Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

36 Plumbing Nightmares That Will Make You Cringe

A plumbing problem is no laughing matter—until it's solved. Home inspectors share their favorite plumbing fails.

1 / 36
1-Bad-bath-tub-trap-repairCourtesy Structure Tech

That’s not PEX

Here’s a perfect illustration of just about everything that shouldn’t be used for plumbing repair. Is that electrical tape? Painter’s tape? ShooGoo? This tops the charts for home inspector nightmares.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

2 / 36
2-Plumber-PuttyCourtesy Structure Tech

Mystery leak sealant

That’s a whole lot of plumbers putty. Maybe they should have just fixed the leaks.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

3 / 36
3-Backwards-Toilet-TankCourtesy Structure Tech

What the wall usually sees

How does a tank get put on backward? Someone needs to read the instructions next time they install a new toilet. It’s not one of the 12 home improvement projects you should never, ever DIY—but maybe it should be!

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

4 / 36
4-Black-Tub-WaterCourtesy Structure Tech

Strange brew

Yikes! Time for a water quality test. And maybe look into water softeners.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

5 / 36
5-PS-TrapCourtesy Structure Tech

P-trap nirvana

This sink drain takes more twisty turns than an Eschar wall hanging. All that’s needed now is a flex pipe at the wall. Then, to make the drain work, just lift the sink out and tilt it… every which way? There are better ways to connect a sink drain.
Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

6 / 36
6-Corroded-steel-pipeCourtesy Structure Tech

When copper and steel collide

It’s called galvanic corrosion, and it can be prevented if you connect dissimilar pipes the right way.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

7 / 36
7-No-drain-at-bath-tubCourtesy Structure Tech

The drain to nowhere

In order to work properly, a drain actually has to be connected to something.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

8 / 36
8-ABS-PVCCourtesy Structure Tech

Don’t fall for this trap

Maybe this workaround works—maybe it doesn’t. Is the whole system properly vented or not?

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

9 / 36
9-JosephPasaturoBathCourtesy Structure Tech

Employees MUST wash hands!

Time is money, and this set up allows for multi-tasking.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

10 / 36
10-Crazy-DrainCourtesy Structure Tech

Rough in—Really Rough

We can’t even come up with a theory on what’s going on here. Perhaps some instructions on how to connect a sink drain would be helpful.
Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

11 / 36
11-Cork-in-sinkCourtesy Structure Tech

Wine cork plug

This will work until you get to the store for a new pop-up drain assembly. Failing that, maybe it’s time to install a new sink.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

12 / 36
12-Leaking-FaucetCourtesy Structure Tech

Leaking faucet

It’s a faucet and sprayer all in one. Actually, it’s just one example of what can happen when your pipes freeze. These 10 tricks to thaw frozen pipes (so they don’t burst and wreck your house might help.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

13 / 36
13-Corrugated-DrainCourtesy Structure Tech

See-through plumbing

This is an example of exactly what flexible plastic drain lines should NOT be used for. If you have this kind of plumbing you better learn to how to clear a clogged sink drain.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

14 / 36
14-Not-so-frost-free-faucetCourtesy Structure Tech

So I asked the plumbing guy at the home center…

This is a perfect install… if flooding your basement is your goal. Wonder why this outdoor sillcock was moved a full foot away from the drain? Here are 35 things every homeowner needs to know ASAP.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

15 / 36
15-Damaged-p-trap-neurotic-dogCourtesy Structure Tech

P-trap, not mouse trap

Yikes! There must have been something really tasty plugging up this trap!

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

16 / 36
16-Duct-tape-drainsCourtesy Structure Tech

Duct Tape Compression Fittings

What’s weird about this is that it appears that the drain parts are brand new. Installing drain lines and p-traps under a sink doesn’t normally call for duct tape.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

17 / 36
17-Jamie-Hyneman-Toilet-1Courtesy Structure Tech

Tank top

Expecting the toilet to grow sideways? More likely, someone broke the top and a right-size replacement couldn’t be found.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

18 / 36
18-MedusaCourtesy Structure Tech


Do NOT look this mess in the eye or you’ll turn to stone! Shorter supply lines would look neater, and the water pressure would be better too.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

19 / 36
19-Sump-Pump-to-sanitary-sewerCourtesy Structure Tech

Sump pump smarts

It may look smart, but there’s a good reason why you can’t run your sump pump discharge into your home’s sewer pipes. This is another example of someone who should study up on the right way to cure a damp basement problem before they start.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

