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The Ultimate Plumbing Guide

A Complete Technical Resource to Help Homeowners with Plumbing Needs.

Household plumbing is something most of us rely on for day-to-day living. Even a few hours without running water or functioning drains can be a serious problem.
By understanding how different parts of your plumbing system work, you will be better able to assess problems and make more informed decisions about how to get the issue resolved. Plumbing issues can range in severity and while it makes sense to hire a licensed professional for most plumbing issues and installations, you can be better prepared if you understand the problem at hand.

  • Common household plumbing problems and issues
  • Plumbing maintenance requirements
  • Emergency plumbing procedures
  • How to find a plumbing expert

It is important to keep in mind that not all plumbing issues can wait. If you are experiencing a plumbing emergency, it is best to contact a licensed professional as soon as possible to avoid any further damage. Learn more about our emergency plumbing services offered at Reliance®

Water Supply

Understanding Where Your Home’s Water Comes from and Goes.

Every home with plumbing has a supply of cold water coming into the building and a main drain to handle sewage leaving the building. The incoming cold water supply feeds both the cold water faucets and taps, as well as the water heater.

Hot and cold water supply lines extend to most fixtures in your house, with a series of smaller drain pipes leading from sinks, toilets, showers and tubs to the larger main drain. In general, problems with the water supply side of residential plumbing are usually about leaks of some kind. Drain issues are usually about blockages. Kitchen sinks and toilets are the most likely location for blockages, but all drain pipes can become blocked.

Tech Tip: Handling a Major Plumbing Leak

Although major plumbing leaks don’t happen often, when they do, they can cause serious damage in a very short time. That is why every homeowner needs to know where the main water supply shutoff valve is and how to use it.  Find the main water supply pipe that enters your house, typically located on a basement wall. If your house is in a subdivision, water supply lines usually enter the wall closest to the road. The first valve present on this pipe is the main shutoff. Rotate the handle clockwise until it stops to shut off the flow of water.

Plumbing Systems

Bathroom Plumbing — What to Know

With a high concentration of plumbing fixtures, bathrooms are often the source of plumbing issues in your home. Most household toilets, sinks, showers and bath tubs are used frequently so occasional issues are not uncommon. Understanding how these plumbing fixtures work is the first step in understanding what is causing the problem.


Whenever the flush handle of a toilet is pushed down, it opens a flush valve in the bottom of the water tank. This allows water to rush down into the toilet bowl, carrying waste into a large drain pipe hidden in the floor. As the water level in the tank drops during a flush, it opens a fill valve to refill the tank to a preset water level, ready for the next flush. The water that remains in a toilet bowl after flushing seals out sewer gases and prevents them from entering your home.

Components of a toilet includes:

  • The bowl
  • Seat
  • Lid
  • Water tank
  • Flush valve
  • Fill valve
  • Flush handle

Potential trouble spots for a toilet include the water supply connection to the water tank, the gasket that seals the toilet to the floor drain, the gasket that seals the tank to the bowl, and the flush valve and fill valve inside the tank.

How to Choose a New Toilet

Not all new toilets flush as well as they should, and that’s why you should consult independent testing to choose an effective model. An organization called MaP publishes performance results from hundreds of toilets available around the world. Click here for free recommendations on finding a new toilet that flushes cleanly.

Toilet Problems and Solutions:

If you can’t clear a blocked toilet with a plunger, a plumber may be required to use a snake to clear the blockage. Mineral buildup inside the bowl of an older toilet can also cause lazy flushing of an otherwise unblocked toilet. Toilet replacement by a licensed plumber is the best option for older toilets that regularly flush poorly.

A leaking flush valve at the bottom of the toilet tank is one common cause of water that keeps running continually into a toilet tank and bowl. A defective or poorly-adjusted fill valve can also allow water to continue filling the tank without stopping. There’s limited risk of water damage involved in these repairs, so some homeowners tackle it themselves.  A licensed plumber is also an option.

Even a small water leak from the pipe or hose that connects to the toilet tank is serious because it can develop into a large and damaging leak. The water supply will need to be shut off, the connection repaired, then the water turned back on.  Most homeowners require a plumber for this task.

