How To Troubleshoot Low Water Pressure in Your House

Few plumbing problems are more frustrating than low water pressure in your house. Common causes of low water pressure in the kitchen sink, shower, and more can be identified and fixed with ease, without an expensive plumbing repair job. Here the questions to ask when you’re faced with low water pressure to help narrow down the problem:

  • Is the problem localized?
  • Is there a leak?
  • Is the problem occurring throughout the home?
  • Do your neighbors have the same problem?

Is the problem localized?

If the low water pressure seems restricted to a single faucet or showerhead, the problem may not be with your pipes or water supply, but with the fixture itself. Here’s how you can fix low water pressure in your shower or sink.

Low water pressure in shower

When water pressure drops, a shower goes from enjoyable to annoying. More than likely, the showerhead is the culprit.

Blocked showerhead

The problem may be due to hard water deposits—otherwise known as the white clumps and cloudy spots you see all over the showerhead. Over time, calcium and limescale buildup caused by hard water can clog the showerhead and reduce water pressure.

All you have to do to fix the problem is clean or replace the showerhead. To clean a showerhead, unscrew it and soak it in a bowl of vinegar-water solution overnight. Wipe away any remaining deposits with a soft cloth and then reattach the showerhead. You should notice an improvement in water pressure.

Old showerhead

If hard water isn’t the culprit, the problem may be with the showerhead itself. Many homes have low-flow and water conserving showerheads installed. This is particularly true in regions prone to drought, including Arizona. While conserving water is important, older models of these showerheads often result in low water pressure and an overall dissatisfying shower. If you replace your old showerhead with a new high pressure showerhead, you’ll likely be rewarded with a much better shower experience.

Low water pressure in sink faucet

Clogged aerators and clogged cartridges are two of the most common causes of low water pressure in a sink. The aerator is the tip of the faucet that the water comes out of, while the cartridge is found underneath the sink handle and enables you to stop and start the flow of water. Both are easy to fix with no special plumbing tools or skills needed.

Clogged aerator

Begin by removing the aerator from the faucet by twisting it to the left. If it won’t budge, use a pair of slip-joint pliers to carefully loosen it. You can clean the aerator by using a toothbrush that has been dipped in water and vinegar to help remove limescale buildup. Once everything looks clear, twist the aerator back onto the faucet.

Clogged cartridge

Start by turning off the supply valves to stop the flow of water into the sink. The supply valves are usually located underneath the sink itself. Next, use a small flat screwdriver to loosen the handle cap, and then remove it from the sink assembly. Remove the remaining nut using a pair of water pump pliers, and then remove the retaining clip using needle nose pliers.

Before removing the cartridge, you’ll need to remove the O-ring. To accomplish this, use either your fingers or a screwdriver to slip the O-ring from its groove. Finally, grip the cartridge with pliers and pull straight up to remove it.

If there is a considerable amount of lime scale on the cartridge, you can clean it by soaking it in a bowl of water and vinegar for a few hours. After drying the cartridge thoroughly, reinstall it by reversing the steps you took to remove it.

Is there a leak?

Some leaks may be obvious, but others may be impossible to locate without a plumber. One way to confirm there’s a leak in your plumbing system is to check your home’s water meter. Your water meter is likely located outside, near the curb or sidewalk in front of your home. The box containing the meter has a metal lid that may read “water meter”. A long screwdriver is all you need to remove the lid and reveal the meter inside.

Most meters have a leak indicator—this can be either a separate dial or a rotating disk on the meter that clearly shows if there’s a leak or not. If your meter doesn’t have a leak indicator, you can check for leaks yourself by taking a reading, waiting two hours, and then taking another reading. A significant difference between the two indicates that you’re dealing with a leak.

Is the problem occurring throughout the house?

If all of your sinks, showers, and other fixtures have low water pressure, it’s safe to assume the problem has to do your home’s plumbing as a whole. In this case, the cause could be anything from problems with the water shut-off valve to issues with aging pipes.

Main shut-off valve opened

Sometimes, the main shut-off valve isn’t opened completely following a repair job. If you recently had a plumber come out and fix a leak, repair a burst pipe, or inspect a slow drain, check your main shut-off valve to make sure it isn’t still partially closed. The main shut-off valve may be located underground near the street, or in your garage, basement, or crawlspace. If you can’t locate it, you can ask a plumber to find it for you.

Pressure regulator failure

The problem may be due to your home’s pressure regulator. Not all homes have pressure regulators, but those that do can experience low water pressure when the regulator is broken. This tends to happen suddenly, rather than gradually. Replacing a pressure regulator on your own can be complicated, as you have to make sure you use the same brand and size as the old one. It’s generally a better option to call a plumber and have them handle the replacement.

Older home

Low water pressure commonly occurs in homes that are more than 20 years old. The steel and iron pipes used in home construction decades ago are prone to becoming clogged with lime deposits that limit the flow of water. Orangeburg pipes in particular can cause low water pressure as tree roots invade the porous pipes.

The only true and permanent fix is to have a plumber re-pipe your home with modern copper or PVC pipes. This is a major repair job that requires a permit, and can be very expensive. Depending on how low your water pressure is, you’ll need to determine if it’s manageable or if a full re-piping makes financial sense.

Does the problem only affect hot water?

If the low water pressure only affects hot water, take a look at your hot water heater. The first thing to check is the shut-off valves. These are fail-safes included so that you can easily turn off your water in the case of an emergency, or for maintenance and repairs. If the valves are even slightly shut, your water pressure can decrease.

Near your hot water heater, you’ll find two shut-off valves. A blue one feeds cold water into the heater, and a red one controls the flow of hot water. Check to make sure both are fully opened by turning them counterclockwise as far as you can.

If that doesn’t restore normal water pressure, the next step is to call a plumber. Blockages and sediment buildup can occur within the lines that connect to your water heater, and a plumber can check to see if anything’s causing a problem.

Do your neighbors have the same problem?

If your neighbors have low water pressure too, the problem may not be with your home but with the entire community. In this case, one course of action is installing a water pressure booster. Like the name suggests, a water pressure booster increases the pressure of water as it travels from the main water line to your bathroom and kitchen fixtures.

If you recently bought your home, another possible solution is to check if the previous resident had a water pressure reducing valve installed. This regulator is often added to limit the force of the water that comes from the municipal supply lines. To determine if your home has one, you can either look for it yourself by inspecting your home’s main water supply or contact a plumber and have them investigate.

No water pressure? No problem.

If the tips in this article didn’t solve your water pressure woes, call in the experts at Chas Roberts. There’s no problem too big or too small for our experience plumbers, and our attention to detail is unmatched. Contact us today to get started.