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Home Plumbing Repair Tips - Do It Yourself

Updated on September 23, 2010

Home plumbing problems can be a headache, and many people think the do it yourself repairs are just as hard. Surprisingly, most plumbing issues are fairly easy to repair. This article will give you tips and tricks to help you make all sorts of DIY home plumbing repairs. From garbage disposal and toilet problems to faucet and shower head leaks, this is your go-to guide for home plumbing repair tips.

Don't forget to bookmark this repair guide!

Generic Home Plumbing Structure

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Basic home plumbing chart 1 of 2 (click to enlarge)Basic home plumbing chart 2 of 2 (click to enlarge)
Basic home plumbing chart 1 of 2 (click to enlarge)
Basic home plumbing chart 1 of 2 (click to enlarge)
Basic home plumbing chart 2 of 2 (click to enlarge)
Basic home plumbing chart 2 of 2 (click to enlarge)
Garbage disposal view from above
Garbage disposal view from above
Garbage disposal view from below
Garbage disposal view from below

Tools needed for this repair job

Stanley 90-391 SAE and Metric Folding Hex Key
Stanley 90-391 SAE and Metric Folding Hex Key

This is very similar to the tool shown in the video


Garbage Disposal Home Repair Tips

In order to troubleshoot your garbage disposal, you'll need to attempt to turn it on. Locate the switch you would normally use to grind food in your garbage disposal and turn it on. Is it making any noise at all (possibly a humming noise)? Or is it completely silent?

My garbage disposal makes a humming noise when it's on but it doesn't work.

Congratulations, you probably have one of the easiest problems a garbage disposal can have! Not to worry, the fix is usually pretty easy. Follow these steps to attempt to fix your garbage disposal:

  2. Look down into your garbage disposal to see if there is debris stuck in there. Try using a flashlight and/or a tool that has some reach (like needle nose pliers) and probe around to see if there is anything stuck there. If there is, get it out.
  3. Get under your sink and locate your disposal. Using the allen wrench (also called a hex key), manually turn your garbage disposal. To do this, you'll insert the allen wrench into the bottom of your disposal and turn it. This should free up debris or at least help you locate it from above again.

Fixing Your Garbage Disposal Video

Plumbing Do-It-Yourself For Dummies
Plumbing Do-It-Yourself For Dummies

There's lots in here, and you can't go wrong with the "for dummies" series. Use it to learn how to replace a garbage disposal.


My garbage disposal doesn't make a noise when I turn it on.

Again this is probably not a hard fix to make. More than likely there is a power issue; either your garbage disposal's motor burned out (worst scenario) or a breaker was tripped (more likely scenario). Follow these steps to fix this problem:

  2. Check underneath your disposal and reset the breaker on the unit (see the training video to learn how to do this).
  3. Check the main circuit breaker in your house and flip it back on (again, see the video on how to do this).

And that's how you fix a garbage disposal.

Chart of a toilet (click to enlarge)
Chart of a toilet (click to enlarge)

Toilet Plumbing Home Repair Tips

Toilets don't generally require any electrical tampering, unlike the garbage disposal. Therefore, the fix should be easier, right? Well, although toilet plumbing isn't rocket science, if you have problem then you are more than likely experiencing water leakage in your bathroom and this is a BAD thing. You'll want to fix it asap.

My toilet sounds like it is constantly running

It's easy to fix a running toilet. First, try jingling the handle. Often this loosens the chain and stops the water from leaving the tank.

If that doesn't work, take the lid off your tank and inspect everything inside. There should be a rubber seal (toilet flapper valve) on the inside at the bottom of the tank that blocks the water from entering the actual toilet. If that seal is old, cracking or damaged, you'll have to replace it (this is easy to do- take a look at the following video).

Parts you might need for your toilet repairs

DANCO Decorative Toilet Tank Handle, Chrome, 1-Pack (89447A)
DANCO Decorative Toilet Tank Handle, Chrome, 1-Pack (89447A)

This standard toilet handle is a solid one. If you have a plastic arm in your toilet tank, I'd recommend replacing it with one like this that has a solid metal arm.

toilet shut off valve
toilet shut off valve

My toilet is leaking and I can see the water building up (or dripping) onto the floor behind the toilet.

To stop the leaking is easy, and I would suggest doing this immediately. Turn off the toilet shut off valve found below the tank (see picture).

If you still have water accumulation behind your toilet, you will probably want to call a professional plumber. More than likely you have a crack in your ceramic toilet or (even worse) your plumbing pipes are leaking. Both fixes are fairly involved and time-consuming, so you're best bet is to have a professional take a look.

If the toilet stops dripping after you shut the toilet shut off valve off, great! At that point you'll have to do some investigating. Since the tank won't get refilled with water at this point, flush your toilet and let all the water drain out of your tank. Once that's done, take a good look at everything. Use these questions to help you figure out where the plumbing problem lies:

  1. Are the rubber seals intact or are they in poor shape?
  2. Do I have any visible cracks in the ceramic tank?
  3. Do I have any cracks in the plastic or metal pieces in the tank?
  4. Where is the leak coming from? Is it coming from the bottom of the tank or the toilet valve itself?

If you see issues with #1-3 above, go to your local home supplies store, purchase the appropriate parts and replace them. Most of those installations should take a fairly handy person less than an hour and a less handy person a couple of hours. Simply follow the directions that came with the items you bought.

If you have an issue with #4 above and your leaks are coming from the bottom of the tank or the toilet valve itself, I would recommend contacting a professional for your plumbing needs. You could potentially need to replace your toilet flange which involves taking your entire toilet off the floor, or you could have serious issues with your pipes.

In the mean time, locate your main supply line and shut it off. This will shut off all water in your house, but it's better to have no water than to have water leaking through your walls and ceilings.

My toilet is clogged.

A toilet can get clogged with unusually large or solid feces or when things are flushed down the toilet that shouldn't be (paper towels, condoms, trash, etc).

If you have a clogged toilet, purchase a plunger and plunge your toilet. Or if it's a more difficult toilet jam, get a toilet auger and unclog your toilet. A toilet auger works like a snake and is carefully pushed down the pipes of your toilet. It's fairly easy to use and can extend 5+ feet through your pipes making it easy to unclog that toilet jam.

How to use a toilet plunger


Leaky, dripping faucets can be annoying
Leaky, dripping faucets can be annoying

Leaky faucets are inevitable

Leaky Faucet Home Repair Tips

Similar to leaky toilet problems, a leaky faucet will involve some inspection of seals and parts. Most leaky faucets are caused by a de-threaded screw/washer, a bad valve seal, a missing o-ring or things of that sort.

In many cases, it's less expensive to simply replace your faucet outright, rather than spend hours investigating or replacing parts to an outdated faucet. Why? Because if you replace one part on an old faucet system, it's only a matter of time before another part of the faucet breaks down. If you have an older faucet, save yourself the time and energy by replacing the whole thing.

Installing a New Faucet

Tools needed

Should you choose to attempt a repair rather than a new install, use the following resources to help you do that:

Leaking Shower Head Home Repairs

Similar to a leaking faucet, a leaking shower head can really run up a high water bill f-a-s-t. It is surprisingly simple to repair a variety of leaky shower head problems, whereas other issues might not be easy do it yourself projects.

My showerhead leaks by the base of the showerhead.

This is a simple fix that will require teflon tape and a cresent wrench.

Once you have your tape and your wrench, use your wrench to unscrew your shower head from the wall.

After that is done, wrap some tape around the threads of the shower stem and screw your shower head on again. This should fix your problem!

If it still leaks, repeat the process adding or taking away some tape (the tape acts as a buffer zone just like a washer or plumber's putty).

Maxtech 16521MX 32-Piece Precision Bit Set
Maxtech 16521MX 32-Piece Precision Bit Set

This set contains every screwdriver bit type you'll need for this job.


My shower head leaks at the head, not the base.

If this is the case then your problem is a little more complicated. The problem lies in the shower valve which is near your on/off knob. In that assembly, you could have a problem with a water cartridge or worn rubber o-rings. If you wanted to tackle this problem on your own, here are your steps:

  1. Disassemble your shower valve, typically with the use of an allen wrench.
  2. Locate and replace your problem parts. Again the problem could be a worn o-ring, a busted water cartridge or collar, etc. You might do well at this point to replace your entire water cartridge assembly, including all the o-rings and collar. This will probably only cost you around $20 and will save you some serious time in the future.
  3. Reassemble your shower valve.

For complete coverage of this repair, watch the following videos in order. Not to worry, each video is under 2 1/2 minutes

Repairing Your Shower Valve (PART 1)

Repairing Your Shower Valve (PART 2)

Repairing Your Shower Valve (PART 3)

Putting the Shower Valve Back On

Need More Help With Your Home Plumbing?

If you still need more help with your home plumbing but didn't find help here, check out the resources below. You are bound to find help to all your plumbing needs there.

Home Plumbing Repair Tips - A Final Note

Don't be intimidated by your home plumbing system- it's not as complicated as it might initially seem. Most home plumbing repairs make easy DIY fixes. Here are some final pointers to help you with your plumbing repair jobs:

  1. Do your best to shut off the power and water supply to whatever you're working on so you don't get wet and/or electrocuted during the job.
  2. Most home plumbing DIY repairs are easy and can be done in around an hour.
  3. When in doubt, call a professional plumber.

If you have any questions or issues, feel free to leave a comment below. Also, if you found this article useful, I'd appreciate it if you shared it with friends and bookmarked it for later.

Good luck!


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    • profile image

      Sergio Freddson 

      4 years ago

      This is a fantastic breakdown! We have been having issues with our garbage disposal and I finally sat down to get it fixed today. I haven't admittedly done much with garbage disposals in the past so this was very helpful. I like to do repairs on my own when I can, so thanks for helping me to do that. Great hub, voted up!

