A repair plumber’s truck has bins, cubby holes, and a huge miscellany of parts needed for a wide variety of common fixtures and faucets. Plumbers face a wide variety of situations and their trucks are crammed full of parts but even a well-stocked truck will rarely have more than the most common repair items. Entire warehouses are dedicated to supplying parts and those suppliers often need to special order a foreign part or a part for an older model.
By planning you can determine what brand and model of faucets, toilets, bathroom and kitchen sinks, water heater, and water pressure regulator you have and then obtain parts breakdowns and troubleshooting guides. These often can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
Call a plumbing parts supplier and ask them about your various fixtures and faucets. Are parts readily available? Are they inexpensive? When trouble arises you will have a parts list, a general idea of the cost of repair versus replacement, and you will be ahead of the game.
YouTube and do-it-yourself websites may have “fix it” videos for the model of your faucet or fixture. Check and see. Be aware that most videos cannot cover every repair situation completely.
Here are some general cautions. Do not begin jobs on holidays, weekends, or at times when plumbers raise their rates or are difficult to reach. Do start early leaving plenty of daylight to call a plumber if something goes wrong. Study the situation carefully. Think about what might happen if something suddenly broke and what the effects would be. Old corroded copper tubing might break in the wall when you are wrenching an angle stop that supplies the water to your toilet. A flood in the wall could be costly. If the angle stop, on the other hand, is new and shuts off easily and you have another toilet in the house then it might make sense to repair the toilet yourself. Be honest, too. Are you handy with tools? Did you do well in shop classes in school?
Before starting repairs on anything with a water supply to it, it is critical that the water can be turned off to your home. Generally, there are two places to do this. One is a valve located by the water pressure regulator outside your home. The second, is the main valve located near the street. Sometimes valves no longer work. For example, gate valves notoriously fail. Gate valves were common years ago but now ball valves are more common; good ball valves rarely fail. Gate valves usually have a wheel-type handle and ball valves have a lever. An old gate valve may freeze shut or may not close at all. Should the valve fail to shut off the water or fail to reopen, be prepared to call a plumber.
Most good plumbers will recommend replacing a gate valve regardless of its condition. The time to discover if it will work is not during a flood in your bathroom. If you have it replaced with a ball valve then check your water heater and laundry valves, too. Have them replaced at the same time with premium ball valves. Ball valve laundry bibbs make it easy to shut off the water to the washer after each use which may help to prevent floods in the future.
The main by the street has a flat wedge that requires a special water meter key to turn. These valves sometimes fail, too, although rarely. It is best to know if the valve works and to have a key on hand. If the valve does not turn or does not shut off the water, contact your local water authority; the main line to the meter belongs to them.
Next check the water pressure. Buy a water test gauge and attach it to the hose bibb (the faucet) above the water pressure regulator. The pressure gauge has a standard female hose thread on it and cinch it down snugly but not too tightly on the hose bibb. Turn the water on and read the dial. Your water pressure should be between 35psi and 50psi. If the pressure is higher it may stress your toilet, faucets, and any other plumbing item with a water supply. This can lead to flooding or damage your faucets and fixtures. Your pressure regulator may need adjustment or replacement. Check the troubleshooting guide and then use YouTube for guidance. For low water pressure adjust the regulator according to the troubleshooting guide. If that fails replace the unit. Some regulators have union ends and if you can find the exact replacement model they can be easy to replace. Some require soldering.
With working shut off valves, proper water pressure to your home, parts diagrams and troubleshooting guides, YouTube and “fix it” websites, you are ahead of the game.
I’m Gary Tanner and I was born into a plumbing family. Town and Country Plumbing located in North San Diego County, is our family business. Please visit our website and check out our “Plumbing Topics” section, located in the left lower column on each page, to learn more about plumbing issues so that you can plan ahead. Over 80% of our clients are repeat customers. Tell your friends about us; that is how a family business grows, by word of mouth.