When the water dribbles out of your faucet, it could be a sign of low water pressure in the kitchen sink. There might be an issue with the water supply affecting the entire street, or it could be something more localized, affecting your home.
You need to investigate the source of the problem, but where do you start? Do you call in a professional, or do you attempt to fix it yourself? The best advice is to start with simple things. In many cases, the solution is easier than you think.
Here are a few tips.
1. General and Localized Problems
Now and then, you experience a problem with the water supply. It could be a general problem affecting the surrounding area. If that is the case, you should report any drops in pressure to the water company.
There may be some planned maintenance work that will affect the pressure, so be sure to check with the water company for alerts.
How to Fix
Ask a Neighbor
Before you make that call, you need to know if the issue is yours alone or something more widespread. Drop round to the neighbor’s house and ask if there is a problem with their water supply.
Don’t just knock on the neighbor on one side; go to both houses and also cross the street and ask immediately opposite. That way, you know that it is not something isolated to your home.
If they answer yes, you can direct your efforts in the right place. Report the fault to the water company, and they will send someone out to investigate. Like the pipes in your home, they sometimes suffer from blocked pipes or failed pumps.
Look for Water In The Street
It’s also a great idea to look for wet patches in the road, especially on warm and dry days. This could be a sign of a water leak under the ground and will require further investigation from the water company.
After all, water has to go somewhere, and with a burst main, it rises to the surface. It’s also a good idea to check social media. News spreads fast, so if there is an issue, it may be that someone has already posted about the pressure drop.
These don’t fix the problem directly, but at least you know the best course of action, which leads to the problem getting rectified.
If the neighbor has no issues with their water supply, it could be a more localized issue with your home.
2. Whole House Problems
If you are the only person experiencing a drop in water pressure, you need to begin your investigation in your home. Work logically, starting at the point where the water enters your property.
You can test the pressure yourself by buying a test gauge with a hose connection. These can be purchased online or from DIY stores and are handy to keep in the house to regularly check the pressure.
Attach the gauge to your faucet and make sure that all the other faucets are shut off, along with any water-using gadgets and machines like dishwashers and washing machines. Turn the tap on, and you will get a reading.
What constitutes high and low water pressure? 45 to 50 pounds per square inch (PSI) is considered low, while 60 PSI is a good reading. If you get 80 or above, the pressure is too high.
How to Fix
Closed Water Valve
You might have a partially closed water valve. The mains valve is usually located near your meter. This controls the main supply to your home. Check to see if it is fully open.
It might be that someone from the water company attended an issue, partially closing the valve and forgot to restore the flow fully when they finished. Fortunately, the valve is easy to control and doesn’t require the services of a plumber.
The regulator sits at the meter or where the water supply line enters the property. Its job is to control the water flow, making sure that the water doesn’t rush through the pipes.
Regulators corrode over time and become blocked with chalk and debris associated with water. This is especially true in areas with a high chalk content in their water. When the regulator fails, it causes a drop in water velocity that affects the entire house.
You might be able to reset the regulator, or you could replace it. To do this, you would need some plumbing skills and possibly the permission of the water company. If you are unsure, call in a professional.
Check for Leaks
To find out if you have a leak in the mains pipe, shut down every attachment in the house like faucets and appliances that use water and turn off the water valve. This suspends the water supply to your home.
Make a note of the number on the meter and return after 2 hours to take another reading. If the numbers have increased, you likely have a leak and should report it to the relevant authority.
3. Kitchen Faucet Problems
When the supply dries up, and nothing comes out of the faucet, start by checking nearest the sink. A few simple checks could reveal the source of the issue and get sorted in double-quick time.
How to Fix
Clean The Faucet
The first thing to do is check that the spout of the faucet is clear of debris. Water carries limescale, which hardens when it dries. Nothing clogs a pipe faster than set chalk.
If you see scum around the spout, use the vinegar solution as previously mentioned.
Adjust The Isolation Valves
Modern plumbing makes it easier to isolate the water supply, so when you want to change a faucet, all you need to do is turn off the isolation valves beneath your sink, and the water stops flowing.
If you get a pressure drop, check these valves are fully open. It could be something as simple as a few turns, and the pressure is restored.
Check for leaks
Grab a flashlight and get under the sink to check for leaks. Old pipework corrodes over time, especially galvanized steel, and you can see the tell-tale signs of a leak because the metal discolors as sediment builds-up around joints and junctions.
Use Your Nose
Damp has a distinct musty smell that you can often detect before you realize you have a leak. If you think you have a leak, use your nose to guide you to the spot. Also, use your hands to feel the pipework for damp patches.
