Dripping faucets, clogged pipes, and toilets that don’t flush properly: These common plumbing problems cause most people to reach for the phone and dial the nearest plumber. The good news is that in some cases, a bit of basic know-how and some tools you might already have on hand can come to the rescue, saving you money in the process.
Here we’ll discuss DIY plumbing and how to fix common plumbing issues.
DIY plumbing fittings and tools
The first rule to remember when considering DIY plumbing basics is that everything has to do with the flow of water. Some pipes and fittings bring water from your well or city supply to various fixtures in your home, while others effectively drain it away.
There are two basic types of water systems in your home: Direct and indirect. In addition, there are plenty of cocks and valves to familiarise yourself with; for example, float valves, ballcock valves, syphon valves, and gate valves. Isolation valves are of particular importance since they allow you to turn off water to a specific area in order to keep water contained while you’re trying to fix a dripping tap or repair a toilet that won’t flush.
There are smaller fittings to be aware of, too; for example, taps have different internal mechanisms such as O rings, washers, and screws. Wrenches, screwdrivers, and your own two hands are among the most important plumbing tools.
Before we dive deeper into DIY plumbing tips, it’s very important to be aware that this basic information isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are many different designs for taps, toilets, showers, and other fixtures, and if you don’t recognise the features discussed in our DIY plumbing guide on your model, you may want to check the manufacturer’s website for specific information or go ahead and call a plumber. On the flip side, you may feel confident enough to do a complete DIY bathroom renovation using our step-by-step guide.
How to fix a dripping tap
Dripping taps waste thousands of litres of water, and over time, they can increase water cost dramatically. The good news is that in many cases a dripping tap is one of the easiest DIY kitchen sink plumbing problems to fix on your own. The following procedure works for bathroom sinks, too.
- Locate the isolation valve that serves the tap in question and turn it off.
- Plug the drain so that nothing falls in.
- Remove the decorative cap(s) from the handle(s). These are usually marked “H” and “C” or “Hot” and “Cold”. Often, the easiest way to remove these is to insert the tip of a screwdriver under the edge of the cap and very gently pry it off. If you can’t determine how to get the caps off, it’s probably time to call the plumber since your tap may be too complicated for DIY repairs.
- After removing the cap(s), you should be able to see screws. Remove these and gently pull the handles up and away from the tap. Now you should be able to see the inner mechanisms.
- In most cases, a dripping tap is caused by a worn O ring. Remove the rubber O ring and bring it with you to the hardware store. Purchase a new one. Take it home and reassemble the tap. Turn on the isolation valve and try your tap.
- If the drip hasn’t stopped, then the internal tap mechanism will need to be replaced. Disassemble the tap again and remove the cartridge. Take it with you to the home improvement store, purchase an identical replacement, and reassemble your tap. Turn the isolation valve back on and try your tap again. If it still doesn’t work, you’ll need to call a plumber
- Opening a faucet
How to fix a clogged drain
One of the easiest DIY kitchen plumbing tasks is unclogging a drain. In most cases, time trumps effort, and all you’ll need is a good bottle or two of drain cleaner. These steps generally work for clogged bathroom drains, too.
- Purchase drain cleaner and any essential safety equipment such as eye protection and rubber gloves. It may be a good idea to purchase more than you think you’ll need since tough clogs often call for more product.
- Read the instructions on the bottle before you begin, so that you’re aware of the steps required before you begin.
- Follow the instructions on the bottle. Do not skip any steps or make modifications.
- Keep kids and curious pets out of the area when working with drain cleaner.
- Call a plumber if the maximum amount of drain cleaner recommended by the product manufacturer fails to work on your clog.
If you aren’t willing to go the chemical route, you might consider a plunger or a DIY plumbing snake, which you can normally buy or rent at a home improvement store. Be cautious since plunging can push clogs deeper into your system and improperly snaking pipes can cause serious damage that leads to far greater expense.
How to fix a toilet that won’t flush
There are many reasons why a toilet won’t flush properly. In most cases, the cause is worn or damaged parts. Fixing a toilet that won’t flush involves identifying the problem and either manoeuvring the lift chain if it’s kinked or stuck on something, or purchasing a new handle assembly or ballcock assembly and installing it. Different toilets have different internal parts.
- Shut off the water supply valve located along the wall behind the toilet.
- Take the lid off the tank and set it down on a towel.
- Flush the toilet and visually inspect to see whether the ballcock is working properly, or if anything appears to be worn or stuck. Try jiggling anything that appears to be stuck; in many cases, this is all it takes to get your toilet back to flushing properly.
- If you see a problem, disassemble the faulty part and take it with you to purchase a replacement. Follow the instructions on the replacement part to reassemble your toilet.
Avoid these common DIY plumbing problems
Whatever you’re working on, these quick DIY plumbing tips can help make your project more successful.
- Don’t overtighten fittings. Hand-tight is tight enough; any tighter, and you can damage sensitive connections.
- If you’ve dropped something small down a drain, use a wet-dry vacuum to suck it out instead of trying to use a plunger or snake. If you’ve dropped something valuable, call a plumber instead of trusting fate.
- Avoid clogs in the first place and keep your plumbing system healthy. Grease, starchy food remains, vegetable peelings, and hair clog pipes over time. Use screens to keep them out of your drains and if you have a garbage disposal, treat it with care to prevent malfunctions.
- Don’t flush anything other than toilet paper down the toilet. Even “flushable” wipes can cause a nasty backup and lead to unnecessary expenses.
While this final piece of DIY plumbing advice is a simple one, it will save you tonnes of time and effort: If you’re completely mystified and you have no idea how to proceed, go ahead and call a plumber. You can always sign up for a DIY plumbing basics class later and work on things confidently in the future!
The last word
If you’re hoping to take on a more complicated task such as rainwater tank plumbing DIY, a complete bathroom renovation, DIY aquarium plumbing or DIY exposed shower plumbing, be sure to look for a start-to-finish guide that lists all the tools and materials necessary for the job, as well as the fittings required.
In this case, it’s sensible to call in the experts for help. At Houseace, we make bathroom renovations easy, combining top rated tradespeople with friendly project management and a happiness guarantee. Give us a call on 1300 304 367 to find out more about the services we offer, or get bathroom renovation quotes through clicking the link.
Alternatively, you can also read on for crucial tips on planning ahead to avoid the most common and costly mistakes when handling DIY plumbing installation and other home renovations.