If a leak appears where the toilet tank connects to the back of the bowl, the tank-to-bowl gasket needs to be replaced. The tank will need to be drained and the tank removed from the toilet bowl to install this gasket. Most people hire a plumber for this work.

If water appears where the toilet sits on the floor, a defective toilet ring is probably the cause. Sometimes the water only appears immediately after a flush. The toilet tank will need to be drained, the toilet bowl unbolted from the floor, lifted, a new ring installed, then the toilet and tank replaced. This repair is as complicated as toilet replacement, so most people hire a plumber for the work.

Most toilets have a valve on the pipe connected to the toilet tank and shutting off this valve will stop a toilet from overflowing. If your toilet doesn’t have a shutoff valve, shut off the main water supply valve for your house. Don’t turn this valve back on until the toilet blockage is cleared and the toilet bowl is emptying properly.

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A clogged toilet is one of the most common  plumbing problems. Daryl, what should someone
do if they find they have a clogged toilet?  Well the first thing you want to do if you
have a clogged toilet is you want to shut the  water supply line off – usually located behind
the toilet. After you’ve done that, you’ve  verified that the water’s off to the toilet,
you want to try and plunge the toilet. This  plunger that I have here is the most common
style of plunger. It’s a flange style plunger. You  want to pull this out here, put it in the toilet
on a 45-degree angle trying to fill the cup with  water. A good tip. Once you have a good amount of
water in there, you want to put it in the trap  of the toilet and start your plunging action,
hoping that the water in the plunger pushes  the debris out that’s inside the trap of your
toilet. Great! Well what do we do if that doesn’t  work? A great question. So if that doesn’t work,
your next step would be in trying to use a toilet  auger that’s what we have here. This end of the
auger goes into the toilet and this end here is  a protection against the porcelain trap of the
toilet so you don’t scratch and ruin the fixture.  Very important. Definitely. Now that being said,
once you reach this point I would recommend  calling on a licensed professional so you don’t
damage your fixture or scratch it permanently  and for yourself to know that the plug is
cleared properly. For help with this or any  other plumbing issue, Call on Reliance™ today.

Bathroom Sinks and Faucets

These are made differently than sinks and faucets in other parts of your house and they have unique repair issues.

Elements of a bathroom sink and faucet installation include:

  • Faucet
  • Sink bowl
  • Mechanical drain stopper
  • Water supply lines
  • Drain pipe

Potential trouble spots for bathroom sinks and faucets include defective cartridge or washer, clogged or slow drain, leaking drain, and malfunctioning drain stopper

How to choose a new Bathroom Sink and Faucet

These are usually replaced as part of a bathroom renovation or vanity cabinet replacement. Bathroom sinks can be a molded part of the vanity cabinet top, they can be under-mounted to the bottom face of the countertop or they can be mounted on top of the vanity top resting in a hole cut on site during installation. You’ll need to get your plumber involved early on in your bathroom renovations to determine if pipe and drain locations need to be changed.

Bathroom Sink Problem and Solutions:

Cartridge or washer needs to be replaced. Handy homeowners can do this work themselves, but older faucets often have corroded parts that can break during removal.  Stop and call a plumber if you can’t get things to come apart.  Some faucet manufacturers offer free replacement cartridges or even free replacement faucets. Call customer service before you buy any repair parts.

This is a common bathroom sink problem because soap products and loose hair sometimes build up within bathroom drains. If your sink has a mechanical drain stopper, check to see if the blockage is caused by hair buildup on the horizontal pivot rod a couple of inches below the drain opening. This common problem can be remedied by lifting out the drain stopper and removing hair with your fingers or needlenose pliers.

Water pooling on the bottom of a bathroom vanity cabinet or the floor underneath an open sink is usually caused by leaks where the drain pipe meets the sink, a leaking drain trap plug, or flaws in drain pipe joints. Occasionally under-sink leaks are also caused by a loose or broken drain stopper mechanism or by failed caulking joints that allow splashed water from the countertop to leak in around top-mount sinks. See below. Repairing drain leaks can be more challenging than replacing a faucet cartridge so most homeowners call for professional help.

