Tips to Help You Diagnose Plumbing Problems in Cincinnati

Not every home plumbing problem is easy to identify. Even plumbing issues that seem fairly basic, like a running toilet, clogged pipes, or water heaters that don’t make enough hot water, aren’t always obvious and may not give you a clear indication of the problem’s source. Most homeowners don’t know everything there is to know about the plumbing system nor do they have the correct tools to work on fixtures and pipes – and so these sneaky situations go unaddressed, which can cause a major plumbing problem to result.

Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing offers comprehensive plumbing repairs for homeowners throughout the Cincinnati area. It’s ok if you don’t know the exact source of your plumbing issue or what causes it – a professional plumber on our team can find it and fix it fast. Water pressure problems, malfunctioning water heaters, tree roots causing clogged pipes, or even frozen pipes – whatever the plumbing issue, we can help.

Below, our plumbers discuss the methods we use to pinpoint plumbing problems whenever we visit a customer’s home to perform service. We also explain diagnostic tips you can use to hunt down a running toilet, slow drains, dripping faucets, and more so you can either fix these issues yourself or contact us to do so. Also, learn when certain plumbing issues are too serious for DIY repairs, so you know when to call a plumber.

How Plumbers Investigate Home Plumbing System Issues

Not everyone knows exactly what plumbing issues they have on their hands when they call a plumber to make an appointment for plumbing service. That’s perfectly fine! A professional plumber will come to your home and identify situations from a minor plumbing issue to a major plumbing problem.

There are a few steps a plumber will take when arriving on site, which allow him or her to get a better feel for your situation and to diagnose plumbing problems.

  • Talking with you and other members of your family provides them with important information to accurately diagnose the problem or the location it originates from.

  • Physical inspection helps determine which causes the symptoms you experience. For example, low water pressure and minimal water flow from a shower head or kitchen sink faucet can tell them if there may be an issue with improper installation or if mineral buildup and sediment in the fixture are responsible, or your plumber may note that the symptoms affect all plumbing system fixtures, which would indicate a problem affecting water lines throughout the home. Watching clogged bathroom tub drains, clogged sinks, and clogged toilets can help plumbers figure out where the clog sits in the drain piping.

  • Your plumber will also bring along proper tools that will allow him or her to dig deeper into the plumbing system to find well-hidden defects.

  • Infrared detection equipment allows plumbers to take the temperature of water within pipes or your water heater. The correct tools also take temperature readings behind walls so plumbers can find silent leaks that have yet to produce visual evidence in the home, as well as frozen pipes behind walls that aren’t as easy to assess as exposed pipes.

  • A sewer scope allows plumbers to see inside the drain line to check for clogs, tree roots, and other damage. By looking into the sewer line, the location of the plumbing problem can be easily identified.

  • Moisture detectors are used to help spot signs of water leakage in the walls and other areas of the home.

  • Gas leak detectors take a measurement of gas levels in the air, which can tell your plumber if you have a faulty water heater.

  • Analyzing the home’s water quality can be helpful when looking for rusty pipes. Water discoloration due to rust in galvanized pipes and copper pipes indicate the supply line is probably due for replacement.

Tips to Help You Diagnose Plumbing Problems at Home

It’s important that you know how to address certain plumbing issues in the home, but it’s also helpful to know when a plumber should be brought in. Hiring a plumber can be quite expensive, and when plumbing problems are relatively straightforward and not so serious, you may be confident in making these plumbing repairs yourself. Knowing the difference between a small issue and larger problem can be difficult. One of the most important things you can do is recognize the signs of bigger problems before they escalate into an expensive repair.

Here is some important advice that will help you identify if plumbing problems exist in your Cincinnati home and where they may be coming from.

Watch for Inflated Utility Bills 

If you suddenly get a large water bill, it’s probably because you have a leak. This is especially true if this is the first time you’ve seen your water bill increase more than usual and there’s no obvious reason for your water bills to go up.

