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Answers to Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions

by B.Annie on February 1, 2018

The answers to frequently asked plumbing questions vary from the easy to the complex. Some are easily solved by the homeowner if he has the time.  Others require training and specialized equipment to do right.  Those are jobs that are best left to a plumber.

Frequently asked plumbing questions

Clogged Bathtub

One frequently asked plumbing question is, “The drain in my bathtub is clogged, what should I do?” Usually, the reason for this problem is that people wash their hair (And their dogs?) in the bathtub and small hairs are constantly being rinsed down the drain. The hair collects in a ball somewhere down the drain pipe.  When the ball of hair becomes substantial enough, it blocks the flow of water completely.

You can head this problem off at the pass when you see that the water in the tub is taking a long time to drain.  That’s a sign that the ball of hair is growing bigger and will soon block the flow of water entirely. If you act immediately, you can purchase a simple plastic “hair snare” for less than $5 at a hardware store. The item is 12-18 inches long and is a thin, flexible plastic device with upward pointing “teeth.”

By threading the hair snare down the drain, the homeowner will poke into the mass of hair down the drain. The teeth will engage with the hair and by pulling gently upward, the homeowner will be able to extract parts of the hairball. A few more “fishing” tries will enable the homeowner to pull out more hair each time, until the drain is relatively clear.

If the hair snare is unable to dislodge the hair, or the hair is too far down the pipe, it is time to call the plumber. His snake will reach much further down the drain pipe and pull out the hair in a jiffy.

Now that your drain is unclogged, take steps to see that it doesn’t get clogged again.  This requires the purchase of some mesh that will easily fit into your drain and allow water to pass through while catching the hair. This will prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Disposal problems

Another frequent plumbing problem is that the garbage disposal is making a noise like it is running, but nothing is happening. Often this issue means that something has gone into the disposal that shouldn’t be there.  Perhaps a piece of glass from a broken dish, a piece of hard plastic, metal or bone has lodged in the gears. This material must be dislodged before turning the switch on.

First, make sure the switch is OFF.  Even better, flip the circuit breaker for the disposal so it will not turn on accidentally. Obviously, the disposal will grind up fingers as easily as it does meat or refuse.

A large wooden spoon or spatula can be a useful tool to dislodge what has brought the disposal to a grinding halt. Once the item has been cleared, look underneath the disposal for a reset button.  Many disposals have a large Allen wrench that came with the disposal.  Insert the tool into the slot and turn it back and forth. If the tool turns easily, the disposal is ready to be turned on again. If the disposal does not start up again, it’s time to call in the plumber to analyze the problem further.

Red Water

Another frequently asked plumbing question occurs when the water from the faucet comes out slightly red. This situation is as serious as a heart attack. It usually happens in older houses that have galvanized pipe to carry the water throughout the plumbing system.  The red signifies that rust exists in the pipes. These pipes must be replaced.

Replacing pipes is a large undertaking and almost always requires a licensed plumber to get the work done right. The pipes must be replaced with new pipes according to code. Although this will be an expensive undertaking, the results will be safe drinking water. The homeowner must face the facts that this work has to be done. Either do it now or you will have to do it in the future in order to sell your house.

Constant running water in the toilet

Another frequently asked plumbing question involves a toilet that keeps running. With a normal toilet, the tank should refill within about two minutes after a flush and the water stops flowing. If this is not happening, the homeowner should remove the lid to the water tank. He will see a fill valve and float on the left. This is where the water enters the tank. When the water reaches the appropriate height, the float activates the shut off and the tank is ready for the next flushing. The toilet has a back-up system consisting of an open tube that will reroute excess water back into the toilet bowl instead of overflowing the tank and onto the bathroom floor.

Now for the most common problem. It’s like your refrigerator “leaking” food all the time. If there’s a teenager living in the house, that’s the first place to look. If the toilet is constantly running, the flapper is where to look first.  Over time the rubber flapper slowly disintegrates or in some way no longer fits snugly over the opening to the bowl. When that happens the water tank can no longer fill to the appropriate height because water is constantly leaking into the toilet bowl.

The flapper is an inexpensive item and can easily be replaced. Once it is connected to the chain, which is connected to the flush lever, the system should be ready to go. If the flapper seems to be operating normally, yet the water is still running constantly, then the fill valve and float might need to be replaced.  This process should be done with the water to the tank turned off.  These items are readily available at the local hardware store.

As you can see several of these frequently asked plumbing questions can be solved by the homeowner with perseverance and a few trips to the hardware store. If the homeowner is incapable of fixing anything that doesn’t involve a computer, the jobs are best left to a professional. Further, if deadlines are important –family coming to visit for the weekend, daughter is getting married, son is graduating from high school—the projects should be delegated to your plumber.