At P.J. Fitzpatrick, we know it’s always easier to call in a pro to fix a repair issue, but if you have the patience, there are some plumbing and electrical things you can tackle yourself. Here are a few problem examples and how to fix them:
A Running Toilet
When you flush your toilet, does it continue to run longer than it should? If it’s because of a faulty ball float and/or flapper, it’s an easy fix:
First, turn off the water to your toilet. Then, inspect the flapper (which looks like a drain plug) for corrosion or damage. If it’s corroded or damaged, it’s probably not sealing out the water properly and should be replaced. If it’s not, check your ball float. If the ball float is cracked or full of water, it’s likely the source of your problem and should be replaced so it can regulate the amount of water in your toilet.
Low Water Pressure
Does your faucet or shower head seem to have lower water pressure than usual? Many times, it’s because of limescale buildup, a common occurrence in areas where there’s calcium in the water.
You can easily remove the buildup with white vinegar. For a faucet, apply a liberal amount of vinegar to a paper towel, wrap it around the faucet, and secure it with a rubber band. Let it sit for 30-45 minutes, then wipe it clean with a dry cloth. For a shower head, unscrew the head from the hose and unscrew the spray plate from the head. Then, dip both pieces in vinegar until it’s clean. After that, screw the pieces back on.
A Bath Tub Clog
Is your bath tub water going down the drain slower than usual? You probably have a mixture of gunk and debris clogging it. Instead of using chemicals to unclog your drain (chemicals can damage your pipes), our home repair service recommends removing the stopper and pulling the debris out manually.
Start by unscrewing your stopper and the stopper shaft (if necessary). After that, straighten out a stiff wire hanger and use it to pull out the buildup. Continue until there’s nothing left to pull out.
A Loose Outlet
Does your electric outlet move around? This can be a problem, as it could loosen your electrical wires and create a safety hazard. It’s an easy fix, however.
First, turn the power off. (Use a voltage tester to make sure the power is off entirely and there’s nothing running to the outlet.) After that, unscrew the cover plate and the outlet. If the outlet is recessed too deeply, add outlet shims (which you can find at a home improvement store) to the screws until the outlet sits properly. Then, screw the outlet and the cover plate back in place.
An Electrical Short
If you plug something into an outlet and it doesn’t work, you may have shorted the circuit. Try resetting the breaker and testing it out. If it happens again, then your appliance is to blame. However, if it happens when the appliance is unplugged, you likely have a short in the wiring or the receptacle. Here’s how to find and fix it:
Switch the circuit breaker to the “off” position or remove the fuse at the main electrical panel to turn off the power. Then, double-check that it’s off by using a voltage tester. After that, use a pair of insulated pliers to remove the receptacle from the box. Check each of the wires using the voltage meter. If the meter reads ZERO or “OL,” there is potentially a dead short within the circuit wiring. When the white and green or white and the uninsulated wire (ground) read the same, remove the other receptacles, switches and/or light fixtures from the circuit one at a time. Continue to check the circuit after removing each device. Once the reading changes, you’ll have found the problem.
A Damaged Extension Cord
Heavy-duty extension cords aren’t cheap, and if yours has been cut or damaged near the plug, you can save some money by repairing it yourself.
Start by cutting off the old plug. Then, make a light, lengthwise incision and score it until you can peel back the insulation jacket. Next, strip each of the wires using an appropriately gauged wire stripper and twist each of the wires tightly and screw them into the back of the plug. (Screw the white wire to the silver screw, the black wire to the gold screw, and the green wire to the green screw). Close the plug and secure the wires.
If your cord is damaged in the middle instead of near the plug, cut it in half and add new male and female ends to each half. Now instead of one cord, you’ll have two.