DIY tips to try before you call your Durham Region plumber

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DIY tips to try before you call your Durham Region plumber

Follow these DIY tips before calling on the help of a professional plumber in !

If you are a homeowner, you will likely encounter a plumbing issue at some point. While it's a good idea to call a professional for urgent or complex issues, there are a few things you can try if the problem is minor. The following tricks can help save you money.

Is This An Emergency?

First, it's important to assess whether your plumbing issue is an emergency that needs immediate attention. For example, a leaky faucet in your kitchen may be annoying, but it's not an emergency.

Keep in mind that many plumbers charge higher rates for after-hours service, such as evenings, weekends and holidays. Inquire about their hourly rates and what's included. You can better manage expectations if you know that the clock starts when the plumber leaves the shop, verses when they arrive at your home.

Lets review some common issues that a DIY-er can tackle at home before calling a plumber.

Clogged drains

Clogged drains are one of the most common reasons a plumber is called in. But you can try these ten methods to see if you can clear the clog on your own!

  1. Boiling water - This is often the first thing people try to flush their drain. It's super easy and doesn't cost anything. Remove any standing water in the sink with a jug or bucket. Pour a kettle of boiling water into the sink and wait. If the water does not move, let it cool down before removing and trying again.
  2. Plungers are best known for unclogging toilets, but they can be super useful for sink clogs, as well. Fill the sink about half-way up with hot water. Position the plunger over the drain and work the plunger up and down in a quick motion. Pull the plunger off the drain to see if the water starts to drain. Repeat this method several times until the clog is cleared.
  3. Clean the trap - If the plunger does not work, you can check the trap under the sink. It is generally located at the bottom of the bend in the pipes. First, turn off the water. Place a bucket under the pipes to catch any remaining water. Loosen the couplings and clean the drain.
  4. Salt and boiling water - It's the same technique above, but with a 1/2 cup of table salt poured down the drain first. Follow this with the boiling water. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes and continue to flush it out with hot water. Repeat as necessary.
  5. Baking soda and white vinegar - Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow this with a cup of white or apple cider vinegar down the drain. The solution will cause a bubbly mixture to emerge. Quickly put the sink stopper in or you can also cover the drain with a rag or cloth. After 15 minutes, run hot water from the tap to see if the clog clears up. Repeat as needed.
  6. Baking soda and salt - This is another solution that can unclog your sink. Remove any standing water from the sink. Mix one cup of baking soda with half a cup of salt. Pour the mixture down the drain and let it sit for several hours. Prepare a kettle of boiling water and flush it down the drain. Repeat as necessary.
  7. Commercial drain cleaner - If the natural solutions above don't work, you can try a commercial drain cleaner. Be sure you are using the right product for the task and follow the instructions carefully to avoid any damage or physical harm.
  8. P-Trap - You may want to check your pipes to see if you can find the blockage. Open the cabinet under the sink and place a large bucket underneath the pipes to catch any excess water. Detach the P-trap, which is the curved pipe that dips just below the horizontal pipes. Carefully (with gloves), clear any water or debris trapped in this compartment into the bucket. Once it's completely cleared, replace the P-trap and run water through it.
  9. Plumber’s snake or coat hanger - Another option to try instead of costly chemical drain cleaners, is a snake or a straightened wire coat hanger. To unclog the drain manually, insert the snake or coat hanger as far down the drain as possible and pull it back out. Hopefully it will bring the culprit of the clog with it. Be sure to take care that you don't scratch your sink in the process.
  10. Garbage disposal - Check to ensure that your disposal is working properly, as a clogged disposal can block the drain. Ensure nothing is caught in it and that it is running properly.

Toilet issues

If your toilet is constantly running, try jiggling the handle. If this does not work, remove the tank lid to check inside. The lift chain may be wrapped around the lift arm and just need to be straightened out. The float may be just above the water. Bend the arm downward to ensure it will make the water shut off. The flapper at the bottom of the tank might have to be adjusted if it's not making a seal around the drain hole.