20 / 36
20-Put-a-sock-in-itCourtesy Structure Tech

Sock purgatory

Well, now we know where lost socks from the laundry go. They get a second life when duct tape alone won’t do. Don’t miss 88 additional brilliant uses for old socks.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

21 / 36
21-Low-ShowerCourtesy Structure Tech

Custom kids’ shower

After Mom and Dad moved out, the toddlers decided to make the bathroom more user-friendly? These are 11 secrets that contractors wish first-time home buyers knew.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

22 / 36
22-Lone-ToiletCourtesy Structure Tech

Porcelain throne for the uninhibited

Now this is one well-ventilated bathroom. What it lacks in privacy it more than makes up for in fresh air, plus the room is pretty spacious, too.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

23 / 36
23-Purple-PrimerCourtesy Structure Tech

Rube Goldberg’s basement

This homeowner decided to make it his goal to use every single 2-in. PVC fitting offered at Lowe’s. Can you imagine how many trips to the home center this took?

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

24 / 36
24-Improper-Laundry-Sink-DrainCourtesy Structure Tech

Speed bump

Ahhh…the glow of satisfaction from a job well done. Trenching a cement foundation isn’t for everyone, but at least this homeowner did a good job with the PVC connections—without using duct tape.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

25 / 36
25-Overhead-tub-spout-1Courtesy Structure Tech

Overhead tub spout

Yup. Look a little bit closer. The whirlpool tub fills from the upstairs toilet. Genius!

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

26 / 36
26-Cool-showerCourtesy Structure Tech

Full Body Sprayers

I don’t think this shower would meet the new low-flow requirements, but it does double duty as a nice set of grab bars.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

27 / 36
27-IMG_0806Courtesy Structure Tech

The Rocky Throne

Does something look unsteady in this photo to you? Not caulking a rocking toilet is one of the 14 toilet problems you’ll regret ignoring.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

28 / 36
28-Corey-Cahill-Homemade-UrnialCourtesy Structure Tech

Ice cream, anyone?

This is possibly the cheapest, easiest-to-install, urinal on the planet—no water supply lines required. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

29 / 36
29-Leaking-fill-valve-repairCourtesy Structure Tech

Leaking fill valve repair

In a pinch, a recycled party cup will get you buy until you can replace your fill valve with a new kit.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

30 / 36
30-Corrugated-drainsCourtesy Structure Tech

Plumbing bendy straws

Just because pipes come in all kinds of different shapes doesn’t mean you need to use them all on one job. Don’t overlook the 12 things you should never, ever pour down the drain, especially if you have pipes like these.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

31 / 36
31-Corner-ToiletCourtesy Structure Tech

Which problem solver would you choose?

A corner toilet can solve a lot of problems in a small powder room—and it’s probably worth the extra cost. Or you could just recess the wall, like this homeowner did. Discover more ridiculous home improvement fails that will make you cringe.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

32 / 36
32-Old-toilet-2Courtesy Structure Tech

Stick shift toilet

Did these old beauties come with a joystick flusher or is this an ingenious repair? Might be time to replace this baby.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

33 / 36
33-fh17may_578_53_r07Courtesy Structure Tech

The plumber’s solution

This is all too common: 1. Carpenters place a floor joist directly under a shower clearly marked on the house plans. 2. Plumber goes nuts with a reciprocating saw. 3. Violating the golden rule: Bever, ever cut the top or bottom flanges of your manufactured I-joists. If you think an error like this is surprising, check out these 14 shocking discoveries plumbers have found in pipes.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

34 / 36
34-Duct-tape-wallCourtesy Structure Tech

Duct tape wall

This is what happens when green board is used on wet walls instead of cement board. The tile is completely falling apart, re-grouting is not an option, and duct tape is not going to save this situation.

Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech

35 / 36
blocked outlet toiletCourtesy Structure Tech

Look closely

And you’ll see an electrical outlet right where it will never be needed. You have to think ahead when you’re roughing in the wiring. Here are 25 things your electricians wish you knew.

36 / 36
clogged toilet note bathroomCourtesy Structure Tech


There are a multitude of things that shouldn’t be put down the toilet. We’ll never know what happened here, but we can guess. Never, ever flush these 12 things down a toilet.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman