Common Plumbing Problems

Common Plumbing Problems

Most us take it for granted that our household plumbing will work efficiently carrying fresh water to the faucet and whisking away wastes with a quick flick of a handle. Most of the time we are correct, but sometimes things go wrong leaving us battling the flood of water from burst pipes to fighting with a sluggish drain. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to avoid common plumbing problems in your home.

Kitchen Drains

Grease and grime from cooking can easily clog drains. To avoid this messy problem get in the habit of disposing of excess grease in the garbage before washing dishes.  Grease in the drain builds up quickly as it hardens on the inside of the pipe and can eventually cause the drain to become sluggish or back up completely. Avoiding pouring grease down the drain can save you from the expense and hassles of calling in a plumber. Get in the habit of scraping excess grease from your pans before adding them to the sink to keep you drain clean and grease free. Installing a strainer on your sink drain to capture bits of food and other debris and keeping it clean helps to avoid unnecessary drain clogs. Pouring boiling water down the drain once a month will help flush the drain of accumulated grease.

Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals differ from the traditional garbage can and should be treated with respect. Although they will whisk away food wastes, they are not designed to handle greasy foods or fibrous foods that can easily clog the system. Always run the water for 15 to 20 seconds before and after running the disposal to keep your drain clean. Adding a lemon to the garbage disposal once a month helps reduce odors and keeps it smelling clean and fresh.

Bathroom Drains

Hair and soap scum can quickly clog bathroom drains. Installing a screen in the drain to capture hair and other residue prevents issues with clogged bathroom drains, but they must be cleaned frequently.


Flushing items down the toilet that simply do not belong often cause toilet clogs. Teach all family members that the toilet is for bodily wastes and toilet tissue only to prevent issues with clogs. Keeping a plunger handy and teaching all household members how to use it properly prevents overflows should clogs occur.

Even though the toilet will last for many years, the parts inside the tank may not. These eventually wear and cause the toilet to leak water from the tank into the bowl without your knowledge. If you suspect your toilet is leaking water, add food coloring to the water in the tank and check the bowl in the morning. If the water in the toilet bowl has traces of food coloring, your flush valve needs to be replaced.  You can purchase a kit for a few dollars at the hardware store and replace the parts in a few minutes.


The washer hookup is a common site for plumbing problems, both from clogged screens in the hose where it enters the washer and in the rubber hoses that connect your washer to the main water source. Hoses can weather and crack over time. Check these often to prevent serious issues when you least expect it.


Sometimes roots from nearby trees and plant life enter the pipes of the septic system causing the water flow to become sluggish. Treating your septic system with products designed to kills roots every six months keeps your septic system free of roots.

Freezing or Burst Pipes

Freezing pipes is a common problem in areas where temperatures dip below freezing during the winter months. Frozen pipes will prevent water from traveling through them and if left unattended may burst the pipe leaving your with a mess to contend with. Checking you plumbing in the fall to insure that pipes are not exposed to the weather and insulating them if necessary, prevents issues with freezing pipes during the winter. Check the point where your pipes enter the home, in crawl spaces and any unheated area where pipes may be exposed to the cold.

Turn off and drain outside faucets as winter approaches to prevent them from freezing and bursting during the winter.


Taking care of your plumbing and treating it with respect avoids many common plumbing problems, and keeps your household running smoothly, but sometimes the services of an experienced local plumber are necessary. Finding one you can trust and who is available when needed preserves your peace of mind that if things go wrong, and they sometimes will, you have a trusted plumber to turn to.

Nannette Richford is a freelance writer from rural Maine where she lives with her family. When not writing about gardening, she can be found working in her garden where she has grown flowers, herbs and vegetables for over 25 years. Richford has extensive writing experience in gardening and landscape and has been published in influential online industry publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate), Garden Guides and Yahoo! Shine. She also publishes her own website Maine Garden Ideas. Follow Nannette on Twitter.