Use Puppy Pads
Puppy pads are highly absorbent, so if you have a leak, even a small one, placing a puppy pad down could be a great way of detecting it. If the pad is wet, you have a problem.
The pad doesn’t resolve the issue, but it does make it easier to spot. And the best bit is you will know where to find the leaky pipe, because the pads sit directly below it.
4. Blocked Aerator
If you are not sure what the aerator is on your faucet, it’s the tip of the spout with a tiny grill that separates the water flow into multiple jets that spread the water volume to reduce splashing in the bowl.
It also filters out the smallest particles of sediment from the water, which is why these tiny holes get blocked and hamper water flow.
How to Fix
You could have a clogged faucet. Water leaves a silted residue in the pipes over time, leading to a reduced pressure level. You need to clear your tap, and there’s an easy way to do it.
Place an open zip-lock bag filled with vinegar over the spout of your tap and tie it with string to keep it in place. Leave it overnight to give it a thorough soaking. The following morning, rinse the faucet, and all the residue should vanish.
Remove The Aerator
Grab some locking pliers and unscrew the aerator counterclockwise from the faucet. It looks like a cylinder with a fine mesh to catch the smallest particles of sediment.
Try pouring some vinegar in a cup and drop the aerator in the solution. Leave it overnight to let the vinegar work its magic.
5. Cartridge Issues
There are tell-tale signs that the filter cartridge is blocked. The water pressure dropping is the main one, but also the water can start to taste odd, and you might experience bad smells.
This can occur if you miss the replacement date and keep using the filter until it becomes clogged. You might also get intermittent water flow. Because water filters need a certain amount of pressure to operate, the tap begins to malfunction when the flow rate falls.
How to Fix
Replace The Filter
It seems a little obvious, but the best way to restore water pressure through a cartridge is to replace the old one with a brand new filter. It could be the simplest solution. If you miss the replacement date 99 percent of the time, this is the main culprit.
Also, if you live in a hard-water area (where the water contains more sediment particles), you might want to consider replacing your cartridge earlier than recommended. This could be because your filter has a lower micron rating than is suitable for your water supply.
Running To Drain
If the water runs intermittently, it could mean your reverse osmosis membrane needs replacing. Reverse osmosis uses partially permeable membranes to trap particles, bacteria, and unwanted molecules.
Also, if the water tastes bad or you get odors, the membrane may need to be replaced. If the problem persists, either swap the filter or call the water company to check that there are no contaminants in the supply.
Sometimes the water company increases the chlorine levels when they carry out maintenance. When that happens, you will have to boil the water before consumption until the issue is fixed.
6. Damaged Water Lines
Damaged water lines can be tricky to spot. If the pressure drops from the faucet and you’ve exhausted the obvious culprits, it’s time to dig a little deeper.
Look for sinkholes and puddles in the front yard, especially if the weather is dry. Wet patches in the walls and ceilings and dirty or smelly water is another giveaway.
If your water bills have risen or you can hear running water even with the faucets shut off, these could all be signs of a damaged water line. You could also have tree roots near the property that could damage the lines, or maybe they are under attack from rodents?
Even the type of soil beneath your house determines if the water lines are under threat. Clay soil expands and retracts with the moisture levels, and sometimes it can result in the cracking of underground pipework.
How to Fix
Call In The Professionals
It may be one of the few times that you have to bite the bullet and call in the professionals. Often, pipework under the soil remains the property of the water authority, so digging down to make a repair could land you in hot water (excuse the pun).
It could also increase your total spend as the water company makes good any repair work you have done. Expect to pay between $70 and $130 per hour plus materials to repair the water line.
It can take anywhere between 8 hours and several weeks to get a mains water line repaired, depending on how complicated it is to gain access and the extent of the damage.
If the water line springs a leak within your property, you can patch it using epoxy resin or putty. Seal off the water supply and drain the pipe so that it is dry, or this will affect the way the putty sets.
Apply generously to the split and leave it to harden as the epoxy adheres to the pipework.
Buy a Patch Kit
You can buy a rubber sleeve that slides over the crack and forms a seal to stop the leak. Again, this is a temporary fix and should only be done in conjunction with speaking to the water company.
Use Duct Tape
Some tapes are suitable for temporarily fixing your mains leak. Brands like Gorilla are waterproof. Make sure the water is isolated and the pipe drained and dry. Wrap the tape around the pipe several times, ensuring it covers the crack and a watertight seal is in place.
7. Impaired Pressure-Reducing Valve or Shut-Off Valve
You might live in an area with high pressure. Mountainous regions, where the water supply comes down from the mountains, typically have a higher water pressure than other places.
A pressure-reducing valve stops additional pressure from being placed on your water supply system.