Worn flappers are a common cause of leaks between the toilet tank and the bowl. They only cost a few dollars if you know how to replace one yourself. The new flapper package comes with easy-to-follow instructions for replacement.

Low water pressure    

Over time, a faucet's aerator can become clogged with minerals or other debris. You can check to see if your aerator is clogged by removing it. With the help of pliers, turn it in a clockwise motion.

Once you have it off, you can take it apart and clean the pieces. It's often a better idea just to replace it altogether. When you go shopping for a new aerator, take the old one with you to match the thread.

Clogged walk-in shower

Installing a low-flow shower head can help reduce water waste, which is usually the biggest problem with showers. You can also attempt to clear a clogged shower with a plunger. Simply place it directly over the drain and move in a rapid up and down motion. Try running the water to see if the clog has cleared. Repeat if necessary.  

Showerhead issues  

Thread tape is also one of the easiest ways to fix a dripping shower head. A leak generally indicates that the threads aren't connecting tightly. To remedy this problem, simply unscrew the shower head and apply the new tape, wrapping it in a clockwise direction. Re-attach the shower head.

If the shower head has become clogged, soak it in a bowl with warm water and vinegar for an hour or so. Try a small brush to loosen and dislodge any mineral deposits that could the culprit of blockages in the spray.


Leaks are one of the most common complaints plumbers get. If not repaired, over time, they can turn into bigger issues. Leaks also waste a lot of water and cost you extra on your water bill.

The next time you see a suspicious puddle of water, look for a leaky valve. Valves are one of the main culprits because they have moving parts and seals that can wear out. Check to see if water is leaking out around the valve stem.

If it is, try turning the valve's packing nut (the nut right below the valve handle) about an eighth-turn with a wrench. If you've over-tightened the nut, the valve will be hard to turn.

If tightening the nut doesn't stop the leak, you can attempt a more complicated DIY. Shut off the main water valve. Remove the leaky valve's handle and nut. Add to or replace the valve's packing material. The valve should no longer leak.

You can also check for leaks where pipes join to each other and hoses connect to faucets. An obvious leak can temporarily be repaired (to bide you time) with fibreglass repair tape or plumber's putty. However, if the leak is behind a wall, under the floor or in the attic you may need to call a licensed plumber..

Garbage disposal  

If you're having issues with your garbage disposal, try resetting it. There should be a reset switch under the bottom of the disposal. If this doesn't work, check to see if there's a hard item lodged in the disposal, such a knife or spoon. Ensure you have unplugged the disposal and turned off the breaker first! Reach your hand in, to see if you find anything.

Water heater  

You may live in an area where sediment builds up quickly in the water heater lines. or you might be on well water, which also contributes to sediment build up. You can help thwart this grit by draining a quart of water from your tank once every 3 months.

To do this, turn off the water heater. Cut the power for electric models. For gas heaters, set to "Pilot" or turn the gas off. Turn off the cold water to the heater (at the top). There will be a place to hook a hose up to the water heater. Do this and turn on the value to drain the water heater. This will remove a substantial amount of the sediment that has settled near the bottom of the tank, making your water heater run less efficiently.

Also check your water heater's thermostat to make sure it's not set too high. 115 degrees should be adequate for your needs. Insulating a water heater can help the water stay hotter longer, saving on energy costs. Some utilities even provide inexpensive or free insulating blankets that are simple to install.


When it comes to plumbing repairs, it's best to take care of the problem immediately. You may be able to fix the problem by yourself, or at least buy some time before having the issue professionally fixed. Certain issues will need immediate repair from a plumber, such as a burst pipe.

Remember to keep a tool bag handy. It should include a plunger, an adjustable wrench, a screwdriver, pliers, a utility knife, plumbing tape, hex/Allen keys and a caulking gun.

If you'd rather leave the plumbing repairs to a licensed, professional plumber, contact Vaillancorut Plumbing & Drains today!