Skip to Content

How To Fix Basic Plumbing Issues – A Few Things Every Homeowner Should Know

You know you love these fascinating posts I write. Admit it. 🙂

We started out calling this house The Peach Pit, but some days I think we should probably have named it…..

On my son’s birthday a few years ago, we came home to a septic flood in our finished basement which necessitated the gutting of the entire space and all it’s contents. On another occasion, in the middle of a big family lobster bake, the kitchen faucet broke right off. In the last month we have replaced two toilets and our washing machine. Today, my baby girl’s first day of teenagehood, a minor flood in our kitchen transpired thanks to a busted shower head in the bathroom above. (The first two incidences were in a different house, but The Money Pit still applies to this house!)

I don’t know what it is about plumbing going awry, but it’s never, never, never at a convenient time!!

When I consider the conditions people in other parts of the world live with, there is nothing I appreciate more than clean, hot and cold running water – when it’s running in the right place, that is. The plumbing in our homes is so easy to take for granted, and to neglect.

Since plumbing that is installed incorrectly can severely damage your home, I highly recommend calling a plumber that you trust. I belong to a plumbing family (my dad was a plumber, and my brother, uncle and several cousins are all residential and commercial plumbers.)  I leave the big stuff to the pros, but there are some common minor issues that the average homeowner can try to resolve before calling the plumber.

1. If your kitchen faucet flow is slow, check the aerator.

The aerator is a little mesh piece inside the faucet. Sediment can clog the holes of the aerator, making the water pressure weak. Our faucet’s pressure was down to a slow dribble a few weeks ago. I was envisioning having to buy a new faucet (ah! $$$$$), but my brother John recommended checking the aerator first, so Mark and I figured out where it was located in our faucet model, carefully removed it, and found that it was completely clogged. John suggested cleaning it with a toothbrush; I found a sewing needle also comes in handy to push out all the tiny debris. Cleaning out the aerator on my faucet completely solved the low-pressure issue for me – woohoo!!

To remove and clean your faucet aerator, refer to the manual that came with your faucet or google your model to identify where the aerator is located. (It’s usually on the very end of the faucet where the water comes out, but our faucet has a pull out spray nozzle and the aerator was embedded in the back of that piece.)

2. If you drop an item down your bathroom sink, you may be able to rescue it.
I don’t even want to tell you how many times I have dropped a precious earring down the bathroom sink when scrubbing it with jewelry cleaner (that would be three times, that I can recall. You’d think I would learn my lesson!)

Immediately after dropping the item down the sink, turn the water off!

Under your sink is a curved pipe called a p-trap. You don’t really need to know what it’s called, but now you can impress your friends with your rad plumbing lingo.

Put a bucket under the pipe, twist off that “cleanout” area above with pliers, and hope your item pops out. (I have been able to rescue my earring every time, but I’m not pushing my luck anymore. No more cleaning earrings over an open drain!)  Cleaning the p-trap every so often can also help a slow sink drain better. Visit this link to get complete instructions on how to rescue items from the p-trap.

3. Clean out the shower drain.
This is a gross one, but it’s necessary for the health of your house plumbing!!! If you or your kids have long hair, you should definitely clean out the drain in your tub or shower to make sure it’s not getting clogged.

Before I discovered the broken shower head (which was hanging on by a thread so not initially obvious), I thought our upstairs bathroom shower drain was the culprit of the water pouring out of our kitchen ceiling below. I took of the metal plate that sits on top of the drain and cleaned it out and Lord have mercy, it was NOT a pleasant experience! (This was the first time I’ve cleaned that shower since we moved here almost three years ago. Excuse me while I gag a little. Suffice it to say that I will be cleaning that sucker out on a regular basis to prevent that level of disgustingness from happening again!!)

Coat hangers can do the trick to clean out the hair/soap scum buildup that settles in the drain, but I like a skinny set of tongs for this purpose. I left tongs in the bathroom closet with the cleaning supplies for fun future drain cleanings.

Wear plastic gloves and have a plastic grocery bag ready for the drain contents. It’s gross, but if you raise children or have animals, you’re tough! This will be a no-brainer! After alternating between cleaning it out and gagging, scrub the drain and the tub or shower. I am usually grossed out enough to clean the shower or tub in a frenzy with Soft Scrub with Bleach.

For more stubborn clogged drains, consult This Old House, and if you can’t unclog the drain yourself, be sure to call a plumber in the event there is a serious issue transpiring that you can’t detect.

4. Stop a toilet from overflowing. (Everyone should know how to do this…, woman, child!)
If your toilet is clogged, and the water is rising and about to overflow, you need to stop it fast. Take off the lid of the tank and place it carefully on the closed toilet seat or the floor. Then raise up the bar that has a floating ball on it. This will stop the water from flowing into the tank. If the water in the bowl doesn’t unclog and drain, turn the water off at the base of the toilet. You will be able to hear the water flow cease.

Then, plunge away until the toilet is unclogged.
If a constantly running toilet is your problem (you hear the water running all the time), try these steps to stop it, but if it keeps happening, call a plumber because this could be a sign of a bigger problem.
Today I am humungously thankful for
inside my house – that is clean, that I can drink, cook with, clean with, and brush my teeth with.

While I’m on the subject of water……
If you, too, enjoy the luxury of living in a home with clean running water, maybe you will consider joining me today to give this gift to others who do without?

for more information.


I am so ginormously thankful for a brother who talks me through these minor plumbing crises, and even drives all the way up to my house for the not-so-minor plumbing emergencies that we constantly seem to have on hand.
Thank you John!!

I hope these tips help you with some minor plumbing issues around your own abode!

Tomorrow is Friday – you know what that means!

Keeping House Plants Alive
← Previous
Outdoor Fireplace Kits for the DIYer
Next →

Anna Picket

Tuesday 1st of March 2016

It sounds like you've had a lot of bad luck with your plumbing. No wonder you call your house the money pit sometimes. You mentioned that the faucet on the sink has an aerator, but does the shower head have one as well? If so, I'm hoping that's the problem with our water pressure there. We will have to check that out, but in the end, we might have to call a plumber.

Farrell Mackennon

Monday 10th of March 2014

My dad was a plumber too and I followed in his footsteps and became one after finishing school. There are some great tips here for homeowners who are quite practical and not afraid to try and resolve basic plumbing issues themselves. The problem with plumbing is that people are afraid to try as they don’t understand the way it works.


Wednesday 5th of June 2013

You are so handy and smart!! I love your tips and fireplace ideas too. Whatever you pick out will be great I'm sure. I would love one of those outdoor areas as well.

Kimberly Lemmon

Friday 31st of May 2013

Thank goodness I have a husband that can handle all of this. The thought of cleaning out the drain makes me gag just thinking about it.

Linda {Calling it Home}

Friday 31st of May 2013

Always good to do this. I hate slow draining sinks and showers.