The 10 Most Common Plumbing Problems and How to Fix Them

Discover practical solutions to common plumbing problems. Learn how to handle clogs, leaks and other inconveniences with our expert advice and prevent major damage to your home.

What Causes Plumbing Problems?

Plumbing problems are a frequent concern in both residential and commercial settings, and they can arise from a multitude of sources. One of the most common issues that homeowners face is dripping faucets, which can be a nuisance and lead to increased water bills due to the waste they cause. This problem often stems from internal washers becoming stiff, torn, or dislodged over time. By replacing these small components, one can usually stop the drip and prevent water waste.

Another prevalent issue is slow-draining sinks, which are typically the result of blockages that restrict water flow. In kitchens, these blockages might be composed of congealed fat and food remnants, while in bathrooms, they are more likely to be caused by knotted hair and soap. Various methods, such as using a plunger, pouring down baking soda and vinegar, or employing a plumber’s snake, can be effective in clearing these clogs.

Clogged toilets are also a common plumbing problem, often caused by excessive use of toilet paper or the flushing of inappropriate items. Tools like plungers or plumber’s snakes are usually sufficient to resolve these blockages. Similarly, running toilets can lead to significant water wastage and are often due to faulty flapper valves or improperly adjusted floats, which can be fixed with simple adjustments or replacements.

Water heater issues, such as a lack of hot water or water that’s too hot, can be caused by sediment buildup, thermostat problems, or a failing heating element. Regular maintenance can help prevent these issues and extend the life of the appliance. Low water pressure is another annoyance that can be caused by sediment buildup, pipe corrosion, or issues with the municipal water supply. Cleaning aerators and showerheads can sometimes improve water pressure, but if the problem persists, it may indicate more serious plumbing issues.

Leaky pipes can occur anywhere in the plumbing system and are often found at joints. They can be caused by corrosion, high water pressure, or damage to the pipes. Temporary fixes might involve tape or fillers, but a permanent solution usually requires replacing sections of pipe or fittings.

Lastly, sewer system backups are a major concern, as they can be messy and hazardous to health. Causes can include tree roots invading pipes, clogs, or damaged sewer lines.

What are the Most Common and Important Plumbing Tools?

In the field of plumbing, professionals rely on a variety of tools to tackle different tasks, from simple repairs to complex installations. Here’s an extensive overview of the most common types of plumbing tools:

Pipe Work Tools:

  • Pipe Cutters: Essential for cutting pipes to size, they come in various forms to handle different materials like copper, PVC, or PEX.
  • Hacksaws: Used for cutting through pipes, nuts, bolts, and screws, hacksaws are versatile tools in a plumber’s arsenal.
  • Tubing Cutters: Provide a clean and precise cut on tubing, especially useful for copper pipes.
  • Hole Saw Kit: Allows plumbers to cut perfectly round holes in various materials, necessary for pipe installation.
  • Plumber’s Torch: A key tool for soldering pipes and fittings.
  • Thread Sealing Tape: Also known as plumber’s tape, it’s used to seal pipe threads and prevent leaks.


  • Adjustable Wrenches: Useful for a wide range of tasks, especially for hexagonal nuts commonly found on pipes.
  • Pipe Wrenches: The quintessential plumber’s tool, used to tighten and loosen nuts that hold pipes together.
  • Basin Wrenches: Designed for working on faucets in narrow spaces.
  • Torque Wrenches: Ensure that nuts and bolts are tightened to the correct specification.

Drain Cleaning Tools:

  • Plungers: The first line of defense against clogs in toilets, sinks, and drains.
  • Hand Augers: Also known as plumber’s snakes, they’re used to clear blockages deep within drains.
  • Snake Machines: More powerful than hand augers for severe blockages.
  • Hydro Jetting Machines: Use high-pressure water to clear blockages and clean pipes.

Safety Tools:

  • Gloves: Protect hands from harmful substances and sharp objects.
  • Goggles: Shield eyes from debris and harmful liquids.
  • Flashlights: Essential for visibility in dark or tight spaces.
  • Heat Shields or Pads: Protect surfaces and plumbers from high temperatures during soldering or welding.

