Plumbing emergencies are pretty much inevitable for homeowners. There’s nothing worse than coming home to a broken pipe or a clogged sink, and we’re pretty dependent on our running water and working plumbing!
Typical plumbing emergencies usually include water pipe leaks, clogged drains or toilets, hot water heater problems, or frozen or burst pipes. At best, these issues are an inconvenience, and when there are bad, they can be disastrous. Water leaks cause homeowners thousands of dollars every year. A burst pipe or ruptured hot water heater can pump hundreds of gallons of water into your home in minutes.
Knowing how to act quickly to handle plumbing emergencies and stop excessive damage is an important homeowner skill. Here’s what you should know:
When a plumbing emergency involves water pumping or overflowing into your home, damage can be swift and extensive. Serious water leaks ruin furniture and carpets, flooring, walls and insulation. They can even damage the structure of a building if not cleaned up properly. A serious plumbing flood can ruin your electrical system or even cause a fire.
Whenever a plumbing emergency strikes, turn off the closest water source immediately. For toilets, turn off the valve at the base or behind of the commode. For major emergencies or flooding, turn off the main water shutoff valve in your home. Most water valves require you to turn them clockwise for shut off.
Knowing where your house’s main water shutoff valve is, as well as individual shut off valves, is very important. When you have a leak or burst pipe, shut off the water closest to the point of the leak, or shut off the entire water intake into your home.
In a major plumbing emergency, it’s a good idea to turn off your hot water heater. Turn it off after you have shut off the main water valve is shut off. The unit can be damaged if it continues to cycle after the main water valve has been shut off, otherwise, water will well up inside of it, which raises the risk of the water tank bursting or overheating. If you have a gas water heater, always turn the gas off first.
If your emergency requires you to shut off the main water valve, there will still be water in your pipes. You want to drain this water and move it out of your home to prevent further damage. Turn on any spigots that are outside your house. Use a garden hose to clear out any water.
Once you’ve done what you can to stop the flow of water if that is necessary, you need to call in an expert as soon as possible for any major plumbing issues. Most plumbing contractors have 24/7 service numbers available. While you will more than likely need to pay emergency call-out rates, it’s worth it to make sure your services are restored properly and your home is protected from further damage.
If you believe you have stopped the damage enough to wait until normal business hours to call in a pro, go ahead and take the chance. Plumbing emergencies can be warning signs of more major problems so don’t wait too long. Hoping things are too bad is not a good reason to put off the call. Plumbing problems ignored usually lead to more extensive damage and/or more expensive repairs.
When you are faced with a plumbing emergency, you need to find some solutions to stopping damage until you can get the cause of the emergency fixed. Besides shutting off the water supply if that is necessary, do what clean up and emergency management you can yourself for the meantime. You may need to drain the water using buckets, scoops or towels. Use a hose to drain pooled water outside if possible. Turn off the power to water consuming and water heating systems to stop further damage.
The worst thing is to have an emergency and have no idea who you should call. If it’s in the middle of the night, on a weekend or on a holiday (and of course most emergencies are!) it’s not exactly the time to go knock on your neighbor’s door for a referral. Having a good plumber’s contact information in your phone keeps you prepared should an emergency strike. Make sure you know this is a reputable, licensed plumbing professional, and that they work emergency hours.
Your plumber will ask you to detail your emergency and its location, and likely offer some advice on what to do yourself until they can get there. Your plumber might also offer solutions if they consider it something you can handle on your own.