This mechanism allows the drain to be opened and closed with a knob at the top of the faucet. It’s typically a reliable part of a bathroom sink installation, but problems can still occur. A loose retaining nut securing the horizontal pivot rod can prevent the drain stopper mechanism from working or it can allow waste water to leak under the sink. Tightening the ring around the horizontal pivot rod with your fingers can sometimes eliminate leaks. Replacement drain stopper mechanisms can be purchased separately for DIY repairs or you can call a plumber.

Many bathroom sinks are molded parts of the vanity countertop so there are no caulked joints to leak. But if your sink sits on top of a countertop, and caulking is missing or deteriorated, splashed water can pool and leak around the sink and under it.

Assuming your bathroom drain was installed correctly, odours like this are caused by microbial infection of the drain and possibly the sink overflow passage. A treatment of 3% hydrogen peroxide from a drug store could solve this problem. Pour 500 ml (2 cups) of hydrogen peroxide down the drain at night. If the odour persists the next morning, remove the drain stopper and stuff a rag down the drain to block the overflow passage with the top of the rag remaining above the drain opening.  Fill the overflow passage with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for two hours before removing the rag.

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A slow leak from a household faucet may not  seem like a big deal, but even something as
slow as one drip every few seconds may add  up to more than 2,600 litres of wasted water
that you’re paying for each year. Darryl what  causes a leaky faucet? Well, your main cause
of a leaky faucet is simply just wear and  tear. Okay, uh, when you say wear and tear,
what are the main culprits? Well yeah as you can  see on this fixture here, all your cartridges are
inside of the fixture body which is connected to  the handle, which gets everyday use, in turn wears
out the cartridge and it fails. Makes sense. Now  in terms of replacing or repairing that cartridge,
how do we go about that? Well, your first step  what you want to do to replace a cartridge,
you want to shut the water off underneath your  kitchen sink. Once the water’s off and you’ve
verified that it’s off, you want to remove the  handle from your fixture. Okay. This fixture
here you can see we already have the Allen key in  the back. Most handles come off with an Allen key.
It’s simple once you remove the Allen key, that  comes out, the handle simply comes off. Okay.
Once you have the handle off, now you can see  the cartridge. Are cartridges all the same? No,
I’m glad you asked. So, almost every cartridge is  different. There’s many different styles on the
market and the cartridge has to be for that  exact fixturef. Okay so we need to have the
right cartridge now it also looks like we possibly  need some special tools to get in there? Yes. So,
you would want to call on a licensed professional  to change the cartridge.Most cartridges are
corroded in and you’re going to need special  tools to remove it and replace it safely.
Good advice. If you’re in need of a faucet  repair or replacement, Call on Reliance™.


This heavily used part of most bathrooms includes a waterproof enclosure with hot and cold running water delivered by a faucet that’s typically enclosed behind the shower wall.

Elements of a shower and faucet include:

  • Faucet
  • Enclosure
  • Drain
  • Shower door or curtain

Potential trouble spots for a shower include the faucet valve, drain and the enclosure itself.

Shower Problems and Solutions:

Most showers have a single valve that controls hot and cold operation and a worn valve that allows dripping is the most common shower issue. A handy homeowner can replace the valve after shutting off the water supply, but most people call in a licensed plumber for the work. As with sink faucets, some manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on shower valves. Call customer service to see if they’ll send you a replacement valve for free, even if you’re hiring a plumber to install it.

Soap and hair buildups are the most common cause of drain problems in a shower. Drain cleaner may work in mild cases, but a plumber is usually required.

This problem is not uncommon. Shower enclosures can leak where the floor meets the walls, or where a door joins to the shower opening. Some showers leak through tile grout on inadequately constructed showers. Although caulking may be able to stop leaks around doors, most leaky shower enclosures need to be rebuilt.

