What plumbing issues have you experienced this year? Home plumbing systems typically present the same or similar problems to all homeowners. We’ve gathered the top plumbing repair questions we’ve heard from clients over the years to provide a guide to addressing those headaches. The following list includes causes and solutions for common plumbing emergencies and both minor and major plumbing problems.
1. Should I Turn My Water Off When I Go on Vacation?
You remembered to pack your toothbrush. The in-laws are taking care of the dog. You double checked the stove. It’s off. You triple checked the doors. They’re locked. Your checklist is complete, and you’re ready to leave for your long-awaited vacation. Did you forget anything? What about the water?
Many homeowners don’t include water shut-off as part of their vacation prep list, but they should. It’s true, the water system should be fine while you are away, but “should” and “will” are two different things. Just because no one will use the faucets while you’re gone doesn’t mean pipes won’t leak or burst.
Consider the consequences. While you’re away, even a small leak or other issues such as plumbing problems from water backing up can prove disastrous. Left unchecked, these issues will continue to pour water into your home for days or weeks, depending on how long you are away. You don’t want to receive a phone call from your neighbors that a river is flowing into your driveway while you’re lying on the beach hundreds of miles from home.
To prevent these types of scenarios, simply shut off the water to your home before you leave. This will limit the amount of damage any major plumbing problems can cause while you are gone. This step isn’t a must to enjoy your vacation, but it will provide additional peace of mind and could save your home from a flood.
2. Where Is My Main Water Shut-Off Valve?
If you’ve never shut off the water to your home, you probably don’t know where to locate your main water shut-off valve. This piece of information is important to have, since you may need to shut off your water in a hurry during an emergency.
If you experience a burst pipe or need to make repairs to a leak, shutting off the water to the house may be the first logical step. If you are going to be out of town, it’s also a good idea to shut off the water to ensure your home is flood-free when you return.
Locating your main water shut-off valve shouldn’t require much detective work, but you may need to search a bit. Follow these clues:
- It’s near the perimeter. Look around the inside perimeter of your home.
- It’s roughly 3 feet below ground level. If it’s in the basement, it will usually be eye level or lower. If it’s on the main floor, you’ll need to look down.
- It’s on the shortest route. Find your outdoor water meter and look for the nearest point of your home’s exterior. Water lines take the shortest path from the meter to the house. You should find the shut-off valve where the line and your house meet.
- It’s in your inspection report. Did you hire a home inspector to complete an inspection of your home when you purchased it? If so, did you keep the report? This should contain a notation of where your shut-off valve is located. Dig out the report to help you with your search.
- It’s behind a panel. Builders should not seal water shut-off valves behind drywall. However, if a remodeling project has hidden your valve, an access panel should be present to reach the valve. Look for any access panels in the walls.
3. Why Is My Water Cloudy and How Do I Fix It?
Have you ever poured yourself a glass of water from the tap and noticed the liquid looks more like milk than water? If you are experiencing cloudy water, it’s due to one of three reasons:
- Bubbles: The most common cause of cloudy water is air bubbles. It’s that simple. Air bubbles in the water create the cloudiness you see. This often occurs during cold weather. The combination of pressure and temperature changes creates air bubbles in the water as it travels to your faucet. The air bubbles are harmless and will dissipate with time. Simply let the water sit in an open glass or container for a few moments, and the bubbles will naturally rise to the top and disappear.
- Dirt: Sometimes, tiny particles can get into your water supply. These bits of sand and dirt get suspended in the water and cause cloudiness. This small amount of particles is generally harmless, although you probably prefer not to serve your guests cloudy water. It may taste okay, but it looks displeasing. To clear up your water, treat it with a sediment filter.
- Sulfur: Does your water smells like rotten eggs? If so, this indicates hydrogen sulfide is present. Sulfur bacteria thrive in plumbing systems or wells where there is little oxygen and they can thrive on rotting organic matter. They produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which gets trapped in your water. Chemical reactions in your water heater may be the cause, or the bacteria may be present in your well. Sulfur is not typically a threat to your health, but to ensure your water is safe, have it tested. To remove the unpleasant appearance and aroma, determine the source of the bacteria. For water heater issues, have the appliance serviced by a professional. For water source issues, ensure your system offers proper ventilation for the gas and install a home and water filtration unit to eliminate sulfur bacteria.
4. Why Is Water Leaking Through the Ceiling From My Light Fixture?
You’re sitting in your dining room, and suddenly the light globe above you starts to fill with water. You’re standing in your kitchen, and the recessed light over your sink suddenly turns into a shower faucet. What’s going on?
Often, walls and flooring hide small leaks, making them undetectable. The first detectable sign might be when the water finds its way through the floor into the light fixture. If this happens, you have a leak somewhere nearby. This is a common plumbing emergency. Take the following steps to correct it.
- Don’t touch it. Do not touch the light fixture or try to drain the water from it. Avoid using the fixture’s switch, too. Remember, water and electricity are not friends.
- Cut the power. Instead of turning off the light, go directly to your home’s breaker box and shut off the power.
- Cut the water. If you find the source of the water, such as an overflowing sink or washing machine, shut off the water supply there. If you aren’t sure where the source is, turn off the water supply at your home’s main shut-off valve.
- Call a professional. Contact a plumber to locate the leak and make repairs. Check with an electrician to determine if your light fixture is safe to use or should be replaced.
5. Why Do I Have to Disconnect My Hose for the Winter If the Spigot Says Frost-Free?
You’re preparing for winter, and you want to prevent cracked pipes. Your home is equipped with a “frost-free” spigot, so you figure the hose is one less thing you have to worry about. This isn’t true.
When you use your hose, water gets trapped in the line going to the spigot. This water remains once you’ve shut off the hose. When the temperature drops, this water freezes and causes the pipes to crack.
