According to Homeadvisor, plumbing jobs such as repairing toilets, faucets, bathtubs, and sinks can cost you anywhere between $175 to $450. The cost could go up depending on the nature of the job and if it’s an emergency repair. While some plumbing repairs are best left to professionals, there are some that you can handle yourself. But how do you know if it’s alright to grab your soft tool bag and fix it yourself? Here are some of the different DIY plumbing projects anyone can do and basic instructions for how to complete them.
Table of Contents
- Come Up With a Game Plan
- Repairing a Leaky Faucet
- Stop Leaks in Joints
- Find Hidden Leaks
- Repair a Stuck Cleanout Plug
- Stop a Running Toilet
- Unclog a Bathroom Drain Without Chemicals
- Unclog a Toilet
- Fix a Leaking Water Heater
- Repair a Water Softener
- Replace a Shutoff Valve
- Replace a Sink Faucet
- Install a New Shower Head
- Getting a Permit Before Major Renovations
- When Should You Hire a Contractor?
Come Up With a Game Plan
Although the projects we’ve listed below are quite simple, plumbing is particularly tricky, so do not proceed if you are unsure of your ability. If your setup is different, you should ask for help.If you have questions regarding the fixtures or parts you should buy, ask a professional plumber or someone from your local hardware store.
Repairing a Leaky Faucet
Research shows that the average household loses about 2,000 to 20,000 gallons of water every year due to leaks. Some leaks such as dripping faucets and leaking water heaters are obvious while could go undetected for years. Most dripping or leaking faucets are as a result of worn or damaged washers on the handles or the spout’s base. Loose parts or corrosion of the valve seat could also lead to a leaky faucet.
What You’ll Need
- An adjustable wrench
- A lubricant
- White vinegar
- A scouring pad
- Replacement parts
Steps for Repairing a Faucet
- Shut off the water from the shutoff valves that leads to the faucet. You could also shut off the main water supply.
- Use a flathead screwdriver to take out the faucet’s handles. Should the screws be difficult to remove or corroded, use a lubricant to loosen them. Take note of where each part goes as you remove them.
- Use the wrench to undo the packing nut and twist to pry out the stem. Inspect the packing nut, the O-ring and the stem for signs of wear and tear or corrosion.If necessary, clean the parts to remove any buildup. Clean the valves by pouring white vinegar over areas affected by mineral deposits or corrosion. A scouring pad will help you loosen any stubborn grime.
- Put the faucet back together by reversing the steps you took while taking it apart. Replace parts that are overly damaged or corroded. Turn the water supply on and check whether your faucet continues to leak.
You may need to replace the entire faucet if its parts are hard to find, it got damaged while you were taking it apart, or if it is old and worn.
Stop Leaks in Joints
The best way to handle a leak from your pipes’ joints is to prevent it from happening in the first place.This is very easy to do, so everyone should check their pipes and reinforce the joints if needed.
What You’ll Need
- Teflon tape and Teflon pipe joint compound
- Wrench set
- Adjustable wrench
- Slip joint pliers
For threaded joints, wrap the male threads on the pipe with Teflon tape in the clockwise direction. Apply the pipe joint compound on top of the tape and wipe away the excess compound before reattaching the joint.
For compression joints, which are mostly used in connecting shutoff valves, use the Teflon joint compound to lubricate the ferrule and the pipe. This allows the ferrule to slip down and create a tight seal. Use two wrenches to tighten compression fittings.
Find Hidden Leaks
Hidden water leaks not only rising water bills but also lead to extensive water damages if the leak goes for long without repair. To tell whether your plumbing system is leaking, turn off all the water appliances and fixtures in your home. Check the water meter after an hour or two. If the units have increased, there is a leak. Rising water bills without any significant changes in water usage could be a sign of a leak. To test for a leak in your toilet, pour some food color in the cistern. If the color appears on your toilet bowl, there’s a leak. Water stains on the walls or ceiling are also a sign of a leak.
Most faucet leaks, toilet, and bathtub leaks can be fixed by tightening the fixtures or changing the O-ring. If the leak is behind a wall, you might have to involve a professional.
Repair a Stuck Cleanout Plug
Rusted-in clean-out plugs are common in older homes. These can make it difficult or impossible to insert the snake so that you can unclog in your drain. To remove the clean-out plug, place an adjustable wrench around the cap and tighten the wrench. Turn the handle wrench in an anti-clockwise direction. If the cap won’t budge, spray penetrating lubricant around the cap’s seam. Let it sit for around 20 minutes and repeat the process with the wrench.
If the above does not work, cut out the old fittings leading to and from the clean-outs wye or tee using a hacksaw. Use the old fittings to cut out a replacement pile and create a new clean-out, replacement wye, and stub pipes.
Stop a Running Toilet
One of the major causes of a running toilet is a stuck flushing mechanism. This is particularly the case if your toilet is flushed by pressing a button. Resolving this problem is as simple as jiggling the flushing mechanism or re-flushing.
A running toilet may also be as a result of leaking fill valves.To establish whether this is the case, flush the toilet and lift the ballcock while the water is filling. If the fill valve is leaking, adjust it in a way that it stops the water from getting into the cistern an inch below the overflow pipe. Should the problem persist, replace the valve.
Unclog a Bathroom Drain Without Chemicals
The first sign of a clogged bathroom drain is a bathtub that draining unusually slowly. Although most people resort to using chemicals, these can cause more harm than good. Not only do these chemicals damage your plumbing system, but they also end up in local waterways.
