Nobody likes to deal with plumbing issues, but they happen occasionally even in new houses. You might face a leaky faucet, a sink that won’t drain, or a shower that just doesn’t exert enough pressure. In some situations, you’re going to have to call a plumber—but is it possible to avoid that possibility, and just fix the issue on your own?
The short answer is “sometimes.” There are a few plumbing issues you might be able to correct on your own, even with minimal experience, but with most moderate to severe issues, you’re better off calling a professional.
Types of Issues You Can Fix on Your Own
Let’s make things easy by focusing on the types of issues you might be able to fix on your own:
- A clogged toilet. If your toilet is clogged from normal use, you may be able to clear the clog easily on your own. Take a plunger with an extension flange and create a seal around the toilet hole; push in and out firmly a few times, keeping plenty of water in the bowl to cover the plunger. For most clogs, this is all that’s necessary to clear the blockage. Try it a few times, flushing in between to see if your work is effective. If plunging the toilet doesn’t work, you can purchase an inexpensive snake at a local hardware store and see if that can clear the area. If those fail, or if you run into additional issues, you’ll need to call a plumber.
- A running toilet. You may also be able to fix a running toilet on your own. If you notice your toilet is constantly running, lift the lid on the back of the toilet. You’ll see a mechanism responsible for filling the toilet bowl with water whenever it’s flushed. There could be several possible issues here; for example, the flapper at the bottom may not be forming a proper seal, or your floater may not be connected to the fill valve properly. Simple adjustments here can usually fix the problem. Of course, if you run into issues, you’ll want to call a plumber.
- A leaky faucet. In some cases, leaky faucets can be fixed with minimal plumbing experience. For example, you might be able to tighten a connection point and immediately stop the leak. Unfortunately, many leaks are outside the scope of an average DIYer, and require the intervention of a professional plumber.
- A clogged sink or bathtub. Clogged sinks or bathtubs can be more complicated than clearing a toilet, since the root cause is less certain. However, you may be able to use a wire or a snake to manually clear the drain. If that doesn’t work, you may be able to remove the “P-trap”—the U-shaped pipe underneath your sink—and clear it of any debris. If this doesn’t resolve your issue, you may be dealing with a more complex clog—and one that requires a plumber’s intervention.
Why Call a Plumber?
For bigger issues, or those that fall outside the scope of those mentioned in the previous section, you might feel ambitious enough to try your own hand before calling a plumber. After all, you can probably find a YouTube tutorial instructing you how to solve this issue with tools you already have, or with parts from the local hardware store.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind about this scenario:
- You don’t really know what you’re doing. Even if you read a few guides online and you feel like you understand the problem, you don’t actually know what you’re doing. Your toilet or sink may be set up differently than the example you saw online, and if you run into trouble, you won’t know what to do next. Also, plumbing systems are complex, and you may end up doing more damage, rather than fixing the problem.
- A professional can do this faster. Even if you do have a grasp on what to do, a plumber will be able to do this faster and more efficiently. You might save money by doing it yourself, but you’ll spend far more time than if you just hired someone to take care of the issue.
- Big issues can cause damage fast. With issues bigger than simple clogs, damage can snowball quickly. A big leak or a frozen pipe can cause long-term damage to your home in a short amount of time, and only a professional will be able to mitigate that damage effectively. If you’re looking at a plumbing emergency, don’t try to handle it on your own.
Making the Call
If you’re not sure of your own plumbing abilities, or if you just want to take care of the issue as quickly and professionally as possible, the best thing to do is call a plumber. Get a few quotes from plumbers in your area, and choose the professional you trust to handle the job best. Chances are, you’ll be glad you turned to a pro instead of trying to do the work yourself.