This mechanism allows the drain to be opened and closed with a knob at the top of the faucet. It’s typically a reliable part of a bathroom sink installation, but problems can still occur. A loose retaining nut securing the horizontal pivot rod can prevent the drain stopper mechanism from working or it can allow waste water to leak under the sink. Tightening the ring around the horizontal pivot rod with your fingers can sometimes eliminate leaks. Replacement drain stopper mechanisms can be purchased separately for DIY repairs or you can call a plumber.

This is caused by the same microbial infection that makes bathroom sink drains smell. Pour 500 ml (2 cups) of 3% hydrogen peroxide down the shower drain at night before bed. If the problem is microbial, the odour should be gone in the morning.

Increased ventilation is the cure for this problem. Run exhaust fans for at least 20 minutes after each shower and leave shower doors and curtains open between uses. Mold-resistant paint is effective at discouraging growths on walls and ceilings.


Most tubs offer the opportunity to take either a bath or shower and feature a combination faucet that includes taps, a tub spout and a shower head. Access to the hidden valve assembly is sometimes found through the wall on the other side of the tub.

Elements of a bathtub installation include:

  • Faucet and shower head
  • Bathtub
  • Door or shower curtain
  • Drain

Potential trouble spots in a bathtub installation include a leaky water supply valve, clogged drain or defective enclosure or caulking.

Bathtub Problems and Solutions:

Bathtub faucets and shower heads are part of the same plumbing fixture and operate from the same single or double valves. Replacement is an option for handy homeowners if shut off valves are present, but most people call a plumber for this work.

Soap and hair can cause a restriction in a bathtub drain just as it can in a bathroom sink or shower. Drain cleaner is worth a try, but typically a plumber is required to clear stubborn bath tub drain blockages.

As with sink and shower drains, a bathtub drain can develop the odour of rotten eggs if it becomes infected with microbes. Pour 500 ml (2 cups) of 3% hydrogen peroxide from a drugstore down the drain at bed time and the odour should be gone by morning.

All inset bathtubs rely on caulking to seal the joint between the top of the tub and the surrounding walls. The most difficult part of re-caulking an existing tub is removing the old caulking. Solvents are available to make this easier. Ensure the area to be caulked is clean and dry before following the instructions to apply the new bathroom caulking.  Some homeowners hire a handyman to remove & replace the caulking. The neatest way to apply caulking yourself involves laying down strips of masking tape 3mm or 4mm away from the centre line of the joint. Lay down a bead of caulking, smooth it with a rubber gloved finger dipped in a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water, then peel the masking tape off. The edges of the caulked joint will be perfectly straight and neat.

Increasing ventilation is the way to stop the growth of mold in your bathtub. Run the bathroom exhaust fan for at least 20 minutes after a bath or shower and leave the shower curtain or doors open after use. Mold-resistant silicone caulking is made especially for use around tubs and showers.

How to Apply Caulking Neatly

Use caulking solvent and a scraper to remove all old caulking, then apply masking tape along each side of the joint, 3mm or 4mm (1/8” to 3/16”) from the centre line. Apply a bead of caulking between the pieces of tape, then smooth the caulking with your index finger wetted with a 50/50 mixture of water and dishwashing liquid. Peel the tape off immediately and leave the caulking to dry for 24 hours before using the shower.

Kitchen Plumbing

Kitchen Plumbing — What to Know

The kitchen is the centre of most homes, and plumbing has a lot to do with the reason why. Preparing and serving food and cleaning up afterwards depends largely on plumbing. Kitchens also have the greatest number of water-related technologies at work. In addition to faucets and drains, you might also have a dishwasher, a fridge with water dispenser, and maybe even laundry equipment in the kitchen.

Sink & Faucet

Elements of a kitchen sink and faucet installation include:

  • Double or single sink bowl
  • Drain pipe and debris screen
  • Faucet
  • Spray hose with head*
  • Liquid soap dispenser*
  • Hot beverage water dispenser*
  • Reverse osmosis drinking water tap

*Optional features, may or may not be present in your kitchen

Potential trouble spots for a kitchen sink and faucet include dripping faucet (most common), leaks where the sink meets the counter top, leaking drain pipes, leaking connection between the water supply pipes and the faucet, a clogged drain, or a malfunctioning garbage disposal or hot water dispenser.

