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Is It Time to Call a Plumber? How to Tell When an Easy Fix Isn't Enough

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Americans use roughly 100 gallons of water each day in their homes. This means the odds are pretty high that sooner or later you’ll be contending with a plumbing issue. And when DIY turns into a disaster, it’s time to call a plumber. Some plumbing problems look like an easy fix, but it’s important to know when to call in the professionals. We understand that many homeowners try to tackle projects themselves when possible. That’s why it’s important to know how to tell when an easy fix isn’t enough. 

Slow drains

The problem with slow drains is they always get worse. Eventually, the problem causing your sink to drain slowly could lead to a complete clog. Left alone long enough, it could even lead to something much more serious -and expensive- to fix.

If your drains aren’t working as well as they should be, you should call a plumber right away. When you’re taking a shower, does it feel like you’re wading in a kiddie pool? Does the water in your kitchen sink fill up to your elbows while you’re washing dishes? If so, you may have a drainage issue.

While there can be many culprits, the crux of the matter is that something is clogging up your plumbing. From children’s toys to food waste and even small rodents (gross, we know!), anything could be stuck in your pipes and you won’t know just by looking down your dark drain.

However, a well-trained plumber can use a special tool called an auger to dislodge troublesome clogs. This long, flexible instrument is 10 times more effective than DIY tools. Rather than waste time and potentially damage your pipes, drainage issues are a reason to call a professional. 

Low or inconsistent water pressure

Low water pressure has two main causes: a singular, fixture-based issue, or a whole home issue. You can usually fix fixture-based pressure problems simply by cleaning the fixture’s aerator. That’s an easy DIY fix - sometimes. You can usually address this by unscrewing the aerator and cleaning out the sediment with a little scrubbing or a vinegar soak.

But if cleaning out an aerator doesn’t do the trick or if the low pressure is in more than one sink, you may have a much more significant problem lurking beneath the surface. And if you aren’t experienced with unclogging a faucet aerator, best to leave that fix to a professional, as well. 

Additionally, whole-home problems are even bigger and more complicated to fix. If your whole home is having a water pressure issue, you’ll need a plumber. A professional plumber can determine the problem and fix it quickly and effectively. And if you feel as though you spend ages under the showerhead and still never really get clean, you’re likely wasting time plus money on your water bill. 

A dripping faucet

A single faucet dripping once per second can waste thousands of gallons of water each year. In fact, if your shower is dripping just 10 times a minute, you’ll be paying for an additional 500 gallons of water each year.

Sometimes a drip can be a quick fix with a little tightening, some plumbers’ tape, or a new bracket. And you can certainly try a DIY fix first. However, a steady drip may indicate a crack in a pipe or an element that’s installed incorrectly. 

While drips may not seem hugely problematic, they can drive up your monthly water bill by hundreds of dollars. Additionally, dripping faucets cause all sorts of other problems. The constant dripping will wear out the inner workings of your fixtures, causing additional damage.

Dripping water also wears away at your sink grout and caulk. That’s why a drip is a very good reason to call in a professional plumber.

Discolored or smelly water

Your water should always be clear, fresh, and completely odorless. If the water coming out of your fixtures looks or smells funny, there’s something wrong. Brown discoloration can indicate too much iron in the water. Green can be a sign of copper corrosion. And weird smells can indicate that sewage is seeping into your water. Gross!

Essentially, if your water doesn’t seem right, it means your plumbing isn’t right either. Sometimes a backup or clog can create a smell that permeates through your home. This is a sign of major plumbing distress, and you should call a professional right away. 

