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Common Plumbing Warning Signs That Might Be Risky to Ignore

By Brian Sodoma, for Ӱ Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

As we head into winter, many homeowners tend to prioritize tuning up their furnaces and other heating equipment, sometimes overlooking other important utilities. While supporting your heating is always smart, your home’s plumbing system may need professional service too.

You may want to consider an annual plumbing maintenance appointment. After all, plumbing problems are often only noticed once something breaks, but it’s likely that your system might have been trying to warn you for weeks. To avoid serious repairs, here are five often overlooked signs that the plumbing or fixes could use some professional attention.

1. Low Water Pressure

If your home’s water pressure drops suddenly, that’s often because there’s an issue with your water main. It could be a failure somewhere inside the main line or even a pipe within it, explained BJ Richardson, a Ӱ Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing plumbing manager.

However, if the pressure drop is isolated somewhere, like the bathroom or kitchen, it may be a fixture problem. It could be a simple fix, like swapping out a broken faucet aerator or addressing a water heater issue. Or it might be something a little more complex, like a supply line leading to that room.

“I always remind homeowners to review their water bill too. If these pressure drops happen at the same time when you’re also faced with a higher bill, there may be a deeper problem,” Richardson said. “It’s smart to check your water meter for changes even when you aren’t using water. That’s also pointing to a leak somewhere.”

Occasionally a sudden drop in water pressure starts at the municipal supply – in these cases, that is easily fixed by a booster pump.

2. A “Sewer” Odor That Won’t Go Away

“While kitchen or bathroom sink clogs can sometimes produce unpleasant odors because of debris, a persistent rotten egg smell suggests a problem. Drains include traps and vents inside them and either one can clog. If the smell lingers, you might have a clogged sewer line or even a sewer gas leak. Diagnosing and fixing these problems is best left to the professionals, Richardson said.

Remember that although propane and natural gas have a distinctive smell, those leaks are often mistaken as a sewer smell. When in doubt, call a professional.”

3. Discoloration in the Pipes

Discoloration and visible wear on exposed pipes are other signs that can be easy to overlook. If you’re in the basement or near exposed piping, it’s smart to take a closer look at exposed pipes. Discoloration and noticeable wear usually indicates the presence of a leak.

Discoloration commonly occurs in an area of the plumbing where two pipes join. Overlooking discoloration is particularly dangerous when it comes to the main water supply because they are pressurized, Richardson explained. If the plumbing breaks, it can lead to serious flooding in your home very quickly.

With certain pipes, discoloration is in fact caused by different chemicals municipalities use for water treatment.

4. Poor Drainage

It’s tempting for homeowners to remedy all clogs with liquid drain cleaner, but that’s usually only a temporary solution that could backfire and damage your plumbing system. While we’ve all heard of hair clogs, the truth is hair is not the main culprit. Products like chemical cleaners, toothpaste, hand soaps and even the oil produced from our skin create a sticky scum on the drain walls that catches hair and other foreign objects, which most liquid drain cleaners won’t remove. Using a drain machine or snake is the most effective method to clear out this type of obstruction. Often, if the clog is just inside the pipes below the sink, clearing it out usually solves the problem. But when this doesn’t work, it could mean you need to look for a more significant issue.

“The thing you ought to keep an eye on is if multiple drains are experiencing blockages, and the problem doesn’t resolve itself even after you clean the drain under those sinks,” explained Brian McMasters, a Ӱ Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing division plumbing manager. “The sewer line might also be in need of cleaning, but in some cases, the cause of the problem is tree roots that reach and crack a sewer line. Handling this kind of situation is obviously a bigger project and requires trenching down where the leak is to repair it.”

5. Standing Water in Your Front or Back Yard

Regularly inspect around your house, including your yard. It’s advisable to do so every week. Often, a broken underground water or irrigation line leak, or even a sewer main line leak, shows itself gradually, once a significant amount of water has already leaked out. Look for soft, sunken spots in the grass as these can indicate a hidden issue.

“You also want to be on the lookout for things such as unusually green patches in typically dry or yellow areas of the lawn,” said McMasters. “In many cases, that’s a sign there’s a problem a trained plumber can solve.”

Discover more about solving common issues with plumbing systems and get expert help at Ӱ Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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