Plumbing emergencies can arise out of the blue and while the easiest solution is to call a professional plumber to solve the problem, there are times when you need to act quickly. If there is no plumber available to help you in such a crisis, you need to know what to do. You’re in the right place to learn about the most common plumbing problems and what you should do if any of them arise. It’s important to be aware of what can happen and what you can do in the short term.
Most common plumbing emergencies
There are several common plumbing problems that can and do arise. Slow drains, leaky faucets, broken and leaking pipes, sewer backups, clogged toilets, dripping faucets, clogs in the shower or bath drain, a toilet that won’t stop running, a faulty water heater, or low water pressure. Not all of these are emergency situations unless you let them go for too long. Some are inconveniences but others signal the need to take action before they get out of hand
What is a plumbing emergency?
Any plumbing problem should be fixed ASAP, but the true emergencies occur when there is a potential for damage to your home or to the health of you and your family. A broken pipe or a leaky hose can flood the area and lead to saturation into the materials that surround it. There’s a high chance that the water will continue to seep down into an existing basement, or get into the walls and floors and cause damage that will be expensive to repair.
Another plumbing emergency is a backed-up sewer. This can lead to raw sewage backing up through the pipes and flooding your bathroom as it comes up through the toilet and into your sink or bathtub. It’s a health hazard and the germ infused water and other materials that back up into your home can cause a lot of damage.
A clogged toilet can also be considered a plumbing emergency. Toilets with clogs in the pipes that take the waste through the sewer system tend to overflow and create an emergency situation that is similar to a backed-up sewer and it needs to be dealt with swiftly.
Another urgent plumbing emergency happens when you have no water or the pressure is too low to use the water because of frozen pipes. When pipes freeze in cold weather there is an increased risk that they will burst. We all need to have access to water for operating toilets and for cleaning our homes. This is considered to be an emergency unless it is a temporary situation.
What to do in a plumbing emergency when there is no plumber
In some cases, you may be able to fix the problem on your own, or at least minimize the damage until you can get a professional plumber out to apply the best fix. Read on to learn what to do in a plumbing emergency so you’ll be prepared if and when it happens to you.
- Frozen pipes – The solution for frozen pipes is to first take a look at them to make sure there are no cracks. Pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures need to be insulated. The best way to unfreeze frozen pipes to get the water flowing again is to open up the cabinets around them, turn up the heat and wait for them to thaw out. You’ll know you’re making progress when the water begins to trickle slowly, then turn into a strong stream. It can take a few hours so be patient. To prevent this from happening again, keep the cabinet doors open so they are exposed to heat and wrap exterior pipes in insulation outdoors.
- Burst pipe – If you detect flooding due to a burst pipe the first thing you need to do is to make a call to a professional plumber. Even if they can’t make it out, you can get good advice on how to proceed. The next step is to turn off the water by turning the valves that control water flow near the area of the leak. These are usually found in toilets and under kitchen sinks. In extreme emergencies when the flooded area is not near a valve in your home, you can turn the water source off to the home until repairs can be made. This will stop the flooding to give you time to figure out where the source of the problem is coming from. You should also turn off your water heater is a major plumbing emergency and if it’s a gas model, turn the gas off first. This prevents the heater from becoming damaged by overheating.
- Backed up sewer – The first step to take when your sewer backs up is to try to clear the drain. The problem could be due to buildups of toilet paper, hair, or grease that can collect in sewer lines leading from your house. First use a toilet plunger to try to force water from the toilet through the pipes. If this doesn’t work, use a plumbers snake to go further through the lines to loosen clogs. In many cases, this will solve the problem or at least create a better flow until a plumber can arrive to solve the problem completely. If the problem is due to tree roots growing into the sewer lines and compromising the drainage system, you will need to get professional help as soon as possible. If it’s a job you need to do on your own, it requires locating the area of pipe affected, and this means using a snake to travel until you hit the clogged area, digging it up, and possibly replacing the pipe if it has become damaged or if you can’t remove the clog.
- Clogged toilets – Clogged toilets can usually be fixed by using a toilet plunger to push the clog through the sewage system. You can also use a plumbers snake to go further through the pipes and force the clog downwards. You can also use a wire coathanger that has been straightened to remove clogs. Try to remove any clogs, but it’s a good idea to wear gloves in case you need to stick your hands into the opening. This is the best way to remove small toys and other objects that have been accidentally flushed. If it’s a stubborn clog then you can also use a commercial drain cleaner. Follow the instructions and pour the recommended amount into the toilet. In most cases, this will resolve the problem unless there is a non-organic clog such as a child’s toy lodged in the system.
Many plumbing emergencies can be handled when they happen. While some may require professional assistance, it’s good to know the steps that you should take until help arrives. Keep in mind that your safety and the safety of your family are the top priority. There are some instances where it may not be safe for you to attempt to fix the problem yourself. This is why you should always begin with a call to a professional for advice before you start, especially if there is flooding with water collecting on the floor or near electrical sources.