8 DIY Plumbing Repairs You Can Do at Home
Author: Matthew Cooper
Most plumbing projects look a bit challenging for most homeowners to handle themselves. However, they’re not always that challenging. There are some plumbing replacements and repairs you can actually do by yourself without requiring any experience.
We’ve gathered some DIY projects you can easily do at home. These projects mainly involve repairing leaky taps, running toilets, and replacing plumbing fixtures such as showerheads and taps.
The projects we’ve included are relatively easy beginner-level fixes. You can try fixing them yourself to save money.
First, Know the Things You Can Easily Handle and those that Need an Expert
While these projects are relatively simple, plumbing tends to be tricky. Thus, if you’re not sure about something, don’t shy away from asking for help. The projects in our detailed listing are straightforward.
However, something tricky can always come up when you least expect it, especially when working with fixtures in an older home.
Always do more research in case our details look a bit different from your plumbing system. You can always use the internet to do further research.
In case you have some questions about the right parts for your plumbing fixtures and fittings, the guys at your local hardware store can assist you. Just visit your local hardware store with details about the model and brand of the fixture you want.
You can even take some pictures of the old parts and carry them with you to the hardware store. Doing so will assist in getting the right fixture. If you feel unsure about anything, then contact your local Sydney plumber.
Turn Off Your Water Supply
Before getting started with most home plumbing projects, you should ensure the water supply to what you’re fixing is turned off. In most cases, you can find a compression valve or gate valve to turn off a fitting’s water supply.
Turn the valve clockwise until it’s tight to turn the water supply off. Once done, turn the valve counter-clockwise such that the water supply will be turned back on. For sinks, check below the sink for two valves.
In this case, one of the valves is usually meant for the hot water supply whereas the other one is for cold water. Some kitchen sinks may also have valves for appliances such as the dishwasher, fridge, and ice maker.
Just turn off each and every valve on the sink. As for the toilet, you’ll find its shutoff valve behind it or by its side or near the wall.
If you’re unable to access or can’t find a valve for the fixture you want to repair, then you should turn off the entire home’s water supply from the main valve.
You’ll often do this when working with showers and bathtubs. Some bathroom fixtures may have some kind of access panel behind them, but it’s not guaranteed to find it.
The main shutoff valve is typically located near the water meter. In some cases, you might find the valve along the street. At other instances, it might be located within your home near the wall area where the main supply line gets into your home.
You can confirm that water supply to a fixture is indeed turned off by turning on the fixture’s shutoff valve. If the main water supply is turned off correctly, then water won’t flow out of the fixture.
Gather the Right Plumbing Supplies and Tools
If you have the right plumbing supplies and tools, then you’ll stand better chances of getting the project done successfully. Using the wrong tools can lead to a total mess. Luckily, you’ll only need a few tools for the projects described here.
Moreover, the tools required are quite inexpensive. You’ll actually spend less than you would on a plumber despite buying the tools. Moreover, you won’t need all these tools since you’ll only buy what is required for your project.
The supplies and tools you’ll require, including regular tools such as screwdrivers and replacement parts, include:
Pipe Wrench: You’ll need a pipe wrench to unfasten or fasten most fittings. Using a pipe wrench is more ideal than using a vice grip or crescent spanner since it has better grips and is wider. Its teeth can grip a fitting according to the direction you’re turning it, be it clockwise or counterclockwise.
Seat Wrench: This wrench is only required for replacing some specific types of sink taps and bathtub.
Basin Wrench: You’ll need this type of wrench to access nuts in tight places such as the type of tap used in bathroom sinks. This type of wrench has a head that can be adjustable at an angle, making it easier to access nuts in tight places.
Teflon Tape: You’ll need Teflon tape for wrapping threads on pipe fittings. This tape enhances pipe joints to prevent leaking.
Plumber’s Putty: It’ll help to get plumber’s putty to seal joints, such as the joint between the sink drain and the sink basin. Plumber’s putty is advantageous in that it air-dries. Moreover, it’s easier to work with for it doesn’t stick on the fingers. It lasts longer if stored in a sealed container.