If you notice that your water bill seems unusually high, cut off all sources of water in the house, including fixtures and appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine. Next, take a look at your water meter. Some water meters have a built-in leak detection indicator, but if yours does not, the usage dial will still provide the information you need. If the numbers continue to increase or the leak detection dial moves, then there is definitely a leak somewhere in your house.

Now it’s time to look through the house to try and find those leaks. When checking for leaks around the house, it’s important to check all sources of water and plumbing.

Check these spots for signs of water leakage:

  • Behind and Underneath the Dishwasher
  • Under Your Bathroom Sink and Kitchen Sink
  • Near the Hot Water Heater

If you’re lucky, the leak will be easy to identify and fix. Dripping faucets can often be fixed by replacing O-rings or cleaning mineral deposits from cartridges. Problems with the toilet can often be hard to detect, as leaks aren’t always as obvious as a running toilet — food coloring added to the toilet tank can help show if water escapes the upper tank to the bowl, suggesting the flapper, flush valve, or fill valve has malfunctioned.

Hidden leaky pipes may appear as damp patches on the carpet or discoloration of your tile floors — standing out so long as there’s light shining on them. Other signs of a leak are mold or stains forming on ceilings and walls or wet spots appearing around your hot water heater.

Keep Track of Slow Draining Pipes

A slow drain is an annoyance that all homeowners will experience at one point or another. If you notice that your drains aren’t draining as quickly as usual, it’s time to check them all. If you have one slow drain or multiple slow drains that are not draining properly, it’s important to note where they are in the home so you can determine the likely spot where the clogged drain blockage sits.

  • If you have a single slow drain, then there is a good chance the clog is only affecting one fixture in your bathroom or kitchen. If you can remove the sink drain cover on your bathroom sink or the stopper on your clogged bath and see the blockage, try to remove it. If your clog is near the kitchen sink, you should turn off power to the garbage disposal at the switch and breaker before you attempt to remove any food substances from the clogged drain.

  • When multiple drains in your home are slow, it usually means that there is a clog in the branch line, which transports waste from fixtures in one area of the home to the main sewer line out of the home. A clog could be caused by human waste and other matter washed down the drain. A clog in the branch line is still relatively close to the clogged sink or bath, so you may be able to reach this blockage with a pipe snake, also called a plumbing auger. This is a tool you can use to bust up matter and pry out the debris that slow the drain.

  • Slow drains throughout the entire house are a sign of a blockage in the main drain line, which carries waste to the sewer line buried outside. Unfortunately, this type of clog is often located so deep within the drainage system that it’s hard for homeowners to reach on their own. That’s why it’s best to hire a plumber to clear the main drain line.

  • Sewer backups can occur at any time, causing sewage and sewer gas to come back up through drains in your home. Sewer system backup is usually the result of old sewer lines, or blocked or damaged sewer lines connecting the home to a shared sewer or private septic system. If you experience sewer system backup and you see sewage coming from any drain or smell sewer odor in your home, call a plumber immediately.

Monitor Winter Water Flow 

Frozen pipes can be a very annoying problem that can cause major plumbing problems. When your plumbing freezes, it can be enough to quickly burst your pipes and cause costly and extensive damage to your home. You can find the location of the frozen pipe by turning on each faucet in your house and seeing if any of them responds with water.

  • Low water pressure from a single dripping faucet usually means the frozen water sits in that fixture’s supply line.

  • If you have low water pressure and limited water flow from all fixtures in part of the home, the supply pipe branch is probably frozen.

  • When every plumbing fixture in your home is affected by poor water pressure and limited water supply, frozen pipes are most likely situated in your main water supply line.

Frozen pipes need to be thawed right away to prevent cracked pipes and major water leaks. If you cannot thaw the pipes on your own, call a plumber for emergency repair services.

Cincinnati Plumbing Repair

Whether you need help identifying plumbing problems or need someone to fix known issues such as dripping faucets, water heater malfunctions, a running toilet, or clogged pipes, Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is happy to help you. Call us today and we’ll solve your plumbing problem as quickly as possible!

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