Troubleshooting Common Bathroom Plumbing Problems: A DIY Guide


Every homeowner has faced a plumbing issue at some point, and the bathroom is often the epicenter of these challenges. While a professional plumber is always the best option for serious problems, there are some common bathroom plumbing issues you can tackle yourself.

woman looking upset, calling on the phone, sitting next to a sink with a tool in hand

Here’s a guide to help you identify and fix those pesky bathroom plumbing problems, with more detailed instructions for each fix:

1. Clogged Drains:

Slow-draining sinks, tubs, or showers can be a major annoyance, and in severe cases, can cause backups and unpleasant odors.

There are several common ways to unclog the drains:

  1. Firstly — try a good old-fashioned plunger. Position the plunger over the drain opening, creating a seal. Push and pull the plunger vigorously several times to dislodge the clog.
  2. If a plunger doesn’t work, try a drain snake. Insert the snake into the drain and twist it to break up the clog.
  3. Chemical drain unblockers (use with rubber gloves): Pour a drain cleaner into the drain according to the product instructions. Let it sit for the recommended time, then flush with hot water. According to tests the most effective chemical unblockers are Santeen Sulfuric Acid Drain Opener, Green Gobbler Main Line Opener and Zep 10-minute Drain Opener Gel.
  4. The cheapest solution for emergency unclogging can be boiling water. Pouring boiling water down the drain can loosen grease and hair clogs, however should be used with caution.
  5. A more unexpected solution can be baking soda and vinegar —A combination of baking soda and vinegar can create a fizzing reaction that breaks down clogs.

2. Leaky Faucets:

A dripping faucet can waste gallons of water, drive you crazy with its incessant noise, and even lead to more serious damage over time.

A Common Fix Is This:

  1. Locate the shut-off valve for the faucet and turn it off.
  2. Unscrew the handle and remove it. Some handles have a set screw you need to loosen first.
  3. Inspect the washer. A faucet washer is a small, round, rubber disk that resembles a tiny donut and fits inside the compression faucet to provide a tight seal. Remove the stem or cartridge (depending on the faucet type) and find the washer. If it’s worn, cracked, or discolored, replace it with a new one.
  4. Reassemble the faucet: Put the stem/cartridge back in place, tighten the handle, and turn the water supply back on. Test for leaks.

3. Leaky Pipes:

Leaky pipes can lead to water damage, mold growth, and even structural issues.

Your Next Steps:

  1. Turn off the water supply.
  2. Drain the pipes — To do this, turn on the faucet and let the water run until it stops flowing.
  3. Locate the source of the leak — Look for any visible signs of water, such as puddles or damp spots, and check the pipes for any signs of corrosion or damage.
  4. Clean the area around it using a cloth or sponge. This will help to remove any dirt or debris that could prevent the sealant from adhering properly.
  5. Apply the sealant: Depending on the type of sealant you’re using, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply it to the affected area.
    1. If you’re using epoxy putty, mix the two parts together and apply it to the leak.
    2. If you’re using pipe sealant tape, wrap it around the threads of the pipe in a clockwise direction.
    3. If you’re using silicone or rubber sealant, apply it to the leak and smooth it out using a putty knife.
  6. Once you’ve applied the sealant, let it dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day, depending on the type of sealant you’re using.
  7. Turn on the water supply: Once the sealant has dried, turn on the water supply to test the repaired area. Check for any leaks and make sure the water is flowing properly through the pipe. If there are no leaks and the water is flowing as it should, then you’ve successfully fixed the leak.

4. Running Toilet:

A constantly running toilet is a major water waster, and often points to a faulty flapper.

The Fix:

  1. Locate the water supply valve for the toilet and turn it off.
  2. Flush the toilet to empty the tank.
  3. Look inside the tank and inspect the flapper. The flapper is the rubber or plastic seal that sits at the bottom of the tank, covering the drain hole. If it’s worn, cracked, or doesn’t sit tightly against the valve seat, you would want to replace it with a new one. It is always advisable to call a professional but if you prefer to DIY, here are the general steps to replacing a faulty flapper:
    1. Make sure the water supply is still off.
    2. Remove the old flapper: The flapper is usually attached to the overflow tube with a clip or a chain. Carefully remove the clip or chain and pull the old flapper out.
    3. Install the new flapper: Attach the new flapper to the overflow tube using the clip or chain.
    4. Adjust the chain length: The chain should be long enough to reach the bottom of the tank and keep the flapper closed, but not so long that it pulls the flapper open. You may need to adjust the chain length by adding or removing links.
    5. Reattach the tank lid and tighten any screws.
    6. Carefully turn the water supply valve back on.
    7. Listen carefully for any dripping sounds. If you hear a leak, check that the flapper is properly sealed and that the chain is adjusted correctly.
  4. If the flapper seems fine, check the fill valve to ensure it’s not leaking. A toilet fill valve is a component of a toilet tank that is responsible for replenishing the tank after each flush. The valve is directly linked to a water supply pipe from below. You might need to call the professional to change the fill valve. Also, make sure the float is adjusted properly, so it shuts off the water flow at the correct level.

5. Low Water Pressure:

Weak water pressure in your shower or sink can be frustrating, making it difficult to get a good rinse or wash your hands effectively. Even though usually the problem with low water pressure is something only a professional plumber can fix, there are several simple reasons that might lead to this problem and can be fixed before calling a specialist.


  1. Clean the faucet aerator: Unscrew the aerator from the faucet spout and clean it with a toothbrush or a small wire brush to remove mineral buildup. Reassemble the aerator and check the water pressure.
  2. Check the water heater: If the problem persists, ensure your water heater is working properly and set to the correct temperature.
  3. Look for leaks or obstructions: Inspect the pipes for leaks or blockages, which can restrict water flow.


plumber working under the kitchen sink, handyman fixing pipes

By understanding these common bathroom plumbing issues and taking preventative measures, you can help keep your bathroom functional and frustration-free. But remember — if you are not sure you can fix it yourself, ask a specialist for help.