Tech Tip: Washer or Cartridge? What’s the Difference?

Most faucets and taps made until the 1970s used a small disk of rubber called a “washer” to stop the flow of water when the hot or cold tap handle was shut off. The faucet mechanism closes down and squeezes against the washer, sealing off the space for water to flow through. Eventually the washer gets old, brittle and cracked, allowing a small flow of water even when the handle is tightened down fully. Inexpensive replacement washers are still available in any hardware store to stop dripping, even for very old faucets. Most modern faucets don’t have washers but use a replaceable valve cartridge instead. When these leak, the only practical solution is to replace the cartridge. Both washer and cartridge replacement is something that a handy homeowner could complete themselves.

Kitchen Sink & Faucet Problems and Solutions:

Most modern kitchen faucets use a single valve cartridge to control the flow of hot and cold water instead of the washers used in older faucets. Replacing the cartridge stops dripping of either hot or cold water supply. Some leading manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on residential plumbing faucets, including free replacement cartridges. Contact the manufacturer to see if they will ship a new cartridge at no charge. Internet images are a good way to determine what model of faucet you have.

This is a common problem with kitchen sinks because of the food debris and grease that sometimes goes down the drain. Drain cleaner liquid can sometimes speed up a slow drain, but many times using a sink plunger or drain snake is necessary. Small plungers made for use with sinks are easy to use, but don’t use a plunger if you’ve already poured drain cleaner down first. Corrosive liquid could splash upwards at you. If you are using a plunger, simply place the mouth over the open drain, then push the plunger handle up and down with quick movements. If this doesn’t work, a drain snake is a coil of stiff metal meant to poke through blockages and open up the drain pipe. The need to open the drain trap to get into the drain with a snake means that most people call a plumber if drain cleaner or a sink plunger doesn’t work.

The most common cause of this problem is a leaking drain pipe joint. Even if you don’t feel comfortable doing a drain pipe repair, take a look under the sink with good light to determine exactly where the leak is coming from. You’ll be able to hire a plumber with more confidence if you know where the problem is coming from.

In-cabinet leaks can also be caused by a faulty water supply connection to the faucet. This is a much more serious leak than just a dripping tap because it can lead to a massive and damaging house flood if the leak gets worse. Modern faucets usually have flexible hoses that connect water supply pipes to faucets, and the fittings that make these connections can be tightened by hand. Shut off the water supply valve feeding the line, then tighten the fitting by hand clockwise. Turn the water back ON again, looking carefully for leaks. If tightening the fitting by hand doesn’t solve the problem, call a plumber. Leave the water turned off until a repair is made.

Splashed water can also leak down into the sink cabinet if the caulking or seal around the sink is defective. Removing and replacing sink caulking can be DIY work, or you can hire a handyman. Plumbers won’t usually do a house call to simply repair faulty caulking, though most will apply caulking if they’re installing a new sink.

This small, separate tap dispense steaming hot water for instant use making coffee, tea, hot chocolate or instant soup. Not many homes have this kind of fixture, but if repair or replacement is required it’s best done by a professional since the work involves plumbing and electrical tasks.

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If you have a sink that drains slowly or not at  all, you probably have a clogged drain. Daryl,
what are some of the typical causes of clogged  drains? Well your most typical causes are grease,
food or hair. So basically we want to make  sure that nothing other than water gets down
our drains, correct? Absolutely. So how  do we accomplish that Daryl? How do we
keep foreign objects from going down to our  drains? Well, the first thing you can do and
one of the easiest things you can do, is get a  basket-style strainer like this one right here
and this will catch any debris or food or  anything that goes down the drain that you
shouldn’t have down there. It’s very visual. You  can see it and it’s easy to clean. Awesome. Now,
let’s say something did get past that and  it’s clogged up the drain and the sink is
backing up. What do we do to clear that up?  Well, the first thing you can do is you want
to try to plunge the kitchen sink. So you want  to put the plug in the one side of the double
kitchen sink like this one here. You want to put  some water on it for some head pressure so your
your plug doesn’t pop out while you’re trying  to plunge the sink. Good tip. You want to get
your plunger in here on a 45 on the side your  plunging and try to put in some water and get
any air out of the plunger that you can and  start plunging the sink. As you’re plunging,
when you go to release you want to pop the plunger  up to give it that extra push to push anything out
of the p-trap. That’s a great tip. Now if the clog  persists it may be time to call a professional if
you’re experiencing a stubborn clog that you  just can’t clear, Reliance is here to help.