There are common symptoms that tell you your PRV has malfunctioned:
- Low or fluctuating water pressure.
- Zero water pressure.
- Rattling or vibrations when you run the faucet.
- Water in your front yard.
- Sudden increases in water pressure.
How to Fix
Get Professional Help
You can call in the experts, and they can reset the valve. They will also conduct a full investigation and certify the reset with a VR stamp.
The downside is that you increase your repair bill from about $50 to around $300. You should expect to get about 5 years of serviceable life from your pressure release valve, so it will be an ongoing cost factor.
Replace The Valve
With the right tools and know-how, you can replace the pressure release valve yourself. It is a task that requires some degree of skill so should only be attempted if you feel confident enough.
It does involve you draining the system, removing the overflow pipe from the PRV using a pipe wrench. Remove the valve and swap it for the new one and wrap Teflon tape around the threads of the new valve to create a watertight seal.
Reattach the new valve, screwing the threads in so the tape starts to make a tight joint. Now open the cold water feed and check for leaks around the valve. If it is dry, you should be good to go.
Adjust The Pressure
Pressure release valves can be adjusted, so check that the pressure setting is correct before embarking on an expensive repair. To turn the pressure up, twist the screw clockwise, and to turn it down, go counterclockwise.
Most PRVs are preset at 55 PSI (pounds per square inch), so anything less and it will need adjusting.
8. Leaking Pipes
We forget all about our water pipes until they spring a leak, and then you curse them for the damage they can do. And the bad news is that simple things can cause a leak. Extreme cold weather causes the pipes to freeze and crack.
Changes in water pressure, faulty water heaters, corroded joints, and sediment build-up all lead to a failure of the pipework. The good news is that many of the repairs are simple.
How to Fix
Isolate the water and drain the pipe, making sure it is totally dry. Apply the epoxy to the crack and let it harden before refilling the line. You need to form a protective layer around the entire circumference of the pipe.
Wrap duct tape to seal in the ends, so the water doesn’t leak out. This is only a temporary fix, and ultimately, you will need to replace the broken section with a new one.
Use a Pipe Clamp
You can buy a pipe clamp from the DIY store. Pipe clamps have a rubber gasket to create a tight seal against the pipework and are an ideal solution for small leaks.
As you twist the clamps, it squeezes against the pipe and forms a seal.
Cut Out The Leak
By removing the pipe section that contains the leak, you can perform a permanent repair using slip couplers that match the pipework’s diameter.
Before purchasing the slip couplings from the DIY store, ensure that the material matches the pipe. Hold the coupling up to the line and mark the length.
Use a pipe cutter to score along the pen mark, ensuring that you get a clean cut. You can pick up pipe cutters at your hardware store. To clean up the cut, use a deburring tool or abrasive paper.
Insert the couplings and either tighten by hand or use a wrench, and you have a permanent repair.
9. Leaking Toilet
Toilets can be one of the most frustrating of all household water leaks. They are tricky to spot because they usually occur underneath the toilet, where the pipe joins the water tank, or where the soil pipe connects.
These are not easily visible unless you are conducting an investigation, and that might be once you notice water damage occurring. You may get lucky and hear water dripping, or the leak is more obvious, but this is rare.
How to Fix
Replace The Wax Ring
The wax ring seals the toilet waste pipe to the drain. Over time, this can perish, causing the toilet to leak. Also, if your toilet is loose and not secured to the floor correctly, it could be the reason why you have a leak.
The tell-tale sign is water pooling at the toilet base because the water flows down the contours and collects at the bottom. Remember that this water is likely to be dirty, so repairing it as soon as possible is crucial for hygiene.
Tighten The Tee Bolts
The Tee bolts secure your toilet to the floor. If it is not secure, it will move around, putting strain on the pipes and drain.
The tank typically leaks from the connecting pipe that supplies water from the mains supply to refill the tank. Check around the back of the toilet and see if you can feel moisture at the joint.
If you can, you will need to drain the tank and isolate the water supply to safely remove the pipe to check the seals. It may be a simple fix by reapplying the flexible pipe and using plumbers putty to create a watertight seal.
Under Pressure (Or Not)
Fixing water pressure could be the simplest task, but as you can see from all the possibilities above, it could also be like looking for a needle in a haystack. So many things affect the water pressure in your home.
The best advice we could give is to start with the simple things first. Think of it like this; if your light goes out, you don’t check that the wiring is okay or rewire the switch; you check that the bulb has blown.
With water pressure and water leaks, look at the culprits nearest the faucet and start working outwards with your search. Also, think logically. Try and imagine the things that make a difference to the water pressure and target your search accordingly.
Failing all of the above, you can also call in the professionals and get the work done the first time correctly with a job guaranteed.