Leaking faucets, toilets and clogged drains can be costly. Learning some basic plumbing repair skills will save money and keep your house in good condition.

Slower drains should never be ignored as they may signal a larger problem such as a sewer line issue or even tree roots. Regularly checking water pressure can also prevent issues with your pipes as a result of a weakened or overloaded pipe.

Basic Tools

If you are an amateur plumber who works at home, having a good tool kit will help you tackle many minor plumbing issues that come up. A basic plumbing kit should include a wrench set, pliers, a plunger, a drain auger and other hand tools as well as replacement parts. Having the right equipment will ensure you are able to get jobs done quickly and efficiently. For more complicated plumbing repairs that are beyond the scope of a DIY job, it is best to hire a professional.

A good quality adjustable wrench is essential for tightening or loosening plumbing nuts. It is important to have one that has firm jaw settings and won’t slip during use. A basin wrench is also a useful tool for loosening and tightening faucets, shower valves and strainer baskets that are hard to reach underneath sinks.

For those who work in plumbing businesses, a good quality cordless drill is a necessity for drilling holes into walls or pipes. It will save you time and effort as compared to using a manual drill. Look for a model with a powerful battery and manufacturer warranty to maximize your productivity.

Other hand tools that are useful for plumbing include a pipe wrench, tubing cutter and thread sealing tape. A pipe wrench has serrated jaws that are curved and can be used for twisting, grabbing, loosening and holding. Tubing cutters have a steel wheel that cuts copper and plastic pipes evenly, without rough edges. Tape, which is used to patch or prevent possible leaks at threaded connections in piping, is resistant to high and low temperatures and won’t dry out.

A shop vac is also a must have for plumbing repair as it can be used to clean up any water spills or other debris that may occur during a project. You can find these at most hardware stores and are usually inexpensive. It is also a good idea to label your main water shut off valve, so it can be easily located in case of an emergency.

Clogged Drains

Nearly everyone experiences a clogged drain at one point in life. This can be caused by soap, hair, food waste or other material build-up. Fortunately, many of the tools plumbers use to clear these clogs are also available to homeowners.

A simple combination of baking soda and vinegar produces a bubbling reaction that can work to loosen a clog. The baking soda acts as a scouring agent that breaks up greasy gunk and the vinegar provides a corrosive, acidic component to dislodge other materials that may be clogging the drain. This can be particularly useful for kitchen sinks where grease and other foods often end up. Baking soda and vinegar can also be used in bathtub drains to clean out mineral deposits that have built up over time.

For stubborn clogs, a wire snake can help to break up and drag out the offending build-up. These tools are long, flexible cables with hooks that can be fed into a pipe until they encounter the blockage. To avoid damaging your pipes, it’s best to use a snake only when necessary and to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

If your clog is especially severe, you may need to resort to harsher chemicals. A corrosive drain cleaner such as lye can be used to break up and dissolve more serious clogs, but it is very dangerous to handle and should only be attempted by experienced professionals. Lye can also damage your pipes if it comes into contact with them, so this should be done only as a last-ditch effort.

Before trying to plunge a sink or tub drain, be sure to plug the overflow opening (if there is one) with a cloth rag to prevent water from pushing back up through that. For double-basin kitchen sinks, remove the P-trap and plug the other drain hole with a screwdriver before plunging. Be sure to wear rubber gloves during this procedure!

To snake a tub or sink, first remove the P-trap by unscrewing the set screw. Then, firmly plug the remaining drain hole with a rag and run water until it’s an inch or two deep. Plug the drain hole again, remove the snake and rinse with hot water to flush the newly-opened line, in line with what experts like the Plano plumbers recommend.

Clogged Toilets

A clogged toilet can be one of the most frustrating plumbing problems. While a plunger can get most clogs to move, more stubborn ones often require the assistance of a plumber. Before you call for help, however, try a few simple, at-home solutions.

A plunger is a good option for many clogs, especially when the issue is a buildup of organic material, such as poop or toilet paper. In these cases, the heat of the water softens the materials and allows them to pass through the pipes.

For non-organic clogs, the slippery nature of dish soap may also work to break them up. If this method doesn’t work, however, you should try flushing the toilet and letting it drain. If the clog is caused by something non-flushable, such as a toy or cloth diaper, it’s probably best to contact a professional plumber.

Another common and easy-to-use solution is to pour hot water down the toilet. While it’s important not to fill the bowl too high, this will allow enough water to seep through any small cracks in the clog and hopefully break it up. This should also be followed by several flushes to clear the remaining debris.

You can also try using a wet/dry vacuum to clear a toilet. This is a more effective way to unclog a toilet than just pushing down on the plunger, and it doesn’t require any special tools or chemicals. Before you begin, put on rubber gloves and remove enough water from the toilet to be able to reach into the bowl. Then, insert the hose into the toilet drain and create suction.

You can also use a wire coat hanger to “fish” out a clog from the toilet. First, straighten out the coat hanger so that it’s a long wire except for the hook at the end, and then wrap a rag around the end to avoid any scratches on your porcelain. Introduce the hook into the toilet drain and wiggle it around to dislodge the clog. This method is particularly useful if you don’t have a drain snake or plunger.

Clogged Sinks

Clogged sinks can be just as frustrating as clogged toilets, but they’re typically easier to fix. Unless the clog is severe, you should be able to get it under control with a few simple tools you probably already have at home, including the basic plunger. In addition, you should have no problem locating the right cleaning solutions at any local hardware store.

Most clogs are caused by hair, congealed grease or some other solid object that has inadvertently dropped into the drain. However, a clog in the larger diameter pipes that connect to your city sewer or septic tank can be much more serious and require professional help.

When the clog is limited to your home’s plumbing pipes, you might be able to clear it with hot water and baking soda or vinegar. This is usually the first thing a plumber will try, since it’s relatively safe and inexpensive. Start by ensuring that there is plenty of standing water in your sink and plugging the overflow drain hole with a towel. Place the plunger cup over the drain opening and, if necessary, firmly push down on the handle to create a seal. Pump the plunger up and down several times — about ten to 12 pumps in a row, says Pittenger. This forces water into the clogged pipe and may break it apart, making it easier for water to flow through the pipe.

If plunging doesn’t work, try a wire drain snake. But before you do, place a pan under the sink to catch any drips and loosen the P-trap (the curved piece of pipe under your sink that ensures a little water stays in the drain and prevents stinky odors from rising into the house). Remove the trap’s cover, loosen the thumbscrew on the drum and pull out the cable. Feed the snake into the drain while cranking the handle to spin it through the clog and cut it free, explains Frontdoor’s virtual plumbing expert Gene Cunningham.

If you’ve used all of these methods and are still having trouble, it may be time to call a plumber. But don’t give up too quickly — there are some clogs that even an experienced plumber will have trouble fixing.