Tech Tip: Gurgling Drains Solutions

The lack of an air vent is the leading cause of a sink drain that makes gurgling sounds as the water goes down. Adding an air admittance valve to the drain pipe may solves the problem. Not every jurisdiction allows air admittance valves, but they can work well and are relatively easy to install. If you are experiencing a gurgling drain, call a licensed plumber to see if an air admittance valve is an option.


All dishwashers have a connection to the drain (usually under the kitchen sink), but most only have an inlet for a hot water supply. Since dishwashers don’t have cold or warm cycles, a hot water feed is all that’s needed. This hot water feed usually taps into the supply pipe near the kitchen faucet. The only exception to this are high-end dishwashers with internal water heating capabilities. These might have a cold-only connection or they might heat the already-hot water to a higher temperature.

Elements of a dishwasher installation include:

  • The dishwasher appliance itself
  • A flexible hose carrying pressurized water (usually hot only) to the inlet of the machine
  • A flexible drain line leading from the dishwasher to the kitchen drain pipe.

Dishwasher Problems and Solutions:

There are different issues that can cause a dishwasher to fail to run well, some of which include plumbing-related issues. The most common cause of dishwasher problems is a clogged drain screen with too much trapped food on it. This prevents waste water from being pumped out of the machine. All dishwashers have at least one filter, and cleaning them is a regular household maintenance task for homeowners. Some dishwashers have filters that clean themselves, or at least try to. If your filters are manual, clean them after every few loads.  Sometimes a dishwasher won’t even start if the filter is too dirty.

Besides a clogged filter, a malfunctioning drain pump or drain water sensor could be the cause. While plumbers typically install new dishwashers and deal with water supply and drain issues, appliance repair technicians are the people who solve mechanical issues inside the dishwasher.

A pool of water on the floor in front of the door can be caused by overloading the machine so the door doesn’t close properly, but more commonly it indicates a malfunctioning door seal or drain pump.  You can check the seal yourself by looking for cracked, folded or broken sections that allow water to leak, or call an appliance repair technician.

Tech Tip: Dirty Dishes Solution

If your dishwasher fails to get your dishes, glasses and cutlery as clean is you’d like, and it appears to be running well in other ways, try running your kitchen faucet until the water is hot before each dish washer load. These days dishwashers use so little water that they might not actually get to the completely hot water from the hot water supply pipe. Running the kitchen hot water tap until the water gets hot can improve dishwashing results by eliminating the residual cold.

Fridge with Water Dispenser

More and more refrigerators have a water supply connection for dispensing cold drinking water or making ice. No drain connection is present with fridges.

Elements of a fridge with a water connection include:

  • A small, flexible copper or plastic tube that delivers water to the fridge at the back.
  • A replaceable filter that removes unwanted taste from the water

Potential trouble spots for a refrigerator with a water dispenser include water leaks at the back of the fridge, low or no water pressure at the dispensing nozzle, and failure to produce ice.

Tech Tip: Dating Refrigerator Filters

Depending on how much drinking water you take from your fridge, the filter may need to be changed every six months to a year. Most fridges have a warning light to alert you when filter needs changing, but you might not get around to this right away. Be sure to check the manufactures recommended replacement cycle and mark the installation date on the filter label before installation so you know at a glance how long it’s been in place.

Fridge with Water Dispenser Problems and Solutions:

A loose or broken water supply connection at the fridge or a broken water supply pipe is the usual cause of leaks from a water-connected fridge. A shut-off valve can be found where the thin fridge supply line connects to a cold water pipe in the basement or under the kitchen sink. Learn where this valve is located so you can shut it off quickly in the event of a leak.

