Commonly asked Plumbing Questions
Like most of the residents of Bedford, we all know the warning signs. Perhaps when you are taking a shower, you notice the water building up around your feet and of course, certain odours can easily be detected. These unpleasantries are of course, all signs of a clogged drain, and what’s the worst that can happen if you leave it untreated? Your drain can become blocked completely…
A clogged drain Plumbing can seem a bit of a mystery to someone wondering where to start, that’s why we’ve put together ten of the most commonly asked questions about plumbing in Bedford, as well as the answers. Of course, these aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, but they’re a good place to start if you’re experiencing any of these issues, and could help get you on your way to sorting things out.
What’s the Easiest Way to Unclog a Blocked Drain?
By and large, this is one of the most common questions we have to deal with. When your shower or sink stops draining properly, and you’re not wanting to pay to get a professional out just yet, there are several things you can do.
First off, avoid chemical drain clearers at all costs. Not only are they expensive, but they can also damage your piping. Clearing blockages really isn’t that difficult.
Invest in a drain snake and plunger, and you’ll have the job done in no time, as well as the know-how and kit to get it sorted quicker next time.
If you want a more in depth how to guide, below, we have outlined our 10 best ways that Bedford residents can do to unclog any drain:
- The Bent Wire Hanger – Extremely simple, but most importantly, effective! All you will need to carry this out is any old regular wire hanger. You will then need to bend it as much as possible so that it is straight. After you have done this, bend one end over to make a small hook. Once this is done, push the hanger as far down as you can past the drain cover and then start fishing! You should be able to retrieve all sorts of nasty stuff like hair out from the drain. One thing to remember, you always want to aim to pull out as much gunk and grime as possible and not just push things further down the drain as this can make things worse. Once you have pulled out as much as you can, pour some hot water down there and it should clear things up nicely.
- Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar – So first things first, you will need to mix one third of bicarb with one third of vinegar in a measuring cup. Be mindful, as soon as you mix the two ingredients together it will start fizzing and you should waste no time pouring down the clogged drain. Another way to do this is to start with us sprinkling the bicarbonate of soda down the drain first then follow up with pouring the vinegar. To achieve the best results, pour the mixture down the drain and let it sit for 3-4 hours or even overnight if you can. After this, flush the mixture through with hot water and this should clear the drain.
- The Wet & Dry Vacuum – If you are fortunate enough to have a wet and dry vacuum at home, it can be a terrific tool for unclogging drains in the Bedford area. Before you do anything first, cover up the vent and set the vacuum to suck liquids, then, create the tightest seal you can over the drain. You can also be creative with this by adding an old plunger head which will help with the suction. When you have the vacuum on it’s highest setting, you have every chance of sucking up the contents of your blogged drain. However, do bear in mind, that this does not always work.
- Boiling Water – When it comes to unclogging drain tips, they don’t come any easier than this. We aren’t going to outline different methods of how to boil water, but the more water you can boil the better! Once you have the water boiled, slowly pour it down in 2-3 stages allowing the water to seep through for 10-15 seconds between each pour. This is usually the easiest and quickest way to clear a clogged drain. If there is any hot water left after you’ve cleared the drain, give yourself a pat on the back and pour yourself a nice cup of tea.
- Sodium Hydroxide– Make sure you get some eye protection and a decent pair of rubber gloves for this one. Sodium Hydroxide can cause some nasty burns to the skin, so please be careful with it. You can normally pick this chemical up from most hardware stores so you won’t have to travel too far to purchase it. Start by mixing three to four gallon of cold water in a plastic mop bucket. You will then need to add 3 to four cups of the acid. Once this is added, mix thoroughly with an old wooden spoon. Once you have done this, you will notice that it will start to fizz and heat up. Once this occurs, pour this down your blocked train and leave for 20-30 minutes. After this, flush it through with boiling water and repeat is necessary.
- Cleaning the Pipe – There are some plumbing jobs that people who aren’t plumbers won’t do, but believe us, this one is easy. First thing you will need to do is a place a bucket under the U-Shaped pipe (commonly referred to as the trap) beneath the sink. The bucket will collect the water that is already trapped in the pipe. You will need to use a plumbing wrench to loosen the slip nuts at both ends of the pipe. Once the trap is free, remove it and turn it on its head which will allow you to empty the contents into your bucket. Once you are confident you have removed most of the water from the pipe, its useful to get an old toothbrush to scrub out all the remaining gunk and debris that still remain within the pipe. Once everything is cleared out, run some cold water through the pipe, reattach it and hopefully this will solve your problem!
