DIY Plumbing Fixes Every Homeowner Should Know

DIY Plumbing Fixes Every Homeowner Should Know

Owning a home comes with its fair share of surprises. Among these, plumbing issues are some of the most common. They can range from minor annoyances like a dripping tap to more serious problems like a clogged drain. While calling a professional plumber is always an option, there are several DIY fixes every homeowner should know. Understanding these basic plumbing fixes can save you time, money, and the stress of waiting for a professional to arrive.

Fixing a Dripping Tap

A dripping tap isn’t just annoying; it wastes water and increases your bill. The cause is usually a worn-out washer or O-ring inside the tap. Here’s how to fix it:

  1. Turn Off the Water Supply: Look under the sink for the shut-off valves and turn them clockwise to stop water flow.
  2. Remove the Tap Handle: Use a screwdriver to remove the handle. If there’s a cap, pry it off with a flathead screwdriver first.
  3. Take Out the Valve Stem: Use a wrench to remove the valve stem. Check the washer and O-ring for wear.
  4. Replace the Washer and O-ring: Take the old parts to a hardware shop to find exact replacements. Fit the new washer and O-ring onto the valve stem.
  5. Reassemble the Tap: Put the valve stem back in place, screw the handle back on, and turn on the water supply. Test the tap to make sure it’s no longer dripping.

Unclogging a Drain

A clogged drain can slow things down and cause a mess. Before you reach for chemical cleaners, try these simpler, safer methods:

  1. Use a Plunger: Fill the sink or tub with enough water to cover the plunger’s cup. Place the plunger over the drain and push up and down several times. The pressure should dislodge the clog.
  2. Try a Drain Snake: If plunging doesn’t work, a drain snake can help. Insert the snake into the drain and twist it until you feel resistance. This means you’ve hit the clog. Twist and pull to break it up or remove it.
  3. Make a Natural Cleaner: Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. The mixture will fizz and bubble, breaking down the clog. After about 15 minutes, flush with hot water.

Fixing a Running Toilet

A running toilet can waste a lot of water and keep you up at night with its constant noise. Often, the problem lies in the tank’s mechanisms:

  1. Check the Flapper: Lift the tank lid and look at the flapper (the rubber part at the bottom of the tank). If it’s worn or not sealing properly, replace it.
  2. Adjust the Float: The float controls the water level in the tank. If it’s set too high, water will overflow into the tube. Adjust the float by bending the rod or turning the screw, so the water stops below the overflow tube.
  3. Inspect the Fill Valve: If the toilet is still running, the fill valve might be the issue. Turn off the water supply, remove the valve, and clean it. If it’s damaged, replace it with a new one.

Clearing a Slow Shower Drain

Shower drains often clog due to hair and soap scum buildup. Here’s a quick fix:

  1. Remove the Drain Cover: Use a screwdriver if necessary.
  2. Use a Hook: A bent wire coat hanger works well. Insert it into the drain and fish out any hair or debris. It’s a bit gross, but effective.
  3. Flush with Hot Water: Once clear, pour boiling water down the drain to remove any remaining soap scum.

Fixing Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure can make showers and washing dishes a chore. Here’s how to address it:

  1. Check All Faucets: Determine if the problem is isolated to one fixture or affects the whole house.
  2. Clean the Aerator: If it’s just one tap, the aerator might be clogged. Unscrew it, clean out any debris, and screw it back on.
  3. Inspect the Pipes: For low pressure throughout the house, there might be a bigger issue, such as a leak or blockage in the pipes. You might need to call a plumber for this one.

Stopping a Leaky Pipe

A leaky pipe can cause water damage and increase your bills. Here’s a temporary fix until you can get a professional:

  1. Turn Off the Water Supply: Locate the main shut-off valve and turn it off.
  2. Dry the Area: Make sure the pipe is dry so the tape can stick.
  3. Apply Pipe Repair Tape: Wrap the tape tightly around the leak, covering a few inches on either side. This will hold until a plumber can make a permanent fix.

Unjamming a Garbage Disposal

A jammed garbage disposal can be frustrating and smelly. Here’s how to fix it:

  1. Turn Off the Power: Ensure the disposal is off to avoid any accidents.
  2. Check for Obstructions: Use a torch to look inside the disposal for any visible blockages.
  3. Manually Rotate the Blades: Use an Allen wrench in the bottom slot of the disposal to turn the blades manually and free the jam.
  4. Press the Reset Button: Most disposals have a reset button on the bottom. Press it to restart the motor.

Maintaining Your Plumbing System

Regular maintenance can prevent many plumbing issues. Here are a few tips:

  1. Inspect Pipes Regularly: Look for signs of leaks or corrosion.
  2. Clean Drains Weekly: Use a natural cleaner like the baking soda and vinegar mixture mentioned earlier.
  3. Check Water Pressure: Test the water pressure in your home to catch problems early.
  4. Flush Your Water Heater: Sediment can build up in the tank. Flushing it once a year can improve efficiency and extend its life.

Knowing When to Call a Professional

While these DIY fixes can handle minor plumbing issues, some problems require a professional’s expertise. If you encounter a major leak, a sewer backup, or if your DIY efforts don’t solve the problem, it’s time to call a plumber. They have the tools and experience to handle complex issues safely and effectively.


Plumbing problems are a part of homeownership, but they don’t have to be overwhelming. By learning these basic DIY fixes, you can tackle minor issues with confidence. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also gain a sense of accomplishment. Remember, though, that some problems are best left to professionals. Knowing your limits is just as important as knowing how to fix a leaky tap. So next time you hear that drip or notice slow drainage, you’ll know exactly what to do. Happy fixing!