Miscellaneous Tools:

  • Plumber’s Tape: Used to create watertight seals at threaded pipe connections.
  • PEX Pipe Expanders: For expanding PEX pipes before connecting them.
  • Crimping Tools: Used to join pipes and fittings with crimp connections.

These tools are fundamental to plumbing work, and while some are specific to certain tasks, others are versatile and used across various applications. Professional plumbers will typically have a comprehensive set of these tools to be prepared for any job

Plumbing systems can encounter a variety of issues, from minor leaks to major blockages. Ten common problems include dripping faucets, slow drains, clogged toilets, and malfunctioning water heaters, among others. While some of these can be fixed with basic tools and a bit of DIY knowledge, such as replacing washers or using a plunger, others, like sewer backups or extensive pipe damage, typically necessitate the expertise of a professional plumber. Prompt and appropriate fixes can prevent small issues from escalating into larger, more costly repairs.

1. Dripping Faucets

Dripping faucets are a common plumbing problem that can be both irritating and wasteful, leading to an increase in water bills. The issue often arises from worn-out internal components such as washers, O-rings, and gaskets, which fail to form a proper seal and allow water to seep through. Over time, these parts can deteriorate due to constant pressure and exposure to water, resulting in a faucet that drips.

To fix a dripping faucet, the first step is to identify the type of faucet and the specific part that is causing the leak. For faucets with two handles, it could be a damaged cartridge that needs replacement. If the faucet is leaking from beneath the handle or the spout base, a faulty O-ring might be the culprit. In the case of compression faucets, commonly found on outdoor spigots, a failing seat washer could be responsible for the dripping.

The solution typically involves shutting off the water supply, disassembling the faucet to access the damaged part, and replacing it with a new one. It’s important to ensure that the replacement part is the correct size and properly installed to prevent future leaks. After replacing the faulty component, reassembling the faucet and turning the water supply back on should resolve the issue. Regular maintenance and timely replacement of these small parts can prevent dripping faucets and conserve water.

2. Slow Draining Sink

A slow draining sink is a common plumbing issue that typically indicates a blockage in the pipes. This blockage can be caused by a variety of substances, such as hair, soap scum, food particles, and grease, which accumulate over time and restrict water flow.

To resolve a slow draining sink, one can start with simple home remedies. For instance, using a plunger can help dislodge any loose clogs. If that doesn’t work, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar can be poured down the drain to break down the buildup. After letting it sit for a few minutes, flushing the drain with boiling water can clear out the softened material. For more stubborn clogs, a plumber’s snake or a drain zip tool can be used to physically remove the blockage.

Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the stopper and using strainers to catch debris, can prevent slow draining sinks. However, if these methods do not work, it may be necessary to disassemble the P-trap under the sink to remove the obstruction or to call a professional plumber for assistance.

3. Clogged Bath or Shower Drain

Clogged bath or shower drains are a frequent issue in plumbing, typically caused by the accumulation of hair, soap scum, and other debris. This buildup can obstruct the flow of water, leading to water pooling and slow drainage.

To address a clogged bath or shower drain, the first step is often to remove any visible obstructions from the drain cover. If the clog is not immediately accessible, using a plunger may help dislodge it. For more stubborn clogs, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar can be poured down the drain, followed by hot water to break down the blockage. In some cases, a plumber’s snake or a wire hanger fashioned into a hook can be used to reach deeper into the drain and remove the clog.

If these DIY methods do not resolve the issue, it may be necessary to remove the drain cover and manually clean out the debris or call a professional plumber for assistance. Regular cleaning and the use of drain covers or hair catchers can help prevent future clogs.

4. Clogged Toilet

A clogged toilet is a common plumbing problem that occurs when waste or foreign objects obstruct the flow of water and waste through the pipes. This can lead to an overflow of water and an unusable bathroom fixture, which is a significant inconvenience in any household or commercial establishment.

