Blue collar jobs offer up an interesting dynamic. They need a high level of technical skill, but they are sometimes looked down upon in a very unfair way. In the third world, plumbers, electricians, and construction workers don’t do very well. Fortunately, the western world sees the value of these vocations, which is why their services cost so much.
Plumbing is an especially sensitive area, both socially and practically. After all, few things are as embarrassing as a blocked toilet. At the same, the tiniest neglected leak could end up in thousands of dollars’ worth of property damage. You might look at your dripping tap and decide it’s not worth a plumber’s time, but the problem could be more serious than it looks.
Nowadays, you can find a tutorial for just about everything online, from making candles to installing your kitchen sink. But things aren’t always as simple as they look on the screen. A lot of those videos are made by professionals, so it won’t quite work out the same if you do it yourself. That said, there are lots of basic plumbing fixes you can do on your own, and you’d be surprised how much you can achieve with an adjustable spanner and a plunger.
Messy toilet floats
Blockages can be pretty scary. Nightmare-inducing actually. But the average blockage is something you can fix at home. First, stop flushing. All it does is raise the water level and you could end up with a messy, flooded floor, and you really don’t want to be knee-deep in that mess. You’re likely to get messy either way, so put on some heavy-duty gloves and gumboots. If the water level is near the top of the bowl, give it time to sink.
Use a toilet snake or wire hanger to try and dislodge the blockage by pushing it down the s-curve and wiggling it. This will be enough to get rid of most blockages. On the other hand, if the water level is low and your first flush didn’t work, try adding toilet paper and manually flushing by pouring a bucket of water into the toilet. Empty the bucket all in one movement. The pressure and bulk may be enough to push whatever it is into the sewer.
Plan C, with fully gloved hands, remove the stuffing on the surface so that the visible portion of the toilet bowl is clear. It’s likely there’s still a blockage further up the curve. Pour a little water into the toilet then use a cup plunger to dislodge the mess. Make sure the cup is submerged before you start pumping. If it isn’t, add a little more water. If none of this works, YouTube suggests you remove the whole toilet, bowl and all, but at that point, it’s probably best to call a plumber, because that task is definitely harder than it looks.
Leaks can be hard to spot, so if you can see where the leak is coming from, you’re probably in a good place. Follow the sound (and the puddle) to see where the problem could be. If it’s a pipe, you could cover it with insulation tape as a temporary measure. Leaking pipes need replacement with emergency plumbing, and that’s best done by a professional. On the hand, if it’s a dripping tap, you can explore a little. Your instinct is to squeeze the tap tighter, but that won’t work.
Start by shutting off the mains. Then carefully remove the tap handle. Check the mechanism below it. You’ll find a few more pieces that can be unscrewed, including a valve that looks a little like a spark plug. Use an adjustable spanner to remove it and inspect it. You’ll see a small rubber ring at the bottom. It’s called a washer, and if it’s worn out, it’s probably causing the drip. Take the washer (and the valve) to the hardware store.
If you trust yourself, browse the aisles and buy a similar piece. If you’re unsure, show it to the shop assistant and ask to buy the same type. Replace the washer and screw everything back into position, then open the mains and test for dripping. It should be fixed. If it’s not, you do get points for trying, but you should probably call a plumber.