Common Plumbing Fixes

To save you time, money and headaches eventually, we collected our personal favorite suggestions for solving common household plumbing headaches. Most of these tips make use of things that cost less than $20 and these tips could save you an expensive service call.

Use pipe insulation to prevent sprayer snarls
If you have to wiggle the hose as you pull out your kitchen sink sprayer, it"s likely the hose is catching on the shutoff valves. For smooth operation, slip 1/2-in. foam pipe insulation over the pipes and shutoff handles. Tape it if it won"t adhere. Pick up the insulation at home centers for about $3.

Wrap pipes in sticky back felt
Running hot water can cause your pipes to expand and rub up against pipe hangers and joists. So grab some adhesive-backed felt at the hardware store and cut it into strips. Then remove each hanger and bundle the pipe before refastening the hanger.

Deaden sounds with expanding foam
Fill the space between two stainless steel sink basins with expanding foam. It"s possible to do this with the sink in place but much neater and easier before installation.

Use a shop vac to remove hard objects
When a hard object like a toothbrush, comb or toy plugs a toilet or drain, a plunger may not be the solution– it might only push the blockage in deeper. Instead, suck out the water and the obstruction with a wet/dry shop vacuum.

Use a strong magnet to find pipes in walls
When trying to find a pipe under the floor, attach a rare earth (neodymium) magnet to an electrical fish tape and feed it into drain lines through the cleanout plug. Find the magnet (and the pipe) under the floor using an ordinary compass, which will turn wildly when it finds the powerful magnet.

Use a pot of water to flush the toilet
You don"t have to run to the neighbor"s bathroom during a plumbing project. Before you kill the water supply, fill 2- gallon buckets with water. Flush the toilet by pouring the water in the bowl. You"ll get one flush per bucket. Works just as well as the usual method, although it won"t refill the bowl.

Take a picture before sealing walls
Your walls may not have much inner glamor, but it"s a great idea to take pictures of what"s inside during alteration. The same is true for floors and ceilings. When your next remodeling or repair project rolls around, you"ll know where the framing and the electric and pipes lines are.

Plunge water first before removing the trap
Before you remove a sink trap, give the drain a few plunges with a toilet plunger. This will push most of the water out of the trap, minimizing the chaos when you pull the trap. If you have a double sink, be sure to plug the other drain to contain the air pressure. If the strainer isn"t a screw-down style, you"ll have to hold it down while you plunge the drain.

Toilet Dos and Do n"ts.
1. Avoid chemicals. Don"t be suckered into thinking that strong chemicals will do the messy work for you. They sometimes work, but they"re slower. And when they don"t work, you have a drain full of corrosive water on your hands. If you tried chemicals and they didn"t work, run as much water into the toilet as possible and let it sit overnight to drain through the clog. When you plunge, wear safety goggles and protective gloves to keep the water out of your eyes and off your bare skin.

2. Keep the toilet cover down, especially if you have little kids, so toys and hairbrushes won"t fall into the toilet.

3. Don"t pour hardening compounds down the toilet. These include such things as drywall joint compound, grease, caulk and wax products.

EMERGENCY UNCLOG A TOILET WITHOUT A PLUNGER.

As soon as the toilet clogs, head to the kitchen and fetch some dish soap; the slippery soap should help lubricate the clogged pipe and allow the lodged debris slide down more easily. And if none of these unconventional methods work to unclog your toilet, here"s our fool-proof guide for how to unclog a toilet.

Add Hot Water.
If dish soap alone doesn"t do the trick, adding water might move things along. Fill a bucket with hot bath water (boiling water could cause a porcelain toilet to crack), and pour the water into the toilet from waist level. The force of the water could dislodge whatever is causing the clog.

DIY a Drain Snake Using a Wire Hanger.
A more severe blockage could require manually moving the item. To do this, unravel a wire coat hanger until it"s straight. Push one end of the wire into the clogged area. Prod the debris until it becomes free and flows down the drain.

As an alternative to using harsh soap, try this all-natural solution: Pour 1 cup baking soda and 2 cups vinegar into the toilet. Allow it fizz for a half hour. If clog doesn"t dissipate, try the hot water trick.

Use a Plastic Bottle to Create Water Pressure.
Warning: This trick may get messy. Start by removing as much water from the toilet bowl as possible (you can do this by repeatedly filling a bowl with toilet water and pouring the water into a bucket). Next, fill a large plastic bottle with warm water. Place your thumb over the top of the bottle, and fit the top end of the bottle into the outlet at the bottom of the toilet (you"ll want to wear protective gloves for this step). Remove your thumb and squeeze the bottle so the water inside shoots down the pipe. The added pressure may dislodge whatever was causing the block.


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