With a frost-free spigot, the cracking still occurs, but it usually happens behind the washer, inside your house. A non-frost-free spigot reveals cracks immediately, while frost-free spigots can make the problem less noticeable right away. Water may pour into your home while you are outside, unaware.
To prevent these issues, remove the hose before winter. For further protection, use the spigot’s shut-off valve, located inside your home. If you don’t have one, a plumber can install one for you.
6. Why Is My Water Bill So High?
You thought you budgeted well this month for your utilities. Then your water bill arrived. You were shocked. What happened? If you’ve noticed a recent spike in your water bill or have always had high water bills, this could be due to several factors. Some are major plumbing problems, and others are minor issues that are easily fixed. Consider the following:
- Leaking toilet: According to the EPA, toilets are the single biggest source of indoor water use, accounting for 24% of the water we use in daily life. If this appliance leaks, it can waste up to 200 gallons of water in one day.
- Leaky faucets: A leaky faucet is among the most common bathroom sink problems. A dripping faucet wastes water and increases your utility bill. The EPA notes that a faucet dripping one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
- Leaky irrigation: Do you have a lawn sprinkler system? It’s possible your high water bill is due to a leak in your irrigation. Check your lawn for damp areas or patches of greener grass.
- Leaky line: The underground pipes that connect your home to the meter may be cracked or loose. Tree roots, earthquakes and animal activity are common causes of these leaks.
- Inefficient fixtures: How old are the toilets, faucets and appliances in your home? Outdated fixtures are often the cause of plumbing problems in old homes. Modern washers, toilets, shower heads and other water fixtures are much more efficient than older models. If you consistently experience high water bills, it might be time to upgrade these items for greater efficiency.
- Lifestyle changes: Some water usage changes with the seasons. You may do more laundry in the winter. In the summer, you may fill your pool. These changes may cause a single spike in one water bill or a seasonal cycle of ups and downs.
- Water waste: The simple truth might be that you are wasting water. Check your water use habits. Common water wastes include leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth, running half-full loads of laundry, taking long showers and overwatering lawns. Try to cut down on your use and enjoy the payoff in your next water bill.
7. Why Are My Pipes Banging When I Use My Appliance?
Is laundry day starting to sound like a percussion band? Modern appliances often work so quickly they cause pipes to jerk as the water pressure changes. If the pipes are not fastened tightly, they may move around and cause banging noises. If this banging continues, it can wear out the pipes and cause damage. It’s also very annoying to listen to.
To prevent the pipes from banging, you can do one of three things:
- Locate the pipes making the noise and add pipe straps to hold them in place. You can find these at any store that sells plumbing supplies.
- If you are unable to access the pipes, you can install water hammer arrestors. These shock absorbers cushion the change in water pressure, so the pipes don’t jerk and bang.
- Call a plumber to investigate the problem and install one of these solutions for you.
8. What Is a Well Pump UV Light Used For?
Homeowners can use a variety of methods to treat their water. A well pump UV light is an effective method to treat water for bacterial organisms. The UV light kills 99.9 percent of biological contaminants, including bacteria, protozoa and viruses.
This light works by removing living organisms from the water by passing it through the UV rays. This passage alters the organisms’ DNA to prevent them from reproducing and leaves them inert. Installed at the point of entry, UV light is an effective way to remove biological contaminants from the water entering your home.
9. Why Do I Have a Sewer Smell in My Home?
Have you noticed an unpleasant odor drifting through your home? You didn’t burn dinner. You just cleaned the house. Still, for some reason, your home smells like the sewer. You can try to cover up the stench with scented candles, but this probably isn’t the best solution. This smell is typically caused by one of three reasons:
- Sewer trap plugs. Missing or loose sewer trap plugs are the most common cause of indoor sewer smell. Your sewer access pit contains a house trap. This is a U-shaped piece that traps water to serve as a barrier between the city sewer and your home. If the plug on this trap is poorly fitted or gone entirely, public sewer odor can travel into your home. Simply replace the plug, and your air should clear.
- Dried trap. If the water in the U-trap has dried up, it no longer acts as a barrier to the sewer odor. Run some water into the trap to recreate the barrier. This should eliminate the odor.
- City sewer. Is the odor coming from outside? A sewer smell outdoors can indicate the city sewer is experiencing major plumbing problems, not your home. However, if the smell persists, it may be due to the drains from your house. Contact a plumber to check your drainage system for proper functioning.
10. Why Is Quest Piping Bad to Have in Your Home?
Quest piping is a brand name for polybutylene piping. This is also commonly referred to as poly pipe. This type of piping was used in the construction of homes in the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. Builders and plumbers now know not to use this product, but it is still present in many structures from this era and can cause plumbing problems in old homes.
The problem with this product is its lack of durability. The pipe wears away from within as it is exposed to oxidants present in our water systems. Because it deteriorates from the inside, it is nearly impossible to detect any issues. The pipe usually looks fine from the outside, then suddenly leaks or bursts.
Even a professional inspector can’t usually determine from the outside if these pipes are in good condition. There are no warning signs of an imminent leak. The water tears away at the inside until one day you have a leak. Unfortunately, the leak is usually serious, since much of the pipe has deteriorated by then.
Get Professional Answers to More Plumbing Repair Questions
Do you have additional questions or need further assistance with plumbing repairs? Don’t hesitate to contact the experts at David LeRoy Plumbing Inc. Our technicians are available to assist you with everything from plumbing issues in the shower to the kitchen sink.
Don’t fret over when to call a plumber for a clogged drain. Our team is happy to help with issues big and small. Reach our local experts for quality service at 717-938-8214 or contact us online. Our emergency services are available 24/7.