Drain Snake: A drain snake, also known as a plumber’s snake, is a long tool used for clearing clogs that sit deep within a drain. A drain snake unblocks most clogs. They’re available in various lengths. Some are manually operated while others are powered.
1. Fix a Leaking/Running Toilet
The operating mechanism of a toilet is quite simple. When the toilet bowl has enough water, it’s able to generate enough pressure to flush the toilet. Although you can flush your toilet by pouring water down the bowl with a bucket, using its flushing mechanism is much better. The main components of a toilet are:
The Tank: It stores water for flushing.
Filler Valve: This valve is usually connected to the toilet water supply. The valve controls the water flow into the toilet tank by stopping the flow once the tank has enough water and opening the flow once the tank empties. A filler float closes the filler valve once the tank is full. An overflow tube in the toilet tank allows for extra water to flow out when the filler valve is malfunctioning.
A Flapper (flush valve): It controls the water release mechanism from the toilet tank upon flushing. The flapper opens up entirely to release water quickly. Once the water is released, it closes up to allow the tank to fill up and ensure more water doesn’t flow into the toilet bowl.
Some toilets have these components built into a unified design while others are built separately. Regardless of the design, these components are found within the toilet tank. If your toilet is running without flushing, then it might be having a problem such as:
The toilet flush valve is faulty and needs replacement
There’s excessive water level in the toilet tank such that it’s running over the toilet overflow tube. The toilet continues refilling thinking that the water level is low.
The toilet flush valve is not closing up completely such that it’s allowing some water to seep through it. As such, the toilet will refill more often than usual.
2. Fixing a Dripping or Leaking Bathtub Tap
The taps that are used with bathtubs are either single-handle or double-handle in design. They use the same mechanism as sink taps.
In case your bathtub has a classic double-handle design and is attached to the wall or tub, then you might be working with a simple compression tap. You’ll likely need to replace the valve when fixing a dripping or leaking tap.
3. Fixing a Dripping or Leaking Sink Tap (single-handle)
Most sink taps drip from their water spout or leak from the handle area. The drips and leaks usually result from faults in the handle.
Taps with a single handle are mostly found on kitchen sinks, but some bathroom sinks also have them. They work by one of these mechanisms:
Cartridge: The cartridge controls how the water flows. The cartridge usually has O-rings or washers below and above it to create a tight seal. The washers or rings also keeps the cartridge protected from wearing out.
Rotating Ball: This mechanism involves a ball that has a slot and rests on seals which are loaded with springs. The springs, seals, and gaskets may wear out with time, thereby causing water leakage from the tap.
Ceramic Disc: Taps with a ceramic disc mechanism have an upper and lower ceramic disc. The lower ceramic disc is fixed whereas the upper ceramic disc is movable. The upper ceramic disc usually moves in such a way that it closes or opens the tap, thereby controlling the water flow.
When fixing sink taps with a single handle, you’ll start by removing the handle. Next, you’ll remove the mechanism. Finally, you’ll replace the seal or the entire mechanism.
In case you can’t determine the part causing the drip or leak, then buy each component individually. You can also consider buying a repair kit suitable for taps with a single handle and replace all the components.
4. Fixing a Dripping or Leaking Sink Tap (double-handle)
Sink taps with a double handle are mostly found in bathroom sinks. However, some kitchen sinks also have this type of taps. Double-handle taps usually operate under three mechanisms including ceramic disc, cartridge, and compression mechanisms.
The disc and cartridge mechanisms in a double-handle tap are similar to that of sink taps that are single-handled as discussed earlier. The compression mechanism, also known as reverse-compression comprises of rubber washers.
These washers compress against each other to close the valve. The rubber washers wear out quickly than the ceramic disc and cartridge, but are the most inexpensive mechanism to repair.