Using a plunger or a wire hanger is the simplest method of solving this problem. You only need to cover the opening completely and pump slowly. The vacuum the plunger’s head creates can remove the clog. If this does not work, straighten out a coat hanger and push it down the drain. Doing this continuously will break up the clog.
You can also unclog your bathroom drain by mixing hot water with detergent and pouring it down. A mixture of baking soda and vinegar also quite a decent job of breaking up grease and debris in your bathroom drain.
Unclog a Toilet
If your toilet is clogged and you are afraid that it may overflow, shut off its supply by closing the flapper or turning off the toilet’s water supply. The clog could be a result of an oddly shaped piece of fecal matter or debris buildup. In the case of the former, use a coat hanger to break it up so that it’s flushable. You can also use a plunger to do this. Flush the toilet two or three times to ensure that the waste goes to the septic tank. In the rare circumstance that the clog is caused by pieces of clothing, diapers, hair, sanitary towels, and so on, call a professional plumber.
Fix a Leaking Water Heater
There are quite several factors that may cause your water heater to leak. For instance, the inlet and outlet valves may be loose. In this case, you only need to tighten them using a pipe wrench.If the leak is from the pressure relief (T&P) valve, your water heater temperature may be set too high, thus building up pressure, or it may be faulty.
Repair a Water Softener
One of the most common problems in a water softener is excess salt that forms a dome in the softener’s brine tank. In that case, you will need to break up the salt using a broom and take all the sediment out using a wet/dry vacuum. Clean the tank with soap and water. Make sure you rinse it clean.
Minerals such as manganese and iron, along with silt deposits, can cause problems in the resin bed. There are different store-bought products that you can use to flush these out.Whichever product you choose, make sure it has hydrogen hydrosulfite for the best results.
Replace a Shutoff Valve
Over time, your shut off valve will leak, break, or lock up, making it necessary that you replace it. To do this, you need first to determine whether the valve is connected through compression or sweat fitting. A compression fitting has threaded ends which are joined with a nut, and sweat fittings have are soldered permanently together.
Turn off the water supply at the main shutoff valve.For an electric water heater, make sure you turn off the circuit breakers, as well. For a gas-powered heater, the switch should be in pilot position.
Turn on all the faucets to drain the plumbing system of all the water. For a compression valve, use a hacksaw to cut to the sleeve at an angle. Stop before you get to the copper. Twist the sleeve until it breaks. Place the new compression sleeve on the copper tubing and screw your new valve on. In case it is a sweat valve, use a pair of pliers to unfasten the packing nut and unscrew the valve stem. Use a soldering torch to melt the solder. Pull out the old valve and wipe away the excess solder. Slide the new valve into the tubing and solder once more to fuse the pipe and the joint.
Replace a Sink Faucet
Most of us replace our faucets either because they are old and we want to update them.Prepare to replace your faucet by turning off the hot and cold water valves. These are normally located under the sink. Disconnect both water lines using an adjustable wrench and locking pliers. Use a socket wrench to take out the nut which holds the faucet’s tailpiece in place. Pull the old faucet out and install the new one according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Install a New Shower Head
In a bid to go green and conserve the environment, you may have come across articles encouraging you to replace your showerhead with the low-flow, water-saving type. Here’s how to go about it:
- Use adjustable pliers to remove your old showerhead.Use a rag to remove any Teflon tape or plumbers putty on the threads of your shower stem.
- Apply new Teflon tape on the shower stem’s thread to prevent leakages.
- Hand screw your new showerhead by turning it in the clockwise direction. Tighten it using a strap wrench taking care not to overdo it.
- Turn your shower on and look out for leaks.
Getting a Permit Before Major Renovations
You already know how to go about your next plumbing project, and you have a game plan in place.Beginning your project without a permit could end up costing you quite a lot. Most jurisdictions require that you obtain a plumbing permit in case of any repairs or alterations to a home’s plumbing system.
While there are national plumbing codes that enable standardize the tasks carried out by plumbers, your state’s codes and local regulations must be followed.Check your local plumbing codes to ascertain what projects need a permit and those which do not need one. Most counties list this information on their website. In case it is not listed, contact them by phone or visit their offices.
When Should You Hire a Contractor?
Although you can undertake the above projects on your own, knowing when you should involve a professional could save you money in the end. You should hire a contractor if the problem requires a professional to diagnose, or if you fear that you are going to do more harm than good. The following instances warrant a plumbing contractor:
- If there extensive damage on your plumbing system
- If the pipes are frozen, making them predisposed to cracking. This makes it a better idea to have a plumber replace the frozen section rather than thaw it.
- Sewer line stoppage that may be caused by something outside the home. The most common causes of sewer line stoppage are tree roots.Hiring a sewer rodding machine could end up damaging sewer lines. A plumber will make sure that they repair any damages to the drainage before completing the project.
- Low water pressure all over the house that likely is caused by one large obstruction. The low pressure may also be from the municipal’s supply. A qualified plumber will diagnose the cause
- If there’s a lack of hot water in the house, which can be difficult to diagnose unless the hot water tank is visibly leaking.
If you’re confident in your ability to fix the problem and have a well-stocked household tool kit, go ahead and do it. Remember when working to always wear eye protection like safety goggles or safety glasses. You never know if you’re going to get sprayed by a jet of water when working on old plumbing.
Being a critical part of your home, your plumbing system needs to functions as seamlessly and as efficiently as possible. Whether you should DIY your next plumbing project or call a professional boils down to how comfortable and confident you are about the task. With the information we have provided, we trust that you can now draw the line between what you can handle and what you should leave to professional plumbers.