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10 Plumbing Services You’ve Probably Wasted Money On

You don't need to call a plumber for every leaky pipe or clogged drain. Often, some simple plumbing fixes are cheaper and easier to do yourself. Here are some plumbing services you've probably wasted money on—and how you can use DIY fixes to avoid calling a plumber in the future.

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Fixing a Leaky Faucet

A leaky faucet can be one of the simplest household fixes. Start by looking up the type of faucet you have online.

In most cases, fixing a leaky faucet will be as simple as replacing a single washer. You will need tools to take apart (and put back together) a portion of the faucet. These are things you’ll likely already have, such as a wrench, screwdriver, Allen wrench and maybe even some WD-40. Regardless, it’s unlikely to be a time-consuming or costly fix.

Sometimes the repair might be a little more involved, but there’s a good chance it will still be something you can do on your own. Here are the complete instructions for how to fix a cartridge-type faucet.  If you have a ball-type faucet, here’s how to fix it.

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reset garbage disposalFamily Handyman

Unjamming a Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal is jammed, you don’t need to call a plumber. Almost every disposal comes with a slot for a hex wrench that you can use to manually turn the disposal rotor and force food debris clear.

Often, just a few cranks with a hex wrench get a garbage disposal moving again.

You should, however, practice caution whenever fixing a garbage disposal. Before trying to free the rotor, make sure the power to the disposal is off, and that there’s nothing visible blocking the disposal or in the sink. Here’s how to clean your garbage disposal.

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Fixing a Running Toilet

An overflowing or running toilet can easily cause you to panic. Don’t.

With a running toilet, it’s most likely that the flapper or flapper chain has become damaged. Repairing or replacing these parts is usually pretty simple, and you may not need any tools at all—just a replacement flapper or chain.

Start by removing the toilet tank lid and looking at the flapper. Any damage or problems with sealing should be easy to spot. Here’s everything you need to know to fix a running toilet.

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Unclogging a Drain

Cable auger and hair snakes that can be found at most hardware stores pull blockages up and out of a clogged drain. Sink plungers, also available at most hardware stores, can be used to force debris down and out. Keep these go-to products on hand for when you need to clear blocked drains ASAP.

You should, however, avoid using heavy-duty drain cleaners. These cleaners rely on powerful chemical reactions that can easily damage your drains and often only clear a portion of the drain out; just enough for some water to flow through.

Once your drain is unclogged, you can also take steps to keep it from getting clogged again. Use hair catchers, don’t send the wrong foods down a garbage disposal and avoid pouring grease or fat down the sink, where it’s liable to harden and clog.

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Repairing Water Damage in Bathroom Cabinets

If you can identify and stop the source of the water damage—usually a leaky pipe attached to the sink—you can stop further water damage, sop up the water that’s already leaked out and use heavy-duty fans to dry things out. Here are 12 tips for major water damage repair.

Re-finishing or repainting the cabinet’s surface will cover up the water damage and help keep it from getting worse. There are other, simpler solutions, too—like cabinet wraps that you can use instead of a full re-lamination or re-paint.

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Showerhead Suti Stock Photo/Shutterstock

Upgrading a Showerhead

Whether it’s because you want to switch to a water-saving showerhead or you feel like you’re not getting enough water pressure from your current showerhead, swapping out a showerhead can be an easy DIY project.

In most cases, installation will be as simple as unscrewing the old showerhead, cleaning the threading on the shower arm, applying plumber’s or Teflon thread tape (rather than thread sealer) and installing the new showerhead—no tools needed.

If your showerhead seals to the shower arm using a rubber washer, you may not even need thread tape.

These 10 showerheads will make your next shower more relaxing.

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Pop-Up Sink Stopper s-ts/Shutterstock

Fixing a Pop-Up Sink Stopper

Over time, your pop-up sink stopper may become crooked or skewed, meaning that it won’t be able to keep water in the sink. Repairing or adjusting these stoppers is surprisingly simple. Beneath your sink, there should be a lever assembly that controls the up-and-down motion of the stopper. Often, you can get a stopper back in alignment with just some slight manual adjustments.

If a piece of it is actually broken instead of just bent, you’ll need a pop-up sink stopper replacement kit. Just follow the instructions that come with it—no need to call a plumber.

Here’s another simple fix: How to replace a kitchen sink basket strainer.

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Installing a Faucet Aerator

If unclogging your faucet aerator doesn’t fix you problem, you might need a new one.

Faucet aerators reduce water usage by adding air into a faucet’s water stream. Most faucet aerators are designed to be easy to install and can be screwed in or unscrewed from the faucet tip by hand. In some cases, you may need a socket wrench or similar tool.

To find out what size you need, grab some spare change. If the faucet is the size of a dime, you’ll want the junior-size aerator. If it’s the size of a nickel, you’ll be getting the normal size. Then take that change and be thankful that you didn’t have to give it to someone to install anything.

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Caulking a Tub or Shower

Caulking or re-caulking a tub or shower is one of the simplest DIY plumbing projects.

You’ll need some plastic or silicone caulk, a caulking tube and some non-scratch scraping tool, such as a plastic razor, to scrape away the old caulk. First, do a little research to find out what kind of caulk you need. You’ll want one that prevents mold and mildew, since the area will often host water.

Follow the instruction that come with your caulking tube, smooth out the caulk once you’re done, let it dry for at least 24 hours and you’ll be good to go.

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Replacing the Entire Sink

It may seem like a daunting task to replace an entire sink, but if the bowl is cracked or just old and ugly, it’s time. While this is slightly more complex than some of the others on our list, it’s still something you can do yourself. Here are 11 pitfalls to avoid when replacing a sink.

Still not convinced you have enough experience to pull it off? My wife, who had to ask where the toolbox was, replaced our entire bathroom sink in just a couple hours. She was absolutely beaming afterwards and ready to take on bigger projects. Plus, it saved us at least $300. Give it a shot. You might be surprised at what you can do yourself.

Scott Huntington
Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger. He's writen for Business Insider, The Oxford University Press, the Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @SMHuntington.