How to Figure Out Why You Have Low Water Pressure (and Fix It)

Photo:  Lemonpink Images (Shutterstock)
Photo: Lemonpink Images (Shutterstock)

Cooking, doing dishes, and bathing are all difficult when your water comes out of the tap at a trickle. While you might think low water pressure would be a very complicated problem to solve, it can actually often be addressed with a few simple fixes. The trick is finding the cause of your water pressure woes first; that will help you determine how big a problem it is, and whether you need to call in the experts. Here’s where to start.

Check with your water company

If water pressure has dropped in the whole house, the first call should be to your local water utility. Check their website or give them a call to find out if they’re doing a flush or repair work in your area. Sometimes if there are issues with water mains, your water pressure could be temporarily affected.

If that’s not the case, and there’s no obvious flooding, do some other basic checks before throwing in the towel and calling a plumber.

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Check all the valves

Low water pressure can be caused by a partially closed valve. This is by far the simplest thing to address. Starting at the water meter, usually located outside your home on an outside wall or under a covered hole on your curb strip, check to make sure the valves are open. If the valve has a lever on it, it should be parallel with the pipe. If it’s partly closed, that could be the answer to your problem. Then, check valves inside your home. There should be a main shutoff valve somewhere in the basement, utility room, or near a washer-dryer hookup. This valve will be either a lever shape like your outdoor shutoff, or a knob. Turn the knob counter-clockwise or turn the lever parallel to the pipe to open things up. If the water pressure issue is localized to one tap, check the shutoff valves there, usually located under the sink.

Check for leaks

If valves aren’t your problem, you could have a leak. This issue will be obvious if there’s dampness or water puddling anywhere it doesn’t belong, but sometimes you can have a slow leak from a small crack that’s harder to see. One way to tell is to take a reading on your water meter while all taps and water-using appliances are off. Keep them off, then take another reading in a few hours. If additional water usage is being recorded, then you have a leak somewhere.

Check around everywhere you can think of (and a few places that don’t make sense) for moisture and water damage. Once you find a slow leak, you can potentially patch it yourself, provided the problem is small. At most hardware stores, you can find a pipe repair kit or plumber’s epoxy that can take care of emergency repairs. Once your repair is made, you should still have a plumber do a professional grade job, but a temporary patch can save you from paying a plumber’s emergency rates.

Troubleshoot other issues

Once the most common trouble spots have been ruled out, consider whether there may be too much demand for the amount of water running into the house, which can be mitigated by alternating when you’re using water for dishwashers, laundry, and showering so that they don’t overlap. Another common cause for low water pressure is mineral build-up in your pipes, which can be solved by treating them with vinegar or flushing by a professional plumber. This is more common in areas with “hard” water, where there are higher concentrations of minerals like calcium in the drinking water.

Descale your water pipes

To “descale” or flush your own pipes, turn your water heater off, or, for a gas powered water heater, turn the flame setting to pilot and then close the water valve going into the water heater. Connect a garden hose to the valve at the base of the water heater tank and drain about two gallons of water out. Close the valve and pour a two gallon jug of vinegar back into the top of the tank. Switch the tank back to its default settings and then leave it sitting overnight.

In the morning, run all of your hot water taps for a few minutes. If your water pressure isn’t restored after performing this type of flush, it’s time to call a pro; the buildup in your pipes could be due to corrosion rather than mineral buildup, which may require you to replace some pipes (sorry).


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