    • americanplbg profile image

      Charlie Gonzales 

      6 years ago from Serving the Greater San Diego Area.

      I found your Hubpages very well set up and informative.

    • DoctorDarts profile image


      6 years ago

      Even a plumbing dunce like me can get somewhere with these, thanks!

    • athena2011 profile image


      7 years ago from Beachfront - In My Dreams:)

      Bookmarked the guide and voted useful. Thanks for the tips.

    • mrkterhune profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips, this is very informative hub, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very well done hub - great info. and very helpful. Also written in an easy to understand style. Nice work

    • profile image

      Los Angeles Plumber 

      8 years ago

      @Phil - same experience here... except I never figured that one out about the leaking water. Keep the old valve and you can use it for spare parts.

    • profile image

      Best Windows 

      8 years ago

      What I like most about this page is all the videos. They do a great job of visualizing all the information on the site.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Another tip: Ijust repolaced a Fluidmaster float valve in my toilet and it was unnecessary. It was leaking and water was constantly running into the bowl. What I did not know was that you can remove the top from the valve (after shutting off the water!) and then hold a cup or glass over the top while you flush the pipe (water on then off). The top clickx off counter-clockwise and reinstalls clockwise. If I had done that with my old valve, I never would have had to replace it, since there was grit holding it open. Save youself $8-$10 or so plus all the installation time!

    • profile image

      Calgary Plumber 

      8 years ago

      Great hub page/article - nice combo of ideas and definitely the videos!

    • Peter Brown profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Brown 

      8 years ago

      Wow dav, what a bummer...seriously.

      The best thing you could do to assess the damage before doing serious digging or repairs is to get a snake camera with a light and monitor. Here's a google search to help you:

      Use that bad boy to look down your pipes and hopefully save yourself from guessing/exploratory digging and repairs.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, what an Easter, I have 70 feet of underground main pvc waterline leaking somewhere, need advice of narrowing down where leak is. I am capable, I built the home and installed the waterline 24 years ago. I have the tools, including a ditchwitch, I just don't want to dig up the entire thing. The entire line slopes downhill, so water is running out at the meter on my side. Can you offer any advice on where to start.

    • profile image

      James Plumberson 

      9 years ago

      Hey great tips - that's a different take on the flapper valve than what I'm used to, but going to give it a try next time!

      - James

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      temecula plumbing

    • Peter Brown profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Brown 

      9 years ago

      Thanks elf and James for your comments. I think you both will do quite well on hubpages- you seem to be off to a great start!

    • scaffolding tower profile image

      scaffolding tower 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      This hub can be a wealth of resources for people wanting guides and perspectives on home plumbing. Great compilation of info in the form of text and videos.

    • elf_cash profile image


      9 years ago

      Great information Peter. This will really help a lot of weekend warriors as they try to tackle those home plumbing jobs. I'm just getting going in hubpages but I plan to lend my expertise by adding a few plumbing hubs as well. Again, nice job!

    • Peter Brown profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Brown 

      9 years ago

      I'm glad you learned a lot. Yes, this is my first (and as of now my only) official flagship hub.

      Good luck with your garbage disposal. Is it making a buzzing noise when the power is turned on? I wonder if the motor is just burnt out and you need a new one. I bought one for our house recently and only spent around $60.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      excellent, I came here to take a look at a 'flagship' hub and learned a lot about plumbing ~~ I have you bookmarked, especially since my garbage disposal doesn't work, even after setting the breaker underneath the sink~~~ I'll try again!

    • Peter Brown profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Brown 

      9 years ago

      Morris thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's always nice to find another fan of home improvement.

    • Morris Streak profile image

      Morris Streak 

      9 years ago from UK

      Good guide you have here. Very lucid. I can read this again and find something new. I'm into home improvement, too. That's why I found your hub.

    • Peter Brown profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Brown 

      9 years ago

      @mulberry1- Glad you found it useful. I'll certainly be writing more DIY hubs in the future...

      @sukkran, I suspect you're talking to me although my name isn't Rico...haha. Thanks for stopping by though!

    • sukkran profile image

      Mohideen Basha 

      9 years ago from TRICHY, TAMIL NADU, INDIA.

      hi, rico. it is really a wonderful hub. well informatve, nicely constructed and useful too. thmbs up.

    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      9 years ago

      Fantastic hub. The info is so clear and it's something everyone could really use. I'm bookmarking this one for my next emergency!

    • Peter Brown profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Brown 

      9 years ago

      Rico, I will be your plumber anytime, as long as you don't require home visits :) Glad you liked it.

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      9 years ago from Portugal

      Hey Peter, thanks for this guide. Some very good tips and advises on how to repair little leaks or other problems with your plumbings. Next time I have some plumbing problem I know who to call for help lol :P


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