How To Diagnose Common Plumbing Problems In 4 Steps

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

The most common plumbing problems are leaky pipes, dripping faucets, and clogs. Most of these issues can be tackled by a plumber or handyman. However, these issues often mask bigger problems that, if unchecked, could result in a serious repair bill. So how do you know if you have a serious plumbing problem? Here are four tips to help you diagnose common plumbing problems.

Understand your plumbing system

Unless you were deeply involved in the construction of your home, you probably do not know which pipes feed which fixtures like the toilets, sinks and showers. It is advisable to map out your plumbing system so that, in an emergency, you can control water flow and limit damage.

First, start with your water system. Go to your main water shutoff, usually located in the basement if your home has this room. Trace the pipes that flow into your home and carefully touch each one to see which transfer hot and cold water. You can leave tags on each pipe to identify them in the future.

Follow each pipe as far as you can to each fixture. Note the individual water shutoffs for your boiler, water heater, and other fixtures. Trace the water flow in your home by shutting off each valve one by one. You can make a diagram of the entire plumbing system using this method.

Next, you can follow the same process for the waste flow system. Waste flow moves used water from your home to septic tanks, cesspools, or the municipal sewage system. These pipes are kept separate from the water supply lines. Most waste flow systems will empty through one or two main drains.

These drains are located on the bottom floor of your home, basement, laundry room, or garage. Waste pipes are generally wider than water pipes to accommodate the waste and contain telltale “traps” that can be opened to remove clogs.

Having both of these diagrams will serve as your map to identify and fix plumbing problems.

Unblocking clogs

Clogs almost always occur in the waste pipe system. Blockages result from a number of reasons, usually flushing foreign objects or oil/grease build-up into the pipes.

The main thing you need to remember is that waste pipes always flow downward. So for a complete blockage, you will need to clean from below the clog. If the problem is reduced waste flow, you need to tackle it from above. The key is to utilize the inherent gravity in waste flow pipes to fix this plumbing problem.

Tracing leaks

Most leaks occur in pipes that extend from the wall to the fixtures. These pipes are vulnerable to accidents that compromise their integrity due to their exposure. Most leaks come in two types: joint and pipe failures. For joints, trace the leak and tighten every bolt and fitting along the piping system. Fortify these parts with plumber’s putty. If the leak persists, then it is likely that a section of the plumbing pipe has failed. You will need to replace the entire piping section in this case.

Faucet drips

Both compression and washerless faucets rely on the movement of the faucet handle to control the flow of water. If there is a persistent drip, it is usually a result of a failure in the handle mechanism. Depending on the faucet, it will use a combination of washers, o-rings, and valves to work properly. A failure in any one of these parts could result in a drip.

You can remove the protective cap above the mechanism with a flathead screwdriver. The mechanism is generally held together with Phillips head screws. Carefully remove each component and look for wear. Don’t forget to note the order in which you removed the parts, so you can know the proper order when you put the faucet back together.

Remember, more likely than not these plumbing problems will require more than a basic understanding of plumbing. If you do spot one of these issues, it is generally safest to call a professional to treat the problem. A little money invested upfront into your plumbing system saves you money in the long-run and keeps your plumbing in good condition.

Most plumbing issues can be handled with careful preparation. For issues that are too big to tackle on your own, contact the professional plumbers at Allen’s Tri-State Mechanical Inc. in Amarillo, Texas. Call us at (806) 376-8345 or Contact Us by email for more information about our residential plumbing services. You can also visit us at our location at 404 S. Hayden St. in Amarillo.