Plumbing repairs.  As a one-hundred-year-old professional plumbing, heating, and air company located in Pittsburgh, we have lots of questions that we get all of the time.  But the first one that I want to answer is this. Why does it cost so much for a plumber to come to my house? We have to outfit our trucks with hundreds of thousands of dollars of plumbing repair items. And not to forget specialized tools in order to handle most “typical” repair jobs. As a result, it costs us a significant amount of money just to show up and diagnose your problem for you.  The easiest way for you to save money on your plumbing repair costs is to take care of the easy stuff yourself. This is why we would like to create an ongoing series of plumbing “how to” tips. So let’s jump into four plumbing DIYs!


Are you going out of town for two weeks in the winter, or even the summer?  Turn your water off before you go,

When your bathtub faucet is leaking, but there are no local shutoffs for it, it is useful to be able to turn that off so that drip does not drive you crazy in the middle of the night.  In the Pittsburgh area, the main water supply shutoff valve is normally (about 90% of the time) on the front wall, probably in the basement right at the water meter.  Turn the supply valve clockwise (“righty tighty”) until snug to shut off the water.  In some cases, the valve may be an in-line ball valve; in that case, simply turn the ball valve handle so that it is perpendicular to the pipe/line.

Once the water supply is shut off, go to the laundry tray cold water faucet; open it up and wait for the house water supply to drain down.  Your bathtub faucet should then stop leaking and be ready for repair.


If you can’t remove your showerhead or simply want to skip that step, you can soak (clean) your showerhead by using a rubber band and a plastic bag.  Note: this method is best for showerheads made with chrome, stainless steel, or other protected metal surfaces.

First, slip a rubber band over the top of the showerhead.  You may want to loop it around the shower arm once or twice so that the plastic bag will stay in place.  Then fill a plastic bag with white vinegar.  Attach the bag to the showerhead by slipping the top of it underneath the rubber band.  Wait about one hour, then remove the bag and turn the water on to flush.  Polish with a soft cloth.


Remove the drain stopper completely by either pulling it out or by removing the screws that are in the face of the stopper.  To pull the gunk and hair from the drain, you’ll need to make sure that you can access the vertical pipe that runs down from your drain stopper.

Remove gunk and hair with a plastic snake.  You can purchase a plastic snake that has teeth on it from a home improvement store, or you can use pliers (not necessarily recommended).  Work your tool into the drain, and try to snag any grime or hair that’s caught in the drain.  Carefully pull the hair and gunk from the drain with your tool and use your fingers to pull the rest of it out.  Continue doing this until you’ve removed all the built-up hair, etc. from the drain.

Dispose of any hair or gunk into a waste bin.  Run your bathtub water.  Rinse and wipe down the bathtub.  Make sure that the water flows down the drain before wiping down the tub and getting rid of any excess debris that was pulled up from your drain.


Wrap some masking tape around the aerator to prevent scratches.  Grip the outside of the aerator with pliers, and turn the aerator clockwise to loosen it.  Be gentle; too much pressure can crush the aerator housing.

Disassemble the aerator.  Push the internal parts out of the aerator housing.  A small paper clip might help.  If the components are stuck, soak the aerator in white vinegar or a lime-dissolver solution (one-part vinegar to one part water) for 30 minutes.

Tip: Cover the sink drain to prevent small parts from accidentally falling down the drain. Use an old toothbrush and a gentle touch to clean the parts.  Don’t bend the screens or you’ll have to replace them.

Reassemble the aerator parts.  Insert the screen, disk, and washer or O-ring (depending on your aerator’s design) in reverse order of disassembly. Reinstall the aerator on the faucet.  Screw it in by hand in a counterclockwise direction.  Use the pliers to tighten securely but do not overtighten it. Snug is good!

If you find that these things do not solve your problem you are welcome to check out plumbing services to help you.  Happy Plumbing!

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