If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then water is its lifeblood. But when that water has difficulty making it's way through an intricate system of supply and drain pipes, costly structural damage and dangerous safety hazards could result.
Fortunately, most plumbing problems are a relatively easy fix. If you've been experiencing plumbing problems, consider fixing it yourself before calling in a professional plumber.
Before we discuss how to fix your plumbing problem, let's take a look at the components of your system. Composed of two separate subsystems, your home's plumbing can both supply your home with potable water and rid your home of waste water. Bridges in which these two systems overlap are called fixtures (your kitchen sink, for example).
The supply subsystem in plumbing design
Most homes get their water from a municipal water service. In these cases, water will come into the home after passing a meter to measure water consumption. From there, the water (which, incidentally, is under enough pressure to allow it to defeat the rules of gravity) will pass through your home's water heater before being distributed to faucets and fixtures around the home.
Though most fixtures come with individual water shut-off valves to allow for spot-specific fixes, some major repairs will require the whole water line be shut off. This will stop all water from entering your property provided that there are no leaks in the line. If your water meter continues to move even after shutting off the main valve, there is likely a leak somewhere and may require mitigation.
The drainage subsystem in plumbing design
Draining waste water is a bit more complicated for a few reasons. First, there is no pressure through which to force out waste and grey water. Instead, this process must rely on gravity which means that drainage pipes should maintain roughly one-quarter inch grade reduction for every three feet of vertical line.
Draining water also requires a trap to prevent sewage gases from entering your home. These traps, which usually resemble an "S" or "U" shape, will trap a small amount of water in the pipe so that methane and other gases will not come back up. If the trap dries out, a fowl odor may be noticeable, but simply running a bit of water down the drain should rectify it.
Troubleshooting your plumbing problem
How to fix a leak under the sink
When there is a leak in the drain line of a kitchen sink, a clog in the trap, a loose connection or a corroded pipeline are the most likely culprits. In the case of a clog, simply disassembling the unit, cleaning it then reassembling it should be all that is necessary. If a connection is loose, tightening the connection should suffice.
If the assembly is corroded, however, more extensive labor will be involved and may require replacement of the whole fixture lest contaminants make their way into your drinking water. In some cases, a stainless steal clamp can be used, but only as a temporary solution.
Common garbage disposal problems
Garbage disposals can be both a blessing and a curse. While they provide a wonderful way to dispose of food (thus keeping it from becoming rank in the garbage can), the large openings can cause many unintended items to become lodged in the motor. If this happens, the unit will not be able to run and your kitchen sink may become clogged and stinky.
The first thing to do in this case is to dislodge the debris from the motor. First, turn off the power supply to the garbage disposal then use a quarter-inch Allen wrench to manually turn the blades. If your disposal does not have an Allen wrench socket, use a broom handle or spoon to try to dislodge the jam.
If the problem is a leak rather than a jam, then the problem may be a loose connection (especially if there's been a recent kitchen remodel) or a worn-out rubber gasket. Though some gaskets can be replaced, if it is a part of the disposal itself, the whole unit may need replacing.
Don't let a backed-up drain or malfunctioning garbage disposal stop you from enjoying your kitchen. With a few simple tools and a little spare time, you can fix your kitchen plumbing problems without ever calling the plumber. So get in there and get done with it.