- The Drain Snake – A simple piece of low-tech kit that works wonders in most cases. In a nutshell, it is a long flexible metal rope with spiralled metal at the end. Have a look at the video that shows just how easy it is use.
- Salt and Bicarbonate of Soda – This is great to use if you ever have a blocked toilet. Simply mix 1 half cup of table salt with 1 half cup of bicarb and pour down the blocked toilet. We would recommend that you leave it for 10-30 minutes. After this wash it down with boiling water. With these two ingredients, it creates a chemical reaction that is good at clearing most stubborn blockages.
- Dish Detergent – This again is a fantastic one if you ever find your toilet blocked. All you need to do is pour 1 quarter cup of dish detergent into the bowl. Then you need to boil some water. When you mix the two of these together, the concoction will act a lubricant and help clear away any greasy residue. You will need a plunger to remove the contents though so make sure you have a plunger to hand!
- Bicarbonate of Soda, Vinegar, Gravity and Pressure – If your bath is draining properly, try mixing bicarbonate with vinegar. Pour it down the drain, put the plug over it and leave it for a good hour. After the hour is up, fill the bath tub with water and then remove the plug. The pressure of the water should be enough to dislodge the blockage. To help yourself further, you could use the plunger and drain snake before hand to break up the blockage.
To help avoid there being a next time, get a cheap plastic strainer to stop hair and bits going down the plughole, and stop pouring grease down the sink. That should keep your sink and shower working flawlessly for the foreseeable.
What Do I Do When There’s a Severe Water Leak?
First off, you turn the main water shut-off valve off. With that sorted, you can call a plumber and get the problem sorted. They can effectively and quickly assess the situation, locate the leak and get things running again. To give you more of an insight, below we have gone into more detail on what you need to do when you have a severe water leak at home:
- Turn off the water supply – We understand how difficult it can be in stressful situations such as this, but it’s extremely important to be decisive during a severe water leak. Sometimes you need to think ahead and know what to do if the worst ever happens. Rather than waiting for torrents of water to be gushing out, take the time to find out where you need to go to shut the water off just so you are prepared! If you have a leak, you will be able to stop the flow within a few short moments. After you have initially done this, drain the system by running a cold tap (being sure to keep some of it for drinking water).
- How to turn off water supply – In most cases, turning off the water supply is simple enough to do. You will need to locate the stopcock first which is effectively a valve. If you turn it clockwise you will turn it off. By turning off the stopcock, you will turn all the water off in your household and prevent the problem from getting worse. If you feel like the leak is coming from just one specific area such as the toilet, you can turn off individual fixtures but unless you are 100% certain, we would recommend you go straight to the stopcock. Have a look at this video which shows you how to do it.
- Where is the stopcock – In most Bedford households, you will commonly find it under the kitchen sink on the ground floor. We would recommend that you leave this area clutter free as it is important to get to the stopcock quickly in the case of an emergency. In other homes, it can be somewhere that is relatively close to the kitchen sink, it can be in places such as the hallway area at the front or rear of the house.
- Turn off powered water heating systems– If you can obviously tell that the leak is due to your heating system, you can of course, shut off the water and power supply to it. The water supply can be switched off by locating the shutoff valve that, in most cases, is located near it. To drain it, simply turn on a hot tap. To cut off the power to your electric system you will need to find the relevant switch to your circuit breaker box, once you locate that, turn it off.
- Turn off electricity at the mains – If water is leaking near anything that is electrical then don’t hesitate to go straight to your circuit board and switch off the electricity supply. Its not just appliances that pose the obvious danger, so turn off any sockets and lights as these can be equally as dangerous.
My Dishwasher isn’t Draining Properly, What Should I Do?
When a dishwasher gets blocked up, not only does it stop cleaning the dishes properly, it can make a mess. Fortunately, nine times out of ten, it’s a simple solution most people can get done.
Inside most dishwashers is a strainer, designed to stop bits from blocking the drainage pipe. Give that strainer and clean and run a dishwasher cleaning tablet in there.
