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Plumbing Jobs You Can Do Yourself, Part 2

Last month, we taught you how to fix two of the most common plumbing problems by yourself. Now that you know how to fix leaky faucets and clogged drains like a pro, we think you’re ready to learn how to do a few more plumbing jobs. Doing simple maintenance like this will help keep your home’s plumbing running efficiently.

Just like last time, make sure you have the right tools for the jobs we’re teaching, and read the instructions carefully before you start. These jobs might seem pretty simple to you, but there’s always a way to get injured. Trust us…
Leaky Showerhead

Why It Happens

A leaky showerhead can happen for a couple reasons. If the shower head looks like it’s leaking from the wall, it’s probably because lime and calcium deposits have clogged up the shower head’s nozzles.

If the showerhead seems to leak from the nozzle, then the O-ring is probably worn down. A showerhead is basically another kind of faucet, so when it leaks it’s usually because of a worn out O-ring.

What You’ll Need

  • Pliers
  • Teflon Tape

(If the showerhead leaks from the wall)

(If the showerhead leaks from the nozzles)

  • Replacement O-ring

How to Fix It

Follow these two steps first, no matter which kind of repair you’re making:

  1. Turn off the water to the shower.
  2. Remove the showerhead. Locate the nut that affixes the head to the shower arm. Turn this nut counterclockwise to loosen it until you can take the shower head down. You may be able to loosen the nut with your hands, but if it’s on too tight, use your pliers or a crescent wrench. Loosen carefully to make sure you don’t drop the shower head when it comes off.

If showerhead leaks from wall

  1. Fill your glass bowl with the white vinegar.
  2. Put the showerhead into the white vinegar bath nozzle-first and let it soak over night.
  3. Lift the showerhead and pour some of your vinegar directly through it.
  4. Scrub the inside and outside of the showerhead nozzles with your old toothbrush or a toothpick.
  5. After scrubbing, use water to rinse the showerhead thoroughly.
  6. Wrap some of your teflon tape around the shower arm fitting where the head attaches.
  7. Re-affix the showerhead to the arm. Run the shower to make sure the nut is tight enough and the leaking has stopped.

If showerhead leaks from the nozzles

  1. Check inside the showerhead for the o-ring. It should be near where you unscrewed the nut. Check to see if the o-ring seems damaged.
  2. Take the o-ring out of your showerhead.
  3. Take the old o-ring with you when you look for a replacement, and use it to compare sizes.
  4. Insert the new o-ring into the showerhead by hand. Feel for a groove inside the showerhead where the o-ring should fit snugly. Press the o-ring gently with your thumb to make sure it’s seated properly.
  5. Wrap some of your teflon tape around the shower arm fitting where the head attaches. This helps make a seal.
  6. Re-affix the showerhead to the arm. Run the shower to make sure the nut is tight enough and the leaking has stopped.

Inefficient Water Heater

Why It Happens

If your water heater takes too long to heat water, runs too long, or bubbles and pops when it’s used, there’s probably sediment in the tank. As water passes through your water heater, it naturally leaves behind minerals like calcium carbonate, magnesium, scale, and sand. When enough sediment builds up in the bottom of the tank, it forces the heating element to work harder and lowers your water heater’s efficiency. The popping noises you may hear come from bubbles percolating up from under the sediment layer in the tank.

You should flush your water heater at least once a year to prevent sediment build up. You may want to flush the system more often if your heater is old. Here’s how you do that.

What You’ll Need

  • A garden hose
  • (Maybe) A 5+ gallon bucket (one you don’t mind getting dirty)
  • Protective gloves
  • Adjustable pliers
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • (Optional) a portable pump
  • (Optional) someone to keep an eye on water flow

How to Fix It

Drain

  1. Water heaters are either gas or electricity-powered. Depending on which you have, turn off either the gas or electricity to it. This step is VERY important.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Close the supply valve to the water heater. Locate the valve handle (above the heater) and turn it 90 degrees until it’s firmly in place.
  3. Turn on the hot water at the nearest faucet. Leave the hot water on for the next several steps.
  4. Put the protective gloves on. Locate the drain valve on the water heater’s tank (it’ll be near the bottom). Attach one side of your garden hose to the drain valve. If the hose seems loose, tighten by rotating the hose with pliers.
  5. Run the other side of the garden hose either into your 5-gallon bucket or outside to your driveway or gutter. If your water heater is in the basement, you’ll need a portable pump or nearby sump pump drain to transfer the water out safely.
  6. Open the drain valve, either by hand or after loosening with a flathead screwdriver. Water will flow from the tank through the hose and out to wherever you put the opposite end of the hose. If you’re using a bucket, be prepared to close the valve and empty the bucket frequently. Be careful: The water in the tank could be very hot.

Flush

  1. After the initial draining, re-open the cold water supply valve while keeping the hose attached. If you’re using a bucket, make sure it’s empty before you start this step, because the cold water will flow rapidly.  
  2. Keep flushing the system until the water coming from the tank looks completely clear and you can see no sediment in it.
  3. Close the water supply valve.
  4. Disconnect your hose and close and tighten the tank drain valve. Make sure the drain valve isn’t leaking or dripping.
  5. Re-open the cold water supply valve.
  6. Turn on all hot water faucets in your home. Once the fixtures stop sputtering and resume normal functioning, turn off the spigots again.
  7. Turn the water heater back on.

Depending on your level of experience or confidence, jobs like these can either seem too simple to even warrant explanation… or rather intimidating. That’s ok! Remember: even if you’re unable or unwilling to learn how to do the simple plumbing stuff, you always have us in your corner to help.

If you’re having some plumbing troubles you don’t want to try to handle yourself, give us a call today! We promise we can get the job done fast and right. Good luck with your projects!