Plumbing Problem -- Fix it Yourself or Call in a Pro?

cohdra/morgueFileWater, water everywhere ... or a hefty bill for a 15-minute service call? That's a decision you may have to make when you're faced with a plumbing problem in your home. The combination of today's challenging economy and the wealth of how-to information available on the Internet means that many homeowners are eager to DIY. While we applaud this independent spirit, we’d like to interject one caveat. Plumbing repair is no simple matter. Unlike gardening or painting, it allows for far less margin of error. So prepare yourself ahead of time. Learn which plumbing glitches you can tackle yourself and when you need to call in professional plumbing repair.


Dripping Faucet

Repairing a dripping faucet in the bathroom or kitchen used to be the beginning home handyperson’s rite of passage. Once you had successfully changed a washer on your own, you were ready to move on to tackle bigger and better DIY household repairs. These days, though, chances are good that your faucets don’t even contain a washer anymore. Modern lever-operated sinks, as opposed to those with the traditional separate knobs, are likely to be sealed with ceramic plates instead. Fixing a ceramic plate is a much more complicated plumbing repair that is best left in the hands of a pro.


Reduced Flow in Shower or Sink

If the water flow in your shower or sink has dwindled to a mere trickle, your first move should be to check with your town’s water division; the slowdown could be due to a problem (temporary, we hope!) with the local supply, and not the fault of your home’s plumbing system. Otherwise, the trouble might be a blockage due to mineral scale or other debris. Unscrew the faucet’s aerator screen and clean it thoroughly, using the point of a pin to unblock the holes if necessary. Your showerhead could most likely benefit from a “bath.” Pour ½ cup of vinegar into a plastic bag, place it over the head, and fasten tightly. Leave overnight to dissolve mineral buildup. Water still super-slow? Time to check with a plumber.


Worn-Out Washing Machine Hose

When your washer’s hose starts looking the slightest bit frayed, it’s time to think about replacing it. Washing machine hose replacement is a relatively simple and inexpensive plumbing repair, as long as you get on it right away. However, if you’re the least bit unsure of your DIY skills, don’t use that as an excuse to delay. A broken washer hose can spurt out 500 gallons of water an hour … all over your laundry room. Do yourself a favor and hire a licensed plumber to take care of the replacement -- pronto.

Clogged Toilet

A clogged toilet can be quite a nuisance, especially if you live in a one-bathroom household. For this reason, a plunger should be part of even the most basic home tool kit. Do not repeatedly flush the toilet; this will only cause more mess. Instead close the flapper valve in the toilet tank. Make sure that the plunger head is totally submerged in water and completely covers the toilet hole. Plunge vigorously until the water begins draining from the bowl. If you don’t have a plunger, be wary of overusing drain cleaners. These are usually made of caustic chemicals and can be hard on your pipes. Safe homemade drain cleaner may be concocted by adding 1 cup baking soda and 2 cups vinegar to the toilet, followed by 8 cups of hot water (not boiling, because this could crack the porcelain of the bowl).


Burst Pipe

A major water pipe that has broken and is gushing water ankle deep on your kitchen, bathroom, or basement floor is quite a sight to behold. Don’t just stand there in awe, however -- turn your home’s water off at the source (you do know how, don’t you? If not, stop reading and go find out NOW). Call your homeowner's insurance emergency number and find out how to have one of their authorized plumbing contractors repair the damage ASAP. Attempting a DIY plumbing repair in this instance might void your insurance coverage.


Laura Firszt writes for


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