So you come home to a blocked and overflowing toilet or sink, a flood of water which seems to be coming from no particular place, faucets that do nothing when turned on, or a heating system that has failed suddenly. These are just some of the plumbing emergencies people face every day, causing them both distress and inconvenience.
If you are unlucky enough to face an emergency plumbing problem, do you know what to do until an expert can get there? Most people don’t, which adds to the panic and stress of the situation, which is why we have put together this handy list of steps to take to deal with the emergency as best you can until a plumber arrives.
Here are general tips you can use to help with an emergency plumbing issue, then there are others which are more useful for specific plumbing problems.
What to do in a general plumbing emergency situation
- Locate and cut off the water supply. You should always be aware of where the mains spigot is in (or outside of) your home. Don’t wait until you must find it to give it a thought. At the very least turn off the water source closest to the main cause of the problem – if it is obvious.
- Call an expert. You should have contact numbers of reliable plumbing companies on hand at all times like 24 hr emergency plumber.
- It’s good practice to turn off your water heater to avoid a buildup of heat inside it. (Gas heaters need you to turn off the gas supply first)
- Open any spigots you have outside the property to help drain water from the main piping system.
- Use buckets to collect water from obvious dripping sources, and use towels to block any small leaks from pipes you can see.
What to do if your sink or toilet has become blocked
- Call an emergency plumber and explain the problem.
- Turn off the closest water supply.
- You can choose to try to resolve it by using a plunger, but don’t try to flush the toilet by adding more water as you risk it overflowing (if it hasn’t already).
- Never try to fix a blocked sink or garbage disposal unit by pouring strong chemical drain cleaners (which are designed to dissolve everyday grime) into the problem area. As there is a blockage the chemical cleaner will sit on top of it and quite possibly start to erode the pipework around it.
Note – if you have a situation where water is erupting up through the sink or toilet this could well indicate a major problem such as a sewerage backup. Make sure you let the plumber know in this case as it is one of the most serious emergencies they can deal with.
What to do if your pipes have frozen and burst
This is an unfortunate problem that can affect anyone living in a climate which gets very cold. Typical signs which suggest a frozen pipe include a gurgling noise from your heating system, reduced or zero water from the faucets, a toilet with a weak flush.
As soon as you spot a pipe, either inside or outside of your home has been damaged through freezing conditions you need to