How to Solve Common Bathroom Plumbing Problems

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Bathroom plumbing problems can range from a minor annoyance, like a faucet that drains slowly, to a major issue, like a busted main water pipe that causes your house to get completely flooded. You can tackle some of these plumbing issues on your own, but in most cases, a professional plumbing service is required. 

Toilet Plumbing Tips

There are three, major plumbing components in your bathroom: the sink, the toilet, and the tub (and/or shower). Out of all three, the toilet typically has the most frequent issues. Here are a couple of tips for dealing with common toilet problems:

Clogged Toilet

The sight of rising toilet-water without the relief of watching it flush down the drain can create sudden panic. Before you do anything you might regret, like flushing the toilet a second time in hopes it was a faulty flush (it never is), cut the toilet's water supply by turning off the toilet's shut-off valve.

  • The shut-off valve should be the knob behind the toilet that is connected to the wall. Turn that knob counter-clockwise until you no longer hear water running to your toilet. If you hear something, like an increase in water pressure to your toilet, you're probably turning the knob the wrong way.
  • Now that you've cut off the toilet's water supply, it's time to break out the plunger. In most cases of a common clog, a plunger is all it takes to get your toilet up and flushing again.
  • If a plunger is not enough to unclog your toilet, you may want to invest in a plumbing snake. A plumbing snake is a long wire coil with a corkscrew tip that you can feed into your toilet's drain-hole to break up or pull out clogged debris. If the snake doesn't help, you might have an even bigger issue on your hand that may require some professional help.

Other Toilet Issues

There are a few other toilet issues that commonly occur. For instance:

  • A running toilet is another common problem and can be fixed by checking the toilet assembly in the toilet's main water tank, which is the top portion of your toilet bowl.
  • Check the flapper, which is the chain and plug that prevents water from entering the toilet bowl. The flapper should unplug when you flush the toilet, then plug back in once the toilet has flushed. A broken flapper that stays unplugged will cause water to constantly seep into your toilet.
  • Look over the flapper assembly and check for any issues with the chain or plug.
  • Another issue is a toilet leak at the bottom of your toilet, which can cause puddles or wet stains on your bathroom floor. This may indicate a broken toilet wax ring, and requires the removal of the entire toilet and replacement of the ring underneath.

More Toilet Plumbing Tips

  • Keep the toilet cover down and invest in a toilet lock if you have small children who might enjoy flushing items down the toilet. Toys and bathroom items, like hairbrushes, might be able to go down the drain-hole, but get stuck in the toilet's drainpipe creating a major clogging issue.
  • Don't pour anything down the toilet that can potentially harden, like grease or caulk.
  • Don't bother using draining chemicals to fix a clogged toilet; they are health hazards and rarely work.

Bathtub and Shower Plumbing Tips

  • Keep any debris from falling down your drain to prevent clogging.
  • Don't just wash your hair, watch your hair. Overtime, hair that has fallen from your head will collect in your drain pipe. This is the most common cause for a clogged bathtub or shower.
  • If you notice that your water isn't draining as fast as it should be, check your drain assembly. The drain assembly often consists of a drain plug made of metal and rubber. Remove or loosen the drain plug and clear out any debris or hair that might have collected in the drain.
  • Flush out any clogs with a plumbing snake or liquid plumbing drainers.
  • Run the hot water once a week to keep your shower and bathtub lines flowing properly.
  • Install a strainer to catch debris if you have a drain with an open hole.

Bathroom Sink Plumbing Tips

  • Check the faucet's aerator if water is not coming out properly. The aerator is the metal screen at the tip of the faucet's spout where the water comes from. Clean it out if water is sputtering or spraying.
  • Similar to showers and bathtubs, hair is the most common cause of a drainage block.
  • Use masking tape over surfaces you plan on using a wrench on to prevent any damage to your pipes or fixtures.
  • Try boiling hot water and some bleach to free up any clogs in the drain. If this doesn't work, try a plumbing snake.
  • Tighten your sink pipes if you notice any water leaking from them. If this doesn't work, you may need to replace the entire pipe.

Things to Look For

Here are some warning signs of a possible plumbing problem:

  • Keep an eye out for any unusual wet spots on your walls and ceilings. If you have white walls or ceilings, brown stains indicate areas that have been damaged by water, which might indicate you have a leak somewhere.
  • Damp areas and mold are signs that you have a water leak. An example would be a musty or moldy smell emanating from your bathroom sink cabinet or behind the toilet.
  • A noticeable reduction in water pressure to your sink or showers might indicate a leak or plumbing issue.

Call for Help

If you find yourself faced with a major plumbing issue that you have no experience dealing with, call a plumber. Attempting to make your own plumbing repairs without the proper experience or tools can lead to major problems, not just for your plumbing, but your entire house. An accidental flood or sewage backup can be devastating and can even cause permanent damage to your home.

Last Updated: June 6, 2014
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About Matthew Cenzon Matthew Cenzon has been writing for numerous publications since 2003, covering topics ranging from health and nutrition to the real estate industry. He is one of the contributing writers for IdealHomeGarden.com, and is a college graduate of the University of California, Riverside, with degrees in English and Asian literature. Matthew’s interest in interior design and home improvement stem from his background working in the residential real estate appraisal business for over five years, where he witnessed many of the Do's and Don'ts of home decor.

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