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What could go wrong with my plumbing?

Essential know-how for keeping your home’s pipes flowing smoothly

Let's face it. Your plumbing system is probably one of the least glamorous things to invest in. But if you’ve ever experienced water heater problems, leaky pipes, or poor water pressure, you understand how essential indoor plumbing is to make everyday life comfortable.

Pipes, fixtures, and parts of your plumbing can degrade with age and can become damaged in a variety of unexpected ways. Even small things like having additional guests in your home can put an extra strain on an already struggling toilet. In fact, many plumbers cheekily refer to the day after Thanksgiving as “Brown Friday” in their industry.

While you may not find yourself facing a holiday clog anytime soon, plumbing emergencies have a nasty habit of popping up when you least expect them. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common plumbing problems you may encounter as a homeowner, as well as a few handy tips to help prevent them.

Dripping faucets and showerheads.

A steadily dripping faucet can waste more water than you think. This is usually caused when a washer inside the faucet or showerhead becomes damaged or dislodged.

What to do: If you have some basic tools and DIY know-how, you might want to try replacing this washer yourself – just be sure to shut off the water supply to the faucet first. When in doubt, trust this job to a licensed plumber.

Clogged drains.

Slow or clogged drains in your kitchen or bathroom are often caused by a buildup of residue.

What to do: Your first solution should be to dislodge the clog with a plunger, plumbing snake, or other manual clog removal tool. If that doesn't work, try a combination of baking soda and white vinegar. Avoid clogs by refraining from pouring fatty liquids down kitchen sinks and using a mesh drain guard on bathroom drains to catch hair and other debris.

Running toilets.

Much like a dripping faucet, a running toilet can lead to significant water waste. This is often caused by a cracked or worn flapper, which is the rubber plug at the bottom of your toilet tank. If that’s not it, check to see if the flapper chain is long enough, as it could be holding the flapper slightly open.

What to do: If you suspect your toilet is running, try adding a few drops of food coloring to the water in the tank. If the water in the bowl turns the color of the water in the tank in a short amount of time, it means your toilet is running and you're wasting water. Luckily, flappers are easy to replace and can be found at any hardware store.

Corroded and leaking water heaters.

 If you spot visible rust on your water heater tank or see water pooling around it, there's a good chance your water heater has rusted from the inside out. The average lifespan of a water heater is eight to 10 years, and the odds of corrosion increase with time.

What to do: A rusty and leaky water heater should be replaced, not repaired. To help prevent this issue, drain and flush your water heater annually to remove the sediment that often causes corrosion.

Hard water.

This is less a problem with your plumbing and more of an issue with your water supply. If you live in an area rich in certain mineral deposits, those minerals are likely present in your water. This can give water an unusual taste, make clothes feel stiff and scratchy after washing, and even damage your pipes and fixtures over time.

What to do: You can check the quality of your water with hard water test strips found in many plumbing supply and hardware stores. The best solution for hard water problems is installing a water softening system, which neutralizes the minerals that cause these issues.

Jammed garbage disposal.

When a garbage disposal's blades encounter resistance that strains the motor, it will usually shut down to prevent damage. A piece of silverware, a bone, fibrous vegetables like asparagus, or even starchy foods like potatoes or pasta can gum up the blades.

What to do: Most garbage disposals are designed to allow you to manually turn the blades from the bottom of the unit with a screwdriver or hex wrench; try turning the blades this way while running hot water to loosen the clog. Never stick your hand into the garbage disposal from above. Once the clog is cleared, you may need to press the reset button on the bottom of the unit before it works again.

Browse plumbing protection

Repairs are inevitable, but you can be prepared. Take a look at our plumbing plans and select the one that's right for your home.

Terms and conditions contained in the protection plans may limit our contract obligations due to coverage caps, coverage exclusions, and our cash back offer. View plan details for more information.

*Repair claims are limited to $500 per service call and $2,000 per plan in the aggregate per plan term. Plans are provided by NRG Protects Inc. Independent contractors will be performing various services under the plans. In some instances we may make a cash payment in lieu of repairs or replacement in the amount of actual cost, which may be less than retail, to repair or replace any covered system, component, or appliance.

**If your authorized repair technician determines that the water heater is deemed irreparable, we will give you a credit of $500 towards a replacement water heater by your authorized repair technician.

Once repair plans commence, there is a 30-day waiting period before you may request services for a claim. Unless the plan provider elects not to renew the plan, upon expiration of the first year, the plan will automatically renew at the standard rate and terms unless you opt out of the auto-renewal option in writing by mail at P.O. Box 2309, Houston, TX 77252- 2309, by email at or by calling us at 1.855.241.9094. Sales tax will be added in select states.

This is a summary of what the provider will and will not cover under the plan, and is subject to the Terms and Conditions of the plan. The Terms and Conditions may limit the provider's contractual obligations due to coverage caps, coverage exclusions and any cash-back option available under the plan. Please refer to the Sample Terms & Conditions for details.