Common Plumbing Fixes

To save your time, money and headaches down the road, we collected our absolute favorite tips and tricks for solving common household plumbing issues. Most of these tips make use of things that cost less than $20 and these tips could save you an expensive service call.

Use foam pipe insulation to prevent sprayer snarls
If you have to jiggle the hose as you pull out your kitchen sink sprayer, chances are the hose is grabbing on the shutoff valves. Get the insulation at home centers for about $3.

Wrap pipes in adhesive-backed felt
Running hot water can cause copper pipes to expand and grind up against pipe hangers and joists. Pick up some adhesive-backed felt at the craft store and cut it into strips. Next remove each hanger and wrap 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 vacuum 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 obstruction in deeper. Instead, suck out the water and the obstruction with a wet dry vac.

Use a big magnet to find hidden pipes
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
Before you turn off the water supply, fill 2- gallon buckets with water. Flush the toilet by pouring the water in the bowl.

Take a picture before closing up walls
Your walls may not have much inner aesthetic appeal, but it"s a good idea to take pictures of what"s inside during remodeling. 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 electrical and plumbing 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, cutting down the mess when you pull the trap.

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 occasionally 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. Then, when you plunge, wear safety goggles and rubber gloves to keep the water away from your eyes and off your bare skin.

2. Keep the toilet cover down, especially if you have young kids, so toys and hairbrushes won"t find their way 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. Pour about a half-cup into the toilet. If you haven"t got any dish soap on hand, chop a bar of soap into small chunks and drop the pieces into the toilet. And if none of these unconventional methods work to unclog your toilet, here"s our fool-proof guide for how to unclog a toilet. A $4.95 plunger and a handy toilet snake will make you the family hero!

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 water bottle to Create Water Pressure.
Warning: This trick might get messy. Start by getting rid of as much water from the toilet bowl as possible (you can do this by repeatedly filling a small container with toilet water and pouring the water into a bucket). Next, fill a big 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 can dislodge whatever was causing the burden.


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