The solution to a clogged toilet often starts with the use of a plunger. The plunger creates a seal around the toilet’s exit hole, and the pumping action generates suction and pressure to dislodge the blockage. For more stubborn clogs, a toilet auger, also known as a plumbing snake, can be used to reach deeper into the pipes and break up or retrieve the obstruction.

In some cases, household items like dish soap or a mixture of baking soda and vinegar can help to lubricate and dissolve the clog, making it easier to flush away. Hot water can also be poured into the bowl to help break down the blockage, but it should not be boiling to avoid cracking the porcelain.

If these methods do not resolve the issue, it may be necessary to call a professional plumber. They have specialized tools and expertise to handle severe clogs without causing damage to the plumbing system.

5. Running Toilet

A running toilet is a plumbing issue where water continuously flows or leaks from the tank into the bowl, often causing a constant trickling sound and unnecessary water wastage. This problem can be caused by several factors, including a faulty flapper, an improperly adjusted float, or issues with the fill valve.

To fix a running toilet, one should first identify the cause of the problem:

  • Faulty Flapper: Check if the flapper is sealing properly. If it’s worn out or damaged, water will leak from the tank into the bowl. Replacing the flapper is usually a simple and cost-effective solution.
  • Improperly Adjusted Float: The float controls the water level in the tank. If set too high, water will flow into the overflow tube and the toilet will run continuously. Adjusting the float to the correct level can resolve this issue.
  • Fill Valve Problems: If the water is overflowing into the tube, the fill valve may need to be adjusted or replaced. This valve is responsible for refilling the tank after a flush. If it’s not shutting off properly, it can cause the toilet to run.

It’s important to address a running toilet promptly, as it can lead to significant water waste and increased utility bills. In most cases, the solutions are straightforward and can be done without professional help. However, if the problem persists after attempting these fixes, it may be necessary to consult a plumber

6. Faulty Water Heater

A faulty water heater can manifest in various ways, such as no hot water, insufficient hot water, water that is too hot or too cold, strange noises, or leaks. The causes for these issues can range from simple to complex, including malfunctioning heating elements, sediment buildup, a faulty thermostat, or a broken dip tube.

To troubleshoot and fix a faulty water heater, one should:

  • Check the power source: Ensure the water heater is receiving power and that the circuit breaker has not tripped.
  • Inspect the heating elements: Faulty elements can prevent water from heating properly. Testing with a multimeter and replacing if necessary can solve the issue.
  • Address sediment buildup: Flushing the tank can remove sediment that affects the heater’s efficiency.
  • Test the thermostat: A malfunctioning thermostat may not regulate the water temperature correctly and may need adjustment or replacement.
  • Examine the dip tube: If the dip tube is broken, cold water might mix with hot water in the tank, leading to cooler water output. Replacing the dip tube can resolve this problem.

For leaks, tightening loose connections or replacing worn-out valves may stop the water from escaping. However, if the tank itself is leaking, it may indicate corrosion or damage that requires replacing the entire water heater.

7. Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure in plumbing systems can be a significant inconvenience, affecting everything from the efficiency of washing machines to the comfort of showering. This issue can stem from various causes, such as clogged pipes, closed valves, faulty fixtures, or problems with the municipal water supply.

To resolve low water pressure, one should first identify the root cause. If the problem is isolated to a single fixture, cleaning aerators or showerheads to remove sediment buildup may be sufficient. For widespread issues, checking for closed valves or leaks in the plumbing system is essential. If pipes are clogged, a plunger or a vinegar-and-baking-soda solution might clear minor blockages, while more severe clogs may require professional cleaning.

In cases where the municipal water supply is the culprit, installing a water pressure booster can significantly improve the situation. If a pressure regulator is malfunctioning, it will need to be repaired or replaced by a plumber. Regular maintenance, such as flushing.

8. Jammed Garbage Disposal

A jammed garbage disposal is a common plumbing issue that occurs when the disposal’s grinding mechanisms get stuck, usually due to inappropriate items being placed into it. Common culprits include metal objects, hard food waste like bones, fibrous materials like celery, and fatty or greasy substances that can solidify and block the moving parts.

