Most homeowners are no stranger to common house plumbing problems. While a professional opinion is never a bad thing, not wanting to call a plumber for every little issue is understandable. Your house plumbing is a big part of how comfortable your home feels. Small problems like leaky faucets and clogged drains can turn into big headaches if left unchecked. Don't let a stopped sink stop you. There are many small problems you may be able to fix without hiring a plumber!
Bathroom and Kitchen Sink Plumbing
Since the pipes are easily accessible, and there is generally some space to work with, bathroom or kitchen sink plumbing is a desirable place to start for the DIY. The best part about fixing plumbing yourself is the amount of money you can save. While purchasing a new sink is expensive, the parts that generally wear and cause problems are pretty cheap.
A worn washer, spring, or "o" ring often causes leaks. These parts aren't difficult to get to, and the tools necessary to do so are probably already in your house. If you are very inexperienced, look for the brand name on the fixture and take a picture of the faucet and handles to a home improvement center. These places often have easy to understand diagrams of a faucet system that you can take home with you. The brand name and picture are to make sure you come home with parts that will fit your sink exactly. You'll need to turn the valves underneath the sink to an off position before taking any of the fixtures apart.
In an entire house plumbing system, water flow can be hindered in many ways. A stopped drain in a bathroom or kitchen sink plumbing system, however, is often the result of a clogged pipe. There is a pipe underneath your sink that has an "elbow" in it designed to trap objects and debris. Its usefulness has been demonstrated in many a sitcom by being the place where a wedding ring that goes down the drain is found. The elbow is also where many clogs form. If you've already tried chemical drain cleaners (which should be your first effort) with no results, it's worth the time to remove the elbow to make sure it is clear. You'll want to put a pan underneath it to catch the water that will spill out.
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Other House Plumbing Problems
A running toilet or a handle that needs to be jiggled is usually a symptom of a worn or improperly installed flapper valve system. Replacing the whole system requires little to no tools and will cost less than twenty bucks. Open the tank and have a look at the system before going to the store. The problem could be obvious. If you decide to replace it, they come in a few different varieties, so you'll want to know what to look for.
Chemical drain cleaners don't work on toilet clogs. If your toilet is plugged up, try plunging it. If the problem doesn't go away after around ten plunges, you might want to try an auger or "snake". Twist the auger as you feed it into the toilet to try and break up any blockage. A clogged shower drain can often be cleared chemically. It can also be plunged or "snaked".
Fixing things yourself can be fun and rewarding, but if what you try doesn't work (take special care when plunging, as overdoing it can cause even larger problems), it's best not to experiment. When you are in doubt, or the problem seems very severe, it could be time to call a pro.