Telling Your Plumber What They Need to Hear: How to Best Describe Your Issue

Telling Your Plumber What They Need to Hear: How to Best Describe Your Issue

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Communication is key to getting your plumbing fixed, but it’s not always easy. Talking with a specialized professional such as a plumber can feel like one of those “guess the word” game shows. You describe, draw, even make the noises related to the problem in hopes that you’ll get your point across accurately. Plumbers are trained to listen and try to understand what your underlying issue is so they can take care of your situation. A misunderstanding could cost money and even result in ongoing water damage as the plumber diagnoses your specific problem with insufficient information. Let’s talk about ways you can gather valuable information to share with the plumber that help them diagnose your situation.

Addressing the Background, Malfunction, and Sensory Clues to Describe the Situation:


Everyone’s a storyteller, but just a few words of background information can help understand the origins of the situation, which can sometimes be helpful. For instance, do you know about any recent damage to the fixture or pipe?


What seems to be the problem? Usually, this would be the issue that the plumber is called to repair, but it could be one of many symptoms, such as high water usage in your home, that point to a specific plumbing issue.

Sensory Clues

Sounds can be important clues, such as banging sounds with or without valve operation, whistles, hisses, and vibrations, and dripping or ticking noises. Touch can reveal problems such as wet or damp areas of your walls, floors, or ceiling, puddles in your bathroom or kitchen cabinets, and soft or crumbling wallboard or other materials. Visually, you may notice these differences as well, and see stains where leaking water has penetrated to the surface. Smell and taste can even reveal problems, such as a strange taste in your tap water or the smell of sewer gas, mold, or mildew.

With these factors as a framework, here are ten of the most common plumbing problems. How would you use your observations to help your plumber understand what needs to be fixed?

  1. A Dripping Faucet

You may hear a tap-tap-tap, fast or slow, or you may find that turning off the faucet doesn’t seem to cut off the water completely. You may see evidence of water flow, for instance if you leave an item in the sink and come back to find it damp.

  1. A Sink That’s Draining Slowly

Here’s where history can be particularly helpful. Is there a suspected object or material cause? Whether the problem has been getting worse, or suddenly appeared can be useful. Even if you haven’t experienced slow draining yourself, but see a ring of debris in the sink that suggests standing water that can be a clue.

  1. Clogs in the Bath or Shower Drain

Clues like whether the tub is used to bathe pets or there are many long-haired humans showering can help the plumber determine the first line of approach. Lost shampoo caps and open drains without protection can suggest causes. Is the bath or shower used often, or is it a guest facility that’s seldom used?

  1. A Slow or Clogged Toilet

Smells, appearance, and color of the water can help understand what’s going on. While it’s important to directly determine the cause for proper drain cleaning, your plumber can also use information about whether it’s likely that thick wipes or kids’ toys are possible issues.

  1. An Endlessly Running Toilet

Condensation on the outside of the tank can tell stories about what’s happening, as well as the position of the flushing handle. Of course, sounds are the main clue.

  1. A Faulty Water Heater

In addition to routine inspection by your plumber, signs of tank leaks or overflow valve problems can indicate it’s time to take action. Discolored hot water or temperature problems could also point back to the water heater.

  1. Low Water Pressure

Sometimes the pressure is obviously dramatically low, and supply issues should be investigated. Other times your experience can be a clue: is the shower the only place it’s apparent? Did it change recently and dramatically? Are your clothes and dish washing appliances taking longer to operate?

  1. Garbage Disposal Issues

Gaseous or decaying food smells can help diagnose a drain line problem or debris in the disposal itself. Sink backups when running the faucet versus those that occur when the dishwasher is running can also help identify the problem’s source. Sounds point to materials causing trouble, especially loud clattering noises.

  1. Leaky Pipes, Hidden or Visible

There are many clues that can point to leaky pipes, from water dripping from an exposed pipe to damage to surrounding building materials such as wallpaper and ceiling paint. Leaking water can travel down the pipe before it appears, so any clues such as sounds or smells that might help focus on the source are helpful.

  1. Sewer System Problems

Multiple sinks or basement drains backing up is a likely clue that your sewer line isn’t free-flowing. You may also experience smells, evidence of sewer line leaks through changes in your yard’s appearance from the additional water or organic material in the soil, and signs of foundation or ground shifts and cracks can also suggest that your sewer line might have been affected.

Your Descriptions Help Your Plumber’s Diagnosis

Many homeowners try to narrow down the problem by providing their own diagnosis. This can be helpful, but a full description of the symptoms can help them to understand what the deeper cause might be and make sure that the problem is fixed fully. The plumber can often gather unrelated information and understand the real cause by using their extensive experience.

Call Our Expert Plumbers and Diagnosticians at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain

At bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, our people know plumbing, and they know how to talk with you about your plumbing needs. Give us a call and let us take care of you, whether you’ve got a detailed description or just need the problem fixed so you can have peace of mind.

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