To fix a jammed garbage disposal, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the power: Always start by turning off the disposal unit at the switch and unplugging it for safety.
  2. Inspect for visible blockages: Look down the disposal with a flashlight to see if there are any visible obstructions that you can safely remove with pliers or tongs. Never put your hand into the disposal.
  3. Reset the disposal: Most units have a reset button on the bottom. If the disposal has overheated or overloaded, pressing this button can sometimes clear the jam.
  4. Manually rotate the blades: Using an Allen wrench, insert it into the hex-shaped hole on the bottom of the disposal unit and turn it back and forth to free up the blades.
  5. Use a disposal wrench: If provided with your disposal, use the special wrench to turn the grinding plate from above to dislodge the jam.
  6. Clear the P-trap: If the jam isn’t in the disposal itself, it might be in the P-trap. Disconnect the P-trap and clear out any obstructions.
  7. Test the disposal: After clearing the jam, plug the unit back in, turn on the water, and switch the disposal on to test if it’s working properly.

If these steps do not resolve the issue, or if you’re uncomfortable performing them, it’s best to call a professional plumber to avoid further damage to the disposal or injury.

9. Leaky Pipes

Leaky pipes are a common plumbing problem that can cause water damage, mold growth, and increased water bills. They can occur due to various reasons such as corrosion, high water pressure, damaged seals, or loose connections. The solution to leaky pipes depends on the cause and severity of the leak.

For minor leaks, you can temporarily fix the pipe by turning off the water supply and applying silicone tape, epoxy putty, or a rubber sleeve around the damaged section. For leaks at joints, tightening the nuts or replacing the washers inside the fittings may stop the leaks. If the pipe is cracked or severely damaged, it may require cutting out the damaged section and using a slip coupling for a permanent fix. In all cases, it’s important to address leaks promptly to prevent further damage.

For more complex issues or if you’re unsure how to proceed, it’s advisable to consult a licensed plumber to assess and repair the problem properly.

10. Sewer System Backup

A sewer system backup is a severe plumbing issue that occurs when wastewater is unable to flow away from your property, leading to a reverse flow back into the home. This can result in significant property damage and pose health risks due to the potential exposure to harmful waste. The causes of sewer system backups can include blockages from tree roots, grease buildup, or flushed objects that should not be in the system. Additionally, heavy rain can overwhelm the sewer infrastructure, leading to backups.

The solution to a sewer system backup often requires professional intervention. Here are some steps to address the problem:

  1. Preventive Maintenance: Regular inspections and cleaning of your sewer lines can prevent blockages. Many plumbing companies offer annual inspection services to identify and remove potential clogs before they cause backups.
  2. Immediate Response: If a backup occurs, it’s crucial to act quickly. Avoid contact with any waste material and call a professional plumber or restoration company specializing


In conclusion, plumbing is an essential and intricate system in any residential or commercial building, responsible for the efficient distribution of water and the disposal of waste. The common plumbing problems we’ve discussed, such as dripping faucets, slow draining sinks, clogged toilets, and more, can range from minor inconveniences to major emergencies that require immediate attention.

The key to effectively managing these issues lies in regular maintenance and a proactive approach to repairs. For many common problems, homeowners can employ basic tools and techniques to perform repairs themselves. However, understanding one’s limits is crucial, as some situations will necessitate the expertise of a professional plumber to ensure the job is done safely and effectively.

Moreover, being equipped with the knowledge of what causes these problems and how to fix them not only empowers individuals to take better care of their plumbing systems but also helps in preventing potential issues from arising. It’s important to recognize the signs of plumbing problems early on and to address them promptly to avoid more significant damage and costly repairs.

Ultimately, the health of a plumbing system affects the overall well-being of a home or building. By staying informed and prepared, individuals can ensure that their plumbing systems function smoothly, providing comfort and convenience for all occupants. Regular inspections, understanding the common issues and solutions, and knowing when to call a professional are all part of responsible plumbing maintenance that will serve to protect one’s property and investment over time.