Some plumbing issues are easy to fix on your own. For instance, a clogged drain is often simple to unclog. However, it’s important to know the limits of your abilities. When you have a plumbing problem you can’t handle on your own, it’s time to back off and call a TrustDALE certified plumber. Getting overambitious about a plumbing repair can land you in hot water—literally! So here are a few common do-it-yourself repairs you can try at home, as well as when to put down your tools and call for professional help.

Low Water Pressure in the Shower

A steaming hot shower is a little everyday luxury that you can enjoy in just a few minutes. But if your water pressure isn’t up to snuff, your mini-retreat can turn into a disappointing dribble. Luckily, this is not a complicated problem to fix. If you have decent water pressure in other parts of the house but insufficient water pressure in the shower, the problem is most likely your showerhead.

Over time, mineral deposits can clog your shower head, resulting in restricted water flow. To fix this, the first thing you have to do is remove the showerhead. Most showerheads are simply screwed into place, so to remove one, you just need to unscrew it. If you find it hard to start, you may need to use pliers or a wrench to get a good grip. 

Once you’ve twisted off the showerhead, try running the shower to test the water pressure. If the pressure is acceptable without the showerhead, you know that the showerhead is the issue. Soak the showerhead in a descaling solution, which you can buy at any plumbing or hardware store. Follow the directions for how long to soak, then thoroughly rinse the showerhead. When you’re done, screw the showerhead back into place and enjoy your next high-pressure hot shower.

If you remove the showerhead and still have low pressure, the problem is a little harder to diagnose. In that case, it’s time to call a plumber for a more thorough diagnosis and professional solution.

Replacing a Showerhead

Sometimes a showerhead needs more than cleaning—it needs to be replaced. Whether you have a clogged showerhead that won’t unclog or you just want an upgrade, installing a new shower head is a simple project almost any homeowner can tackle. It’s really no more complicated than unscrewing the old showerhead and screwing in the new one. The part where you’re most likely to get stuck is unscrewing the old showerhead. Sometimes, after years of grime and mineral buildup, the showerhead just won’t budge. You can try using pliers or a wrench, but applying too much pressure can snap the showerhead or even damage the pipes. If you find that you can’t unscrew your shower head, it may be time to call in a professional plumber to avoid damaging your home.

Stopping a Running Toilet

A running toilet is an expensive problem with a cheap and easy solution. If your toilet is running, your water bill can skyrocket as water is continuously pumped into your toilet’s water tank and immediately sent down the drain. Luckily, fixing this problem is simple and cheap. The first thing to do is open your water tank (just lift the lid) and determine whether the flap over the hole at the bottom of the tank is lowered and sealed. If the flap is up, the tank won’t fill. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as untwisting the chain that connects the flusher and the flap if it has become tangled. Sometimes the chain may come loose from the flusher, and reattaching the chain will solve the problem. If the flap is closed but won’t seal, you may need to replace it.

To replace the flap, start by taking a picture of the inside of your tank. Having a picture will make it easier to purchase the correct replacement parts. Next, measure the hole the flap is supposed to seal. With that information, you can go to your local hardware store and purchase a new mechanism. If you’re unsure of what to buy, you can share your picture and measurements with an employee, and they should be able to guide you to the correct product. Installing the new flush mechanism is usually straightforward, and you can simply follow the instructions that come in the new assembly.

If you have a toilet with a non-standard flush mechanism—for example, a toilet with a flush button on top of the tank or a handle with a high-pressure flush—the mechanism may be a bit more complicated. You can still take a picture and try to replace the mechanism yourself, but you may need to contact a plumber if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.

A Clogged Sink

When a sink is clogged, some homeowners may turn first to a store-bought drain cleaner. But plumbers will all tell you to stay away from corrosive drain cleaners. They can damage your pipes, and if they don’t work and you have to call a plumber, the residual chemicals are dangerous to work around. Instead, the best way to unclog a drain is manually. The first thing to try is simply reaching in and seeing if you can pull out any hair (for a bathroom or shower drain) or stuck food items (for a kitchen sink).

If you’ve gotten what you can with your hands and the drain is still not working as it should, you can use a cheap and simple tool to unclog the drain. You can find a single-use plastic drain unclogging tool at any hardware store and even many grocery stores. These long plastic strips have little teeth on them to snag whatever is clogging your drain. Just shove the tool down as far as you can into the drain and pull it back out. You can usually get gobs of hair and other junk that was clogging your drain, and often that’s all it takes. If you’ve used one of these tools and your drain is still clogged, the clog is much deeper in the pipes, and you may need to contact a TrustDALE certified plumber for some more intense drain clearing.

When to Call a Plumber

The plumbing in your home is not complicated, but it does require some specialized knowledge to diagnose and repair. Any time you are uncomfortable with a plumbing project, don’t hesitate to call a professional. While plumbing issues are often simple, the stakes are high. If you make a mistake, you risk flooding your home with water—or worse, sewage—and causing potentially thousands of dollars of damage. Trying to twist, shove, or bend something you shouldn’t can break your pipes and other components, leading to costly repairs. So any time you are unsure about your ability to solve a problem, back off and call a professional. TrustDALE certified plumbers are covered by Dale’s trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.

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