Fixing double-handle taps is similar to fixing single-handle taps. You’ll start with removing the handle, followed by removing the tap mechanism, and finally replacing the faulty parts. You can also buy a double-handle tap replacement kit to replace all the components.
5. Replacing a Faulty Sink Tap
In case the tap is dripping, you can try to fix the leak rather than replacing it. You can also get rid of an old tap by replacing it with a new one. The replacement process is quite easy.
First, you’ll need to know the correct replacement tap. The replacement tap should match the holes on your sink. Here’re the different configurations for holes that come with sinks:
Single-hole sinks: This configuration comprises of one tap that comes up from one hole. Single-hole types of sinks don’t have a deck.
Double-hole sinks: One of the holes in a double-hole sink is meant for the tap and the other hole is meant for installing a sink accessory such as a liquid soap dispenser.
Three-hole sinks: Sinks with three holes mostly comprise of two holes that are meant for the tap handles and one hole from which the spout comes up. Some three-hole sinks usually comprise of one hole meant for the handle whereas the remaining two holes are covered by the deck. Three-hole sinks are commonly found in bathrooms.
Four-hole sinks: Sinks with four holes usually comprise of one hole from which the spout comes up, whereas two holes are meant for the handles, and the fourth hole is meant for installing a sprayer or soap dispenser. Some four-hole sinks have a tap with a single handle. Four-hole sinks are most common in kitchens. You can easily tell the kind of sink you have by checking underneath it and count all the holes. When doing the replacement, ensure you follow the instructions that usually come with a new tap. Although the taps on bathroom and kitchen sinks may have some differences, their installation process is generally similar.
6. Adjusting the Sink Pop-up Stopper
In case the bathroom sink appears to be draining slowly rather than holding water, then it has a problem you can easily fix. You’ll most probably need to adjust the assembly below the sink.
The bathroom sink usually has a pop-up drain with an arm. The arm connects to the drainage pipe and has a small rod.
The rod usually goes through the drainage pipe. It’s held in position by a metallic strip that has some holes. The strip is directly connected to a handle or lever that is pulled when opening and closing the sink stopper.
7. Installing a Showerhead
Installing a showerhead is one of the simplest DIY home plumbing projects. You’ll only unscrew the damaged or old showerhead from its supply pipe (shower arm).
After removing the old showerhead, start with cleaning the pipe threads on which it was attached. Then take some Teflon tape and wrap it around the pipe threads. Once done, you’ll screw the new showerhead onto the supply pipe.
Read the instructions that come with the new showerhead before installation. Some showerheads don’t require using Teflon tape.
They may leak when Teflon tape is used on the threads. Others may require using Teflon tape for a tight seal. Thus, follow the manufacturer instructions carefully.
In some cases, you might find a situation where the pipe is extremely short or it’s angled in such a way that the new showerhead may not easily fit.
In most case, wand showerheads may be challenging to fit in angled or sharp shower arms such that the wall interferes with fitting the wand. Such problems can be avoided by buying a showerhead that will fit in the specific shower arm.
Else, you can add an extension to the shower arm. You can find an extension from your local hardware store where you’ll buy your desired showerhead.
8. Clearing a Blocked Bathtub Drain
It’s quite frustrating when the drain in your tub gets blocked due to clogs. Clearing a tub drain is a little challenging.
There’s a lot of hair and gunk that goes down the tub drain regularly. Also, bathtub drains, in most cases, make a sharp 90 degrees turn, making it quite challenging to snake them.
You can unclog your bathtub drain by first removing its drain plate. The plate is round in shape and has a lever that opens and closes the drain stopper.
It’ll require some effort to remove the plate. Upon accessing the straight drain piping, then you’ll easily snake it to clear the clog.
Matt is a DIY home and garden enthusiast, and loves the process of constructing and repairing things by himself in his spare time. He is a Senior Software Engineer by profession, and has a Masters degree in Information Technology from The University of Technology Sydney. He lives in Sydney, Australia with his beautiful wife Anne and daughter Sarah.