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Can you do plumbing?

Updated on May 15, 2014
The scary under sink cabinet
The scary under sink cabinet

Are you a plumber?

Can you do plumbing? Everyone has met with a plumbing problem at some time or another. That dripping faucet or that little leak under the sink…can you do the plumbing repairs?

That little leak under the sink is the most challenging of all. Everything’s going along fine until one day you take the cleaning bottle out from under the sink and it’s wet. How did it get wet?There must be a leak. Interesting, you didn’t know there was a leak.Of course you didn’t, when was the last time you looked under the sink? Obviously not until now. So you look under the sink. If it happens to be your kitchen sink you have a hot water pipe, cold water pipe, dishwasher connection, and a drain pipe. Doesn’t sound too complicated. However, tracing the leak is like trying to find a particular ant in any given anthill.

Everything’s wet but nothing is leaking. So, you dry everything off and wait to see where the leak is. Sure enough in a few minutes everything is wet again. Okay, now you have to empty everything out from underneath the sink .If you’re anything like me this is a Herculean task as there are numerous objects stored under the sink. All of your cleaning products, shoe polish, sponges, rags, kitchen garbage bags, just to name a few. You were meaning to clean that out but never got a chance. Well, now’s your chance. So, you take everything out from under the sink. Clean it up, dry it up and wait for the leak.This really shouldn’t be difficult as there are only a few pipes. You turn on the cold water and look for the leak .Nothing. You turn on the hot water and look for the leak. Nothing. Now you check the drain, aha, water. In order to fix the leak you have to turn off the water. IF you are lucky the shut off valves for the hot water and cold water are not ‘frozen’ open. If you are not lucky one of them is stuck which means now you have to replace the shut off so you can shut off the water to work under the sink. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight if someone turned the water on while you were under the sink with the drain pipe disconnected. Are you beginning to feel like a plumber?

View of hot & cold water pipes, dishwasher pipe with drain pipe in the foreground
View of hot & cold water pipes, dishwasher pipe with drain pipe in the foreground

Fixing the Leak

Okay, you replace the valve. Hopefully you remembered to shut off the water main to the whole house before you tried to fix that valve! Not as easy as it sounds, but you do it and move on. Now you have to take the drainpipe apart. Also easy. Not so easy is finding the leak so you decide to just change the drain pipe and put in a new one. You go to the hardware store or the nearest Home Depot to buy a new drainpipe because you don’t have any lying around. Of course your drainpipe and the drainpipes in the store are different sizes. I think they change these sizes yearly just so you have to buy new ones! You finally manage to find one that will fit and take it home to finish the job. When you get home you realize you didn’t buy any sealer (actually pipe dope) or silicone tape or plumber’s putty to keep the new drainpipe from leaking when it is connected. Back to the store.

Now you can take out the old one and put in the new. You have to make sure to put the nuts and washers on and add the ‘pipe dope’ to seal the ends of the pipes. With a little luck and a lot of praying everything works when you’re done. When you turn on the water and there are no leaks you feel like you’ve just won a gold medal in the Olympics! You did it.

Bathroom sink drain

Under your sink will mostly likely look more like this with rusting valves than the new shiny pipes you see on the home channels.
Under your sink will mostly likely look more like this with rusting valves than the new shiny pipes you see on the home channels. | Source

Drain Clogs and Clearing Them

What about the sink that keeps backing up? It’s always a pleasure to have to wait five minutes for a sink to drain or to wait and watch the water just stand in the drain. Of course your first line of defense is a plunger but that doesn’t always work but you try it anyway. Your next line of defense is Drano. The great thing about Drano is, unless there’s something extremely large stuck in your pipe, Drano will eat it up and clear it out. There are many imitations out there but if you want it to really work and get the job done, go for the gold and get Drano. You can smell the chemicals working and after the allotted time you run water down the drain and voila, it works! You didn’t even have to be a plumber to fix this one! Of course there are many more intricacies to plumbing but with a lot of luck and prayer you won’t have to deal with them, especially not on your own.

If the Drano doesn't work you will have to open up the drain pipe and see if you can find what's clogging up the works. The pipe you have to deal with is the "u" pipe (also known as the sink trap or "p" trap) and of course you have to turn off the water again before beginning. Here's a quick rundown:

  1. Turn off shut off valves
  2. Turn the nut on the sink trap counterclockwise to open it
  3. Loosen the swivel nut on the opposite end of the drain pipe
  4. Take the lower section of pipe out
  5. Turn it over and empty it into a bucket
  6. Make sure the pipe is clean
  7. Put it altogether again

Sounds easy enough but it very seldom is. Remember in most cases you are dealing with a plastic pipe so when you are trying to loosen the nut work gently so you don't crack it or you will be replacing it! If it is an old metal pipe you may not be able to open it at all because it is "frozen" shut. Replacing it with a new plastic one would be a good idea at this point.

How to fix bathroom sink

Plumbing Hints

  • Keep two different kinds of plungers; where one may not work the other may. I think one is called a forced cup and one is just a regular plunger.
  • Have an adjustable wrench and plumbing pliers of different sizes
  • Keep duck tape and teflon tape (joint sealing tape) on hand
  • Always know where the water main is in case you have to shut it off in a hurry
  • Check the pipes under your sinks occasionally to make sure they aren't worn out or getting ready to leak
  • The price of copper has risen so much as to price copper piping out of the average person's range, stick with PEX (plastic replacement for PVC) piping

Parting Thoughts

This is by no means a comprehensive guide on how to unclog drains or fix leaky pipes. It is however, an introduction that can lead you to be more curious about these things BEFORE they happen. Few of us check our water pipes until we have our own Niagara Falls to contend with.

There are lots of Internet sites and many, many Youtube videos to help you with your plumbing woes. There are DIY plumbing tips to be found just about everywhere.

I hope this little hub has given you some ideas about checking before its too late. Of course the other alternative is to have lots of cash and the name of a good plumber handy. Happy sailing.

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