Plumbing issues seem to arise more than any other maintenance problem in a rental property. Although some problems will require professional attention, being able to act quickly on your own to take care of smaller issues can save you time and money in the long run. Here's a look at five of the most common issues that come up with plumbing.
When a faucet leaks, it's generally for one of two reasons. It could be that the nuts at the base of the faucet are loose and simply need to be tightened with a wrench. If that's not the issue, then it's likely that small, circular washer in the faucet is getting worn out and needs to be replaced.
To make this repair, first turn off the water by turning the handles found below the sink. Then remove the faucet handle by taking out the screws holding the handle in. Some faucet handles may have a plastic cap covering the screws. This can either be screwed off or pried off with a flathead screwdriver. After the handle is off, you will find the old washer. Simply replace it with a new one, which can most likely be purchased for a few cents at a local hardware store.
Luckily, tenants should generally be able to take care of clogged toilets on their own, especially if you leave them a plunger that has a flange (a cylinder looking rubber piece coming out of the bell of the plunger) as it will fit the toilet better and produce better results.
If a tenant calls you with a stubborn clog, have him try waiting 10 minutes for the toilet's water level to lower before taking action. Next, have the tenant make sure to cover the hole completely with the plunger's suction cup, achieving a good seal before plunging firmly and slowly.
If plunging doesn't work, the next step is to use a drain snake. These can be purchased relatively cheaply and are not difficult to use. Simply put the wire snake down the drain until you can feel the clog on the other end then turn the snake clockwise so that the clog snags on the end of the snake. From here you can pull out the clog. For a little bit more money, you can buy a snake with a closet auger which will allow you to maneuver around the curves in the pipes much more successfully.
A clogged showerhead is a common problem with an easy fix. Start by using a toothpick to remove some of the clogs in the holes of the showerhead. Next, the showerhead should be submerged in vinegar. There are a couple ways of doing this. One is to remove the fixture and place it in a bowl of vinegar. If the fixture is difficult to remove, fill a heft plastic bag with vinegar and put the bag around the head and tie it on with a rubber band. In either case, leave it in the vinegar for several hours or overnight. The vinegar will dissolve minerals and should resolve the problem. If you can't stand the smell of vinegar, try denture tablets instead.
Fixing leaky pipes is not for every DIY-er, but if you're confident in your abilities, and/or up for an adventure, there are several ways to fix a leaky pipe. First, after assessing exactly where the leak is, you will need to turn off the main water valve and drain the water out of the pipes via faucets downstream from where you will be working. From here there are a few different options. One would be to solder the pipe with a propane torch to fuse the leak. Alternately, you could try using a patch kit (sold at hardware stores), or you could get a piece of rubber to put around the joint that is leaking, using a clamp to hold it in place. You could also use water activated fiberglass-resin tape to wrap around the leaking joint.
Before taking extreme action to solve a water pressure issue, you should verify that the limited pressure you're experiencing can't be attributed to any of the issues already mentioned (clogged showerhead, faucets, etc.). If none of these issues is to blame, use a water pressure gauge to evaluate the issue. Standard water pressure is 60 psi. If your pressure is lower than that, try asking your local water utility to check their water meters for any issues. You should also check your home's main water valve to make sure it isn't partially closed. While you may end up calling in a plumber to install either a larger main water supply pipe or a booster pump, simpler solutions will often do the trick.