This could be caused by a blocked or clogged supply, or from a water supply pressure that’s too low. A plumber can help you with water supply problems to your fridge, but an appliance repair technician will be needed to fix problems inside the fridge.

This could be caused by a blocked or clogged water supply, but it might also be that the ice maker or the valve controlling water flow into the ice maker is bad. If your fridge delivers water at good pressure from the dispenser, but does not make ice, make sure the ice maker is turned on, and that the metal ice level arm is tilted downwards to the run position. If none of these things get the freezer to make ice, call an appliance repair technician for help. It’s not unusual for ice maker mechanisms to fail. They can often be replaced as a single unit at reasonable prices.

Basement Plumbing

Basement Plumbing — What to know

Most unfinished basements have minimal plumbing, while finished basements can have almost as many plumbing fixtures as above-ground spaces in your home. Plumbing elements that are unique to basements may include:

  • Main water supply line
  • Floor drain
  • Laundry sinks and washing machine
  • Water supply to furnace humidifier
  • Outdoor faucet water supply lines
  • Drain line from heat recovery ventilator (HRV)

Potential water supply and main drain issues in the basement includes leaking taps, faucets and fixtures, main drain sewage backup, leaking washing machine connections, seasonal outdoor tap maintenance.

Basement Plumbing Problems and Solutions:

Repair issues like these are the same as for any tap or faucet. A dripping tap usual requires a replacement washer or valve cartridge, just as with any other tap or faucet in your home.

Every home serviced by a municipal water supply will have a pipe entering the house (typically a 3/4” diameter line in the basement), a shutoff valve and a water meter. It’s not enough to just find the valve, but actually try closing it. Most main valves are round knobs that close with clockwise rotation. Try closing the valve to make sure it hasn’t gotten too stiff to move.

If your home is serviced by a private water system, you are responsible for maintaining the pump, pipes, switches, valves, gauge and pressure tank. Has your water stopped flowing? Check to make sure the fuse or breaker supplying the pump isn’t tripped. Replace or reset as needed. All private water systems should also have a pressure gauge near the pressure tank. If the gauge shows pressure between 30 pound-force per square inch (psi) and 60 psi, your system is delivering water. Call a plumber familiar with private water systems for help.

Washing machines are the only appliance that connects to water supply pipes with two short hoses that have female garden hose fittings on both ends. One hose threads onto the hot water supply pipe valve and hot water inlet port on the washing machine, and the other hose connects to the cold supply valve and the cold water inlet port on the washer. All four of these connections require washers and sufficient tightness for leak-free operation. If any of these connections are dripping water, use a pair of pliers to tighten the fittings clockwise no more than 1/8 turn past finger tight. This can be a bit tricky, so it’s recommended that only handy homeowners try this themselves. If the leak persists, shut off the water supply valve, unscrew the garden hose fitting completely, replace the washer, then do the connection back up again, snugged up with pliers.

Assuming the rest of our house has sufficient water pressure, a lack of water at the washing machine could be caused by two things. Most modern washing machines shut themselves down and display a warning code if insufficient water pressure is present. Check to make sure both hot and cold water supply valves are turned all the way ON. Most washing machines also have a screen filter where the water supply hoses connect. Shut off the water supply to the washer, remove the garden hose fittings from the machine, then look inside the port for debris on the inlet screens. Use tweezers and a toothpick to remove the debris. If you have hard water, mineral build up could also be partially blocking the filter screen. Apply vinegar to the filter screen with a spray bottle, let it sit for 30 minutes to dissolve the build up, then use an old tooth brush to remove the minerals. Re-establish the hose connections, turn on the water and test washing machine operation. If your washing machine still displays a code for insufficient water, remove the hoses from the washer again, put the ends in a bucket, then turn the water ON to check flow rate and pressure. If both hot and cold flow seems normal, call an appliance repair technician to look at your washer. If water flow and pressure really are low, have a plumber investigate the cause.

If you see water bubbling up from the main floor drain in your basement, it’s a serious issue. This could be caused by a blockage in the main drain pipe leaving your house, or the entire municipal system could be saturated. This happens most often after heavy rains and will cause sewage to back up in some or all homes in the neighbourhood. If the problem is isolated to your home only, call a plumber and avoid flushing toilets or putting any water down the drain until the problem is resolved. If the problem is caused by a saturation of the municipal system, there’s nothing much anyone can do until the wet conditions subside. The ultimate protection against sewage backup is to have a backwater valve installed on your main drain pipe in the basement floor. This one-way valve allows waste water to leave your home, but not to come back inside.

There are two kinds of outdoor taps: one operates in all four seasons, even during cold winter weather. The other outdoor tap is a three-season installation that only operates when temperatures are above freezing. The year-round tap has a valve inside the home with a long handle mechanism that extends to a knob outdoors. When you turn the valve ON or OFF, you’re turning a shaft that controls the valve that’s inside where it’s above freezing. You know you have a year-round outdoor tap if you can see an air vent extension off the top of the valve, just behind the valve handle. In order to work properly during winter, the water in this year-round valve must be able to drain out completely. Nothing can be connected to it. This is necessary to allow water inside the valve to drain out immediately after use. If you leave, say, a garden hose connected to a year-round tap, trapped water will freeze inside the valve and break it.

Every three-season outdoor tap needs to be drained in the fall, then re-activated in the spring. Start by finding and shutting off the shut-off valve controlling the tap. This is typically in the basement or some other heated part of the home. Next, go outside and open the outdoor tap all the way. Go back indoors, then find and open the small drain cap on the body of the shutoff valve, if your valve has a drain. Opening this drain cap allows the water in the pipe to come out, emptying that portion of the pipe that extends outdoors. Have a small container ready to catch the water as it comes out of the open drain cap. turn the shutoff valve back ON.

A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is a permanently installed ventilation appliance that’s now common in new home construction. During operation in winter, HRVs generate internal condensation that must drain away. A plastic tube extending from the bottom of the HRV is the usual approach. The amount of condensed water generated is not large, but it can leak from a faulty connection between the tubing and HRV. Also, the tubing can sometimes get plugged, preventing proper draining from the HRV.

Outdoor Plumbing

Outdoor Plumbing Fixtures — What to know

Most homes have a least one outdoor tap delivering cold water, but additional outdoor plumbing fixtures are becoming more common. These include hot and cold running water outdoors, and built-in lawn sprinkler systems.

Elements of outdoor plumbing include:

  • Hose tap (could be standard or frost- free type)
  • Yard irrigation system
  • Rooftop plumbing drain vent
  • Septic system
  • Greywater pit

Potential issues with outdoor plumbing include malfunctioning outdoor tap or yard irrigation system, a blocked plumbing vent that affects all drains in the house, or a failing septic system or greywater pit.

Outdoor Plumbing Problems and Solutions:

Most outdoor taps use washers instead of cartridges, but either of these may need to be changed to stop a dripping outdoor tap. Find and close the shutoff valve to the tap before working on it. If you can’t find the shutoff valve, shut off all the water to the house with the main valve. If outdoor taps become too stiff to open or close, try operating the valve repeatedly to loosen the action. If this doesn’t help, replacement of the valve by a licensed plumber will be required.

This can be caused by a blockage of the main vent pipe, usually where it exits the roof. This happens most often in regions that get very cold winters. Frost builds up inside the vent pipe as it extends above the roof, and over long cold spells the frost can build up and block the rooftop vent from admitting air. The same thing can be caused by rust building up on the inside of older-style steel vent pipes. If all or most of the drains in your house are slow or emit gurgling sounds as water goes down, you may have a blocked rooftop vent.

Built-in lawn and garden irrigation systems include permanently buried plastic hose connected to small sprinklers, watering nozzles or trickle irrigation lines across your yard. These systems deliver water according to a preset schedule programmed into your system. In cold regions yard irrigation systems get drained before winter, so a failure to operate could be caused by nothing more than a main water feed valve that needs to be turned ON. Home irrigation systems usually use proprietary hardware and fittings. If you need technical help, look for a brand name on your system, then call a service company that’s familiar with your equipment.

If you have any questions about your home’s plumbing or are looking for a licensed professional, Call on Reliance®.

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