Murphy's Law dictates that all plumbing disasters occur when you're entertaining, cooking a large meal or hosting guests for the weekend. Naturally, of course, they also generally occur on Saturday night or Sunday. Here's what you should do when they happen.
The only thing worse than dealing with a clogged toilet is clogging a toilet in someone else's home. Talk about embarrassing. That being said, toilets get clogged, even if you make it a point to have your main sewer line scoped once or twice a year. Thankfully, it's one of the easier plumbing problems to fix – usually a plunger will get things flowing again (so be sure to keep one in every bathroom). But sometimes you have to deal with the mother of all clogs, and that calls for more drastic measures.
There are a number of different tactics for dealing with a clogged toilet. You can use chemical drain cleaners, a coat hanger (be sure to wrap the end with toilet paper), a wet/dry vac, or a drain snake, to name a few. Regardless of what method you choose, just remember to turn off the water to the toilet (you don't want to compound the problem). If none of these options clear the clog you're going to need to call a plumber.
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Dealing with a clogged drain is a lot like dealing with a clogged toilet. But it could be an easier fix if the clog is located in the j-trap (the j-shaped pipe under your sink). Before you go taking apart pipes, try using a chemical drain cleaner. If that doesn't work, try snaking the pipe. If the clog still doesn't dislodge, take apart the j-trap to see if the obstruction is there. If it isn't, the clog is further down the line, and you'll need to call a plumber.
FIXING A BROKEN GARBAGE DISPOSAL
If you have a garbage disposal, you've probably dealt with clogs at one point or another. Aside from being a major (and sometimes smelly) annoyance, a clogged disposal is a problem that can often be prevented so long as you're mindful of what you put down it (no eggshells, potato peels, grease or coffee grounds).
That being said, a disposal is a machine, and machines do break. If you notice that it's taking longer than usual for your disposal to do its thing, there's a good chance its blades need sharpening. A quick and easy way to give the blades a new edge is to run a few ice cubes through the disposal.
If the disposal isn't running at all, locate the reset button on the bottom of the unit and press it. If it's still not working, it's time to call a plumber.
WATER HEATER WOES
There's usually little mystery when your water heater breaks: There's no hot water or the unit is leaking at the base. If you're dealing with a broken water heater, you'll need to call a professional. But in the case your water heater is working and you're running out of hot water sooner than you're used to (not good when you've got a house full of guests), it could be caused by sediment in the water tank – and you'll want to flush the unit to clear the debris.
Of course, it could be that your water heater is just old and needs to be replaced. If you want to make sure you never run out of hot water again, take a look at installing a tankless water heater. Since costs can vary, you'll want to get estimates from at least three pros.
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