There are several problems associated with nasty smelling water. Sometimes drainpipes aren’t properly ventilated, or they may clog over their lifetime. Damage to your property from storms or heavy rains may cause backups in your sewage systems and pumps. Clogs in a toilet or pipe may be out of reach or stronger than what a plunger can handle, so the backup is allowed to fester. In order to quickly dial in on the real issue, don’t bother with a DIY fix. Whenever you smell that something is wrong, it’s time to call the plumber.‌

Strange sounds from your pipes

Strange plumbing sounds are always a reason to call your plumber. Vibrations could mean that your water pressure is too high and it’s shaking the pipes. Thudding or shuddering sounds are often caused by a phenomenon called water hammer. Squealing faucest may indicate that some interior parts are corroded or loose. And gurgling toilets are typically a sign of worn-out or faulty valves.

No water

While no plumbing issue is fun, nothing raises alarms quite like turning on a faucet and not getting any water. If you find that you’re suddenly not getting anything beyond a drip, call your neighbors and a plumber. If your neighbors have the same problem, a plumber can help you figure out who to call for your property.

If it’s only your home, you’ll want a plumber to solve the problem quickly. Having no water can be a major warning sign that something has gone terribly wrong. There could be an undiscovered blockage somewhere, or even a serious leak. That said, you won’t be able to tell where to look just by guessing. An experienced plumber, however, can help find the source of the issue using diagnostic tools and work to quickly correct it.

No HOT water

After a long day, nothing sounds better than a long, hot shower. But what if you can’t get your water temperature to rise? From cooking and bathing to doing the laundry, hot water is a daily convenience. And we only realize its importance when we don’t have it!

Most of the time, a failed water heater is the cause if you’ve lost your hot water. Your system may be totally shot, or it might just require a little maintenance. Sometimes your hot water may not last if your tank isn’t big enough. A professional plumber can help you determine what tank size you’ll need and install it when you’ve made your choice. They can also can walk you through checking the breaker and many other small issues that can cause concern. Regardless, it’s best to bring in a plumber as well as an HVAC technician to diagnose the issue and help you decide on next steps.

Hot water issues are never DIY. These systems can have electrical and gas components that should be left to a professional to mitigate risk to your body and home. You may be facing a serious risk, which is why you must have a professional check your igniters, fuses, thermostats, heating elements, pipes and much more.

Toilet trouble 

Running toilets are one of those issues that can creep up on you and even go unnoticed for a while. However, a running toilet signals that something more serious is giong on within your plumbing system. If water is constantly filling up in the tank, your water bill will also rise along with it.

There is a seal that connects your toilet tank to its bowl. When this seal is damaged in any way, water is allowed to leak in, which signals the tank to keep refilling over and over again. That accounts for the running noise you’re hearing from down the hall. Your plumber can remediate this problem and give you the silence and peace of mind you need.

Toilets overflowing are another frustrating issue. Sometimes these issues are easy to address and other times the root cause is hidden. Especially if your toilet overflows but isn’t visibly clogged. If your toilet is overflowing, turn off your water. If possible, keep the water off and use other facilities until a professional is able to check out the toilet for you. The water shutoff for most toilets is beneath the bowl at the back or on the left-hand side.

If your toilet started to flow immediately after a flush, you’re probably experiencing a blockage. Clogs in the toilet can be solved with a plunger more often than not because they dislodge whatever is stuck. If a few plunges don’t do the trick, stop and call a plumber. Continuing to try to plunge it may damage your toilet and potentially your piping. A good, professional plumber should arrive quickly to unclog it, determine the problem, and help prevent it from happening again.

Other issues:

  • Standing water
  • Burst pipes
  • Backflow
  • Installing new appliances
  • Water heater is sweating or “weeping” 

Skip the DIY fix

There are some things in life we can guess our way through, but plumbing isn’t one of them. Unless you’re trained in the most recent coding standards and have years of hands-on experience, you’ll likely be guessing at the diagnosis and solution. Not only could this make matters more difficult for you down the road, but it could also present a safety risk. 

To this end, it’s wisest to call an experienced local plumber right away. By going this route, you can rest assured that a solution is on its way. And when you use a TrustDALE certified professional, you're always protected by Dale's trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right Guarantee.