What we have done below is provide you with a guide to follow so that you will be equipped with the knowledge to fix your dishwasher if it is not draining properly:
- Turn off your dishwasher before you start working on it – Before you do anything, make sure you switch the dishwasher off at the mains, so you don’t damage the dishwasher or yourself for that matter…
- Remove and clean the filters – Blocked filters are the most commons reason why a dishwasher isn’t draining properly. Thankfully they are easy to check and fix. If you have a look at the bottom of your dishwasher, you will find the filters there. They are easy to pull and twist out but be mindful that they come in three parts. To clean them, simply run them underneath a cold tap. If you use your dishwasher regularly, it’s a good idea to clean the filters regularly to prevent any further blockages.
- Check if the waste hose is blocked – Another reason that could be causing the dishwasher to be blocked is the waste hose. You’ll find this at the back of the dishwasher. Have a look to see if it is squashed or kinked, if it is, this could be why the water isn’t draining away properly. You’ll need to find someone to help you pull the washing machine away from the wall if you have a free-standing machine, again, just check to see if there is enough room for the hose to drain its contents properly. If you have an integrated model, our best piece of advice is to get a professional in so you don’t run risk of damaging it.
- In some cases, you will find that the sink waste is connected to the dishwasher wastewater pipe, make sure you have a look there to see if there are any blockages.
- Perhaps it’s time to call the professionals – If you have carried out these steps and still find that your dishwasher isn’t draining, then it’s time to call in a professional.
What’s Causing My Faucet to Leak?
There’s a number of different things that can cause a faucet to leak. Four of the most common are incorrect installation, where the wrong size washer was used, worn out washers, which happens simply as a result of normal wear-and-tear, sediment build up inside, which can lead to corrosion and faulty O-rings in the handle.
Anyone, if they’re feeling up to it, can take their faucet apart and have a go at fixing it, but if you’re not feeling confident, it could prove easier to go ahead and call in a professional. We have provided a simple guide below that may give you more confidence to tackle the problem yourself without using a professional in Bedford:
First things first, you will need the following tools:
- Adjustable wrench; C wrench
- Phillips and/ or flat-headed screwdriver
- Penetrating oil, such as WD-40 or CRC
- Replacement washers and O-rings
- Turn the water off first – Don’t make the situation worse than it needs to be. Before applying a wrench to anything, make sure you go to the mains and switch off the water. Also make sure the handles are switched off too to prevent any trapped water from squirting out.
- Remove the decorative parts – To take care of that, just pry them off with a flatheaded screwdriver and that should do the trick. The handle is connected to the stem by screws, just unscrew them gently and remove it. You can use your penetrating oil to assist you in loosening it, this will then allow you to take the faucet handle off from the system.
- Keep on loosening – To loosen the packing nut, just simply use your wrench. The stem should be noticeable by then and when you see it, just remove it. Depending on the type of faucet you have, some stems just pop right off with little effort, while others just twist off from the valve. Be sure to check the removed parts for any damage.
- How does it look – If by this point everything seems to be intact, make sure to have a close inspection of the O-ring and washer inside the valve seat – these could be the reason why have a leak, so be sure to look it closely. If it is damaged, remove the washer and put a replacement inside the seat. It is extremely important that the replacement washers and O-rings are the right fit. If for any reason you are not 100% sure, check the seat to see if the sides fit a coned shape or flat washer. Once you’ve decided which one is the most appropriate, go ahead a purchase the right type. If you are still unsure, just take the old O-ring to any hardware shop and they should be able to verify the right sized part for you.
- Carefully reassemble – Now that you are confident that you have replaced the damaged parts, it’s time to put the jigsaw back together and sometimes this can be the tricky bit. Just remember the parts (on order of washer/O-ring, stem, packing nut, screw, and handle) After you have done this, slowly turn the tap to see if the water comes out correctly and that you have fixed the leak. If after this you still notice that there is a leak, just call in a professional and he/she should be able to fix it.
How Do I Locate the Source of a Leak?
There’s a number of ways to locate a leak in your home. First off, check the obvious culprits; the taps. If you’ve got a constant drip, or the pipes underneath have come loose, you’ve found the leak.
Toilets can be a little harder to detect leaks in. One nifty trick is to try putting a little food colouring in the cistern and seeing if it leaks through into the bowl. If it does, you’ve got a constantly running toilet, and that probably means you need a new flapper.
