and
waste. The only way to remove all the roots from the line is to replace
it, which is very expensive. In many cases, enough of the roots can be
cut from the inside of the line with a sewer machine to open up the
flow. Unfortunately, because damaged roots can grow back in a fertile
environment, the line often reclogs. Furthermore, because some
partially cut roots tend to shift position, the line may reclog almost
immediately. If the sewer line reclogs after the sewer machine cuts the
roots, you may be better off replacing the line instead of investing
more money in additional rooter attempts. Remember that cutting the
roots out of a sewer line only treats the symptom of the real problem,
which is a broken seal, joint, or pipe section.
Dripping faucets. Dripping
faucets are usually caused by wear on one or more parts of the faucet.
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
Free-flowing toilets (water keeps running).
A flapper or tank valve that does not seat properly after the toilet is
flushed usually causes the toilet to free flow. Until the flapper or
tank valve seats properly, all the water entering the tank flows
directly into the toilet bowl. Sometimes simply jiggling the tank
handle will reseat the flapper or tank ball, thus allowing the tank to
refill and the toilet to stop running. If the problem recurs, the
flapper or tank ball may be out of adjustment, the chain from the
handle may be too long, or there could be a poorly adjusted refill
Toilets that will not flush.
A disconnected handle chain may be the cause of this problem. If the
tank is full, make sure that the chain connecting the handle arm to the
flapper or tank ball is properly connected. If not, reconnecting the
chain to the handle arm is usually simple. However, it involves
sticking your hand into the tank to retrieve the chain. If the tank is
empty, it may be that no water is getting to the toilet from the supply
Water heaters. Because
improperly installed water heaters can start fires, poison the air
inside the home, or even explode, current building codes strictly
specify water heater installation. Unfortunately, some plumbers
currently install replacement water heaters without fixing code
violations—a practice that is both illegal and dangerous. A quote that
brings the installation to code may be more expensive than one that
does not, but it also represents more valuable work. If you purchase an
installed water heater from a less reputable source, make sure you get
the finished installation inspected by a county building inspector.