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Home Plumbing Tips

By Derren Peters

Are your pipes stopping up? Do you have water stains on your ceiling, or is the sound of dripping water keeping you up at night? Sometimes you can make repairs - or temporary repairs until a professional can get there - by applying a little elbow grease yourself. It's important not to do anything you aren't confident about, to avoid causing further problems, but many plumbing issues can be handled yourself.

A tap that won't yield water is the first sign of frozen pipes. If a severe cold snap hits, prevent freezing and subsequent bursting of pipes by following these suggestions. Even if the pipes do freeze, you can thaw them before they burst if you act quickly.

  • Keep a trickle of water running from the faucets, beam a heat lamp or small heater at exposed pipes, and wrap uninsulated pipes with newspapers, heating wires, or foam. Also, try to keep doors ajar between heated and unheated rooms.

A weak shower can be frustrating to everyone, and over time most bathrooms will probably need some form of maintenance. Follow these suggestions to help with any problems you may experience.

  • If your shower head leaks where it meets the arm, you probably need to replace the washer. To reach it, loosen the collar, using tape-wrapped rib-joint pliers. Unscrew the head from the adjusting ring.
  • Erratic or weak pressure usually indicates mineral buildup. To restore proper flow, clean outlet holes with a pin or unscrew a perforated face plate and soak it overnight in vinegar, then scrub it clean.
  • Before trying any drain-clearing methods on a plugged drain, check that the tub's pop-up stopper is opening fully and is free of hair and debris. If the stopper isn't the problem, then the drainpipe is probably clogged. First, try a plunger or chemical drain cleaner.
  • If these fail to do the job, you'll have to clear the trap with a snake.

Leaks can be a huge headache for everyone, so follow these tips to help locate your leak. It's a good idea to use a professional plumber to deal with the leak once you've located it, but in the meantime you can reduce the damage yourself.

  • If water is staining the ceiling or dripping down, the leak is probably directly above the stain, but water may sometimes travel along a pipe and stain a point some distance from the leak.
  • Any wall stain is likely to be below the actual location of the leak, so it's likely that you'll need to get behind the wall to find it.
  • Without the sound of running water and without drips or stains as evidence, leaks are more difficult to find. Using a flashlight, check all the pipes in the basement and in the crawl space.
  • If hot water doesn't unclog the drain, there could be some object in the drain, so your best bet is to use a snake.
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