How to fix common plumbing leaks
Drips, clogs, rust...time for some DIY plumbing repairs? Plumbing leak repair is one project you can usually tackle yourself without needing to call a professional.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, household leaks can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year. In fact, 10 percent of homes with leaks waste at least 90 gallons every day. This hurts the environment, and it also affects your wallet when your water bills skyrocket. To avoid wasting water, as well as prevent water damage and mold issues, look out for leaks and fix them immediately. The EPA estimates that by fixing these leaks, you could save about 10 percent on your water bill.
Don't forget: No matter the leak, the first step is to always turn off the main water supply! Otherwise you'll shower the room - and your face - with a burst of water. Once it's turned off, here's what you need to know about fixing various common household leaks:
Tub and shower leaks
The signs: Look out for mold, stains, excessive standing water and dripping when the water is turned off.
The solutions: Start by tightening the connection between the shower head and the pipe stem with a wrench. If it looks worn, replace the washer or "o" ring inside the shower head before tightening. Seal it with caulking, or apply plumber's tape around the connection for extra security against future leaks. If water is seeping out of the tub frame, reseal it with new caulking.
The signs: If you notice pooled water or loosened tiles around the base of the unit, running water, worn out valves or a wobbling toilet, leaking could be the cause. A surefire way to find a toilet leak is to place a drop of food coloring in the tank. Wait about 10 minutes, and if you see any color appear in the bowl, you have a leak.
The solutions: Replacing flapper valves inside the tank is an inexpensive fix for a leaky toilet. Take the current one to the home improvement store to make sure you purchase the right kind of flapper. Disconnect the flush chain from the flush lever, and then remove the old flapper. Line up the new valve, and attach the chain. Invest in toilet shims to prevent the wobbly rocking of a loose toilet. If those quick solutions don't fix the leak, you may need to reinstall the toilet with a new wax ring.
The signs: Puddles and dampness inside the cabinet near the pipes, a dripping faucet or deteriorating caulk can all be indicators of a leaky sink. Check the rim, shutoff valves, supply line connections and pipe joints for the source of the leak, as these are most common.
The solutions: Sink leaks and faulty faucets are usually fixed by simply tightening all valves and connections. Use plumber's putty or tape to reinforce the seals. Keep in mind that a crowded cabinet under the sink can damage water supply pipes and loosen connections, potentially causing a leak. Plus, it's harder to see drips and puddles if they're covered by cleaning products, boxes or other items. Try to keep the cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks organized, and check them frequently for drips or water stains.
Once you master these projects, you'll be ready to take on more DIY plumbing. Here are some plumbing myths you should know to make sure you're following the right solutions.
Being prepared ahead of time can help you deal calmly with emergency plumbing issues. Plans from HomeServe can help with the costs of covered repairs.