5 most common plumbing problems and how to fix them

If you’ve been in the plumbing game long enough (like I have), you tend to come across the same sorts of questions again and again. Usually they’re to do with toilets and sinks, and sometimes blockages as well. Since we get asked them all the time, I thought it might be a good idea to put them together as a list and whack them up on the website.

So here’s our list of five most common plumbing problems and how to fix them.

1. My toilet runs or keeps going after I’ve flushed it. How do I fix this?

Thankfully this one is usually pretty easy to fix. Sometimes it’s the seal on the system and sometimes it’s the float. Either way you’re going to have to get your hands a little dirty and a little wet and get in there to take a look.

Here’s some steps to follow:-

  • First thing you will want to do is turn off the water. Usually there’s a tap beside your toilet that you can turn the water off to only that toilet system. If you don’t have one of those simply turn the water off out the front (go here to find out how to turn off the mains water) but, a quick word of advice, make sure you let your wife and the kids know because as soon as you turn off the water, guaranteed, one of them will need to go to the toilet, wash their hands, stand in dog poo, need a shower – you get the idea.
  • Next carefully lift off the lid of your toilet. This can sometimes require you to twist the outer cap of your button to enable you to remove the lid.
  • When you have the lid off take a look at the inlet valve and the float. These are usually the parts that break down first. If the water isn’t shutting off and it keeps overflowing then it’s likely that the float (usually a vertical piece of plastic with ballcock - that’s the floaty bit that should rise up as the water creeps up and shuts off the water) my not be sealing correctly
  • To test the inlet valve flush the toilet so there’s no water in the cistern and move the float up and down. If the water shuts off when you do this, the float is working and you may need to adjust the height of where it shuts off.
  • If the float isn’t shutting off the water when you move it up and down, there’s a good chance it will be much easier just to replace it.

2. I need to replace the float in my toilet… how do I do this?

This is actually a fairly easy job to do by yourself at home. First thing to do is get yourself to your local hardware store and figure out what type of float you would like. There are many different kinds that range in quality and price, but if you aim to spend about $20 you should get yourself a decent brand, that has a good design and seals that will last.

Step 1. Remove all the water from your cistern

This is pretty easy, you just need to flush the toilet to get most of it out. You can choose to syphon or scoop out the rest of the water with a cup. I find that an old dish sponge or chux rag is good to get those last little bits of water out.

Step 2. Remove the faulty system

Depending on your toilet type you may be able to access underneath the cistern where you will see a hose coming out of your wall, connected to the bottom of the float unit (usually a plastic thread sticking out of the bottom of your toilet).

Simply unscrew the hose connection (making sure you’ve turned the water off!) and then unscrew the plastic nut that connects the ballcock to the bottom of your toilet (sometimes you will need to use vice grips or slip-joint pliers).

You will now be able to remove the faulty system and replace it with your nice brand spanking new one! Easy.

3. My tap is dripping – how do I fix that?

This one is pretty straight forward. If you find that a tap is dripping in your home there’s a couple of things you will want to check.

  1. Check the condition of the washer
  2. Check the condition of the washer seal (this may require the use of a tap reseater)

Check the condition of the washer

As always, make sure that the water is turned off at the mains and then turn on the tap to get any additional water out of the pipes. All taps are a little different but here’s a rough rundown of how to take a tap off:-

  1. Unscrew the top screw of the tap – this is usually a little disk either at the top of the tap or under the top section that may need to be popped off with a screwdriver.
  2. Take off the tap handle and unscrew the cover.
  3. Get your shifting spanner (you will need a fairly large one for this) and unscrew the tap mechanism from the sink.
  4. Once off, feel around in the depression where the tap mechanism was and grab the washer (this is usually filled with water so it can be hard to see the washer – a pair of flat nose pliers should do the trick).
  5. Check the washer for any signs of decay, pitting, marks, cracks or wear and tear.
  6. Replace the washer if needed.

Check the condition of the washer’s seal

If you replace the washer and you’re still finding that your tap is dripping, you may need to re-seat the washer. This is when you use a special tool called a tap reseater to scrape a very light amount of copper from the inside of the tap to create a smooth surface for the washer to sit on, thus creating a better seal.

Rather than put in a lengthy description on how to do this, check out the video below.

4. A clogged drain

There are many different ways to eliminate a clog out of a drain. This will ultimately depend on the severity of the blockage in the drain. We’ve actually written about Everything you need to know about blocked drains that your plumber never told you before so hop on over to this blog post and you will find a whole heap of options available for you.

If you find that you’ve got a block that you can’t get rid of, feel free to give us a call on 0424 141 174.

5. Blocked or leaking gutters

Living in Queensland it’s important to ensure that your gutters are clean and run freely, particularly in bushfire season. There’s a few different ways to check and clean your gutters and we’ve outlined them in our blog post called Tips and tricks to check and clean your gutters this summer – so pop on over to that article and check it out.

So there you have it – our top five plumbing problems that most people face and how to fix them.

If you need additional plumbing advice or would like one of our friendly plumbers to come and fix an issue you can’t quite fix or get right call us today on 0424 141 174.