So, let’s look at the above in more detail so you know exactly what to do when you want to find the source of a leak at your home in Bedford:
- Confirm the leak – Move any appliances or furniture out of the way so you can give yourself a better chance to find out where a possible leak could be. If you look at a damaged supply line for a dishwasher as an example, water will pool around it, so be sure to move it out of its position. If you still find that the source of the leak isn’t obvious at this point, turn off every appliance, faucet and fixture in your home that uses water and mark where the needle is pointing on your water meter (if you have one) with a pencil or piece of tape. Make sure any water appliances remain off, and If after 8 hours, the water meter has moved, this is a clear indication that there is a leak in your plumbing system.
- Kitchen and Bathrooms – Using a torch, open all cupboard doors and cabinets and have a thorough look to see if there are any obvious signs of damp or water. Its also worth looking at joints and at the bottom of the P trap. Corrosion is another obvious sign of a leak and you can often find on the supply line fittings and valves. Sometimes you will find that a leak in in the supply valve or line and it will be obvious when the waiter mains are turned on again. If this occurs, you will need to replace the supply line. You can do the same for all water-using fixtures and appliances such as your toilet, dishwasher and fridge.
- Floors, Walls and Ceilings – First you need to look at the appliances that use water, these could be toilets, baths, dishwashers and fridges. Cracked or warped flooring or spongy spots can be an indication that you have a leak on yours hands. You will also need to look at the walls and ceilings in rooms that located directly underneath bathrooms also. If you are still unsure, just call a plumber out and they should be able to locate the sauce of the leak in no time at all.
- Lofts and Basements – These can be a big problem as you don’t tend to look at them everyday like you would a bathroom or kitchen or anywhere else in your home for that matter! Corrosion or moisture around the pipes can be a sign that they are leaking. If you see mould, mildew or rotten wood around the pipes, then your leak is most probably in this area.
What Uses the Most Water in my Home?
It’d be logical to think that baths and showers are the most water-intensive, however, on average, we’ve found that the toilet is the worst culprit when it comes to water usage. This is down to it being used more frequently throughout the day.
So now that you have more of an understanding as to what uses the most water in most Bedfordshire homes, what can you do to save water? Have a look at our tips below to find out more:
- Taps – Incredibly, while you brush your teeth, a running tap wastes approximately 6 litres of water per minute! Like most people if you clean your teeth twice a day, you use a staggering 12 litres! So be sure to turn the tap off while you brush and then turn it back on when you rinse.
- Toilets – It is estimated that there are around 45 million toilets in UK homes, this equates to 2 billions litres of water every day! 30 percent of water that is used in most UK households comes from toilet flushing, so be sure to flush only when you need to… A great way to save water is to install a dual flush toilet which typically uses around 3-4 litres of water in comparison to an old-fashioned toilet which uses a massive 13 litres per flush.
- Showers – An obvious way to save water while showering is to cut down the amount of time you take. An easy way to keep track of this is to just use a timer so you know you are not taking too long unnecessarily. If taking shorter showers doesn’t take your fancy, you can also purchase a aerated showerhead which in a nutshell reduces the water flow but doesn’t compromise on pressure. They do this by maintaining the water pressure by mixing it with air giving the user a steady, even spray.
- Baths – While a bath uses around 80 litres, a shower uses only a third of that amount. However, be mindful that most power showers use more than that! So how can you save money while taking a bath? Well you can run shallower baths, if you reduce the amount by just an inch you will be saving yourself 5 litres each time. Another great way to save water overall, is to reuse your bath water on your household plants or garden.
Below we have outlined some other concerns that people who live in Bedford may have when it comes to low water pressure and the difference between soft and hard water.
What Causes Low Water Pressure?
Water pressure has a lot of bearing on how well your plumbing and appliances function throughout your home. There’s a wide range of factors that cause low water pressure. As well as water line problems, valve issues, sediment build-up and other blockage issues can affect water pressure.
See if your neighbours are experiencing similar water pressure issues, and consider getting a plumber out to get things sorted.
What is the Difference between Soft and Hard Water?
Hard water can create real issues for appliances and plumbing in the home, but what is the difference between hard and soft water. Hard water contains an appreciable range of dissolved minerals that can build up inside appliances and plumbing.
Soft water is water where there’s little to no mineral content barring sodium. Both have pros and cons for different functions within the home. For instance, soft water is much better for general plumbing and washing in but isn’t necessarily great for drinking.