To save you time, money and headaches down the road, we collected our favorite tips and tricks for solving common household plumbing problems. Most of these tips make use of things that cost less than $20 and these tips could save you an expensive service call.
If you have to jiggle the hose as you pull out your kitchen sink sprayer, chances are the hose is catching on the shutoff valves. For smooth operation, slip 1/2-in. foam pipe insulation over the pipes and shutoff handles. Tape it if it won't stay put. Get the insulation at home centers for about $3.
Running hot water can cause copper pipes to expand and grind against pipe hangers and joists. So pick up some adhesive-backed felt at the hardware store and cut it into strips. Then remove each hanger and wrap the pipe before refastening the hanger.
Fill the space between two stainless steel sink basins with expanding foam. The foam deadens vibrations and lessens the gong effect. It's possible to do this with the sink in place but much neater and easier before installation. Either way, let the foam harden and then trim away the excess with a knife.
When a hard object like a toothbrush, comb or toy plugs a toilet or drain, a plunger may not be the solution—it might only push the obstruction in deeper. Instead, suck out the water and the obstruction with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
When trying to locate a pipe under the floor, attach a rare earth (neodymium) magnet to an electrical fish tape and feed it into drain lines through the cleanout plug. Locate the magnet (and the pipe) under the floor using an ordinary compass, which will turn wildly when it finds the strong magnet.
You don't have to run to the neighbor's bathroom during a plumbing project. Before you turn off the water supply, fill 2- gallon buckets with water. Flush the toilet by dumping the water in the bowl. You'll get one flush per bucket. Works just as well as the usual method, although it won't refill the bowl.
Your walls may not have much inner beauty, but it's a good idea to take pictures of what's inside during remodeling. The same goes for floors and ceilings. When your next remodeling or repair project rolls around, you'll know where the framing and the electrical and plumbing lines are.
Before you remove a sink trap, give the drain a few plunges with a toilet plunger. This will push most of the water out of the trap, lessening the mess when you pull the trap. If you have a double sink, be sure to plug the other drain to contain the air pressure. If the strainer isn't a screw-down style, you'll have to hold it down while you plunge the drain.
Whether you're remodeling or just running wire, knowing what's inside the walls is helpful.
If your project requires holes in the wall or ceiling, all you need is a digital camera or cell phone to see what's inside those dark spaces.