In one week, I had to fix both a blockage in my new upstairs toilet and a leak from the sink in the vanity. Considering that the guest bathroom is really the one fully functioning bathroom I have in the house (the master bath is still unfinished and the powder room downstairs doesn’t have a tub), I was beyond frustrated at the thought of getting so close to a finished room only to have it yanked away.Plumbing is definitely not my strong suit, and it kind of intimidates me. So I rely on people who know better to give me a little advice. One call to Dad revealed a lot of lessons I hadn’t yet learned about fixing your own plumbing issues:
- If it’s metal on metal (like when you attach a new showerhead), you always need “thread seal” or “teflon” tape (see some other tips about installing a new showerhead here). You do not need tape in between plastic joints (like under the sink in your vanity).
- Leaks under the sink can often be fixed by hand-tightening the plumbing pieces. Hold one and tighten with your other hand so you are only moving the piece you want (and don’t cause other pipes to loosen more).
- A very common leak is where the sink basin meets the first pipe under your vanity. A common cause for this is bumping the pipe (since you often store items next to them, you have to be careful not to knock them out of place). I’ve had this happen twice now with both of the sinks that were installed. If you are hand tightening, you should be ok, but if you are using a tool, you must be very careful not to overtighten – doing so will cause the rubber part (the part that is the most effective at forming a tight seal) to break and you’ll have a leak that no amount of tightening will fix. You’ll have to then buy a replacement part and install it before you fix your issue (just like I had to with the first sink). This time around, it had only been hand tightened, so I simply tightened the pipe that seemed to be leaking a little more with my hand. To my surprise, the piece was fairly loose – it took another half turn to tighten things up before the sink stopped leaking.
- Another bit of advice: buy yourself a toilet or “closet” auger. A clogged toilet is never any fun to deal with, regardless of the cause (ew), and plungers won’t fix the tough ones. Some might even say that clogging is more common nowadays with low flow toilets, so having an auger on hand is more necessary than in the past. An auger is basically a long pole with a metal hose attached on one end and a crank on the other. The hose is barbed on the end and flexible, so it can snake through your pipes and loosen up clogs. A quality auger costs less than $50, and it will pay for itself within its first use (because you won’t have to pay for a plumber). This video uses the same brand that I have and explains very simply how to use the auger to unclog your toilet. A word of caution from Dad: when using this, be careful to stick that barbed end into the toilet without touching the sides of the bottom of the bowl (basically, you want to play Operation with this tool and gently place it into the bottom-most part of the toilet). The barbs can easily scratch the porcelain, and then you’re left with an unsightly scratch (but hey, the toilet works!). And as the video mentions, be careful that you don’t allow too much slack so that the hose doubles up on itself. If that happens, you will need a plumber, and it will cost you a lot of money to fix.
Got any of your own plumbing tips to share? Or just want to say “thanks, Sarah’s dad!”? Feel free!