Common plumbing problems, causes, and solutions
PROBLEM: Low water pressure or yellowish coloured water
Cause(s): If you experience low water pressure, first confirm that your shut-off valves are fully open, as slightly closed valves allow a smaller-than-normal volume of water to pass through the pipe. The next thing to check is what type of pipe you have. If you have galvanized (steel) pipes, the probable cause for low water pressure is corrosion or rust inside the pipe. You may see yellowish water when you first turn on your faucet. If you have copper or PEX (plastic) pipes, then low water pressure may be due to small-diameter pipes ( ½ inch) being used for all plumbing in the house/building. Regardless of pipe material, the other cause of low pressure is a broken main water line from the city water supply to the house/building. In this case you may also experience water entering the basement.
Solution(s): In the case of corroded galvanized (steel) pipe, the pipe must be replaced. Consider using copper or PEX pipe to avoid a similar problem in the future. If the plumbing was laid using small-diameter pipes, some parts of your plumbing must be replaced with greater-diameter pipes. In the case of a broken main line the pipe must be replaced, which involves excavation.
PROBLEM: Slow draining sink, bathtub or shower
Cause(s): The common causes of a slow-draining kitchen sink are grease build-up in the pipe, or crumbs/other food particles in the p-trap or further along the pipe. Sometimes, a utensil may have fallen down the drain and is caught in the p-trap. The common cause of a slow-draining bathroom basin, bathtub or shower is hair in the p-trap or further along the pipe. In all cases, slow drainage is usually due to some type of blockage in the pipe.
Solution(s): For the kitchen sink, try filling the sink with a lot of very hot water. This could melt and remove a grease blockage, in which case you avoid calling a plumber. If this does not work or the drain is totally blocked, a drain cleaning machine is required. If a utensil has fallen down the drain, the p-trap must be removed and cleared. For a blocked bathroom basin, first remove and clear the p-trap. If the sink is still blocked, then a drain cleaning machine is required. To clear a blocked bathtub or shower, first make sure the strainer is clear. If so, the use of a drain cleaning machine is necessary.
PROBLEM: Running toilet
Cause(s): If your toilet is constantly running, the flapper or fill-valve may be defective. Another cause is that the water-level is too high, so the water empties via the overflow. The third common cause is a broken adjustment component.
Solution(s): In the case of a defective or broken component, the component must be replaced. If the water level is too high, the water level must be lowered using the adjustment screw.
PROBLEM: No hot water
Cause(s): If you have no hot water, the first thing to confirm is that the breaker for the hot water tank is on, as a closed breaker inhibits energy to the tank. One common cause of no hot water is a leaky safety valve, which causes water to drain from the tank before heating. Another common cause is a burned element, either on the top or bottom of tank.
Solution(s): In the case of a leaky safety valve, shut-off the water supply (valve on top of the water heater) and energy supply to the hot water heater. The valve must be replaced. A burned element cannot be identified without a volt meter. A plumber can identify and replace a burned element. If you can live without hot water for a little while, these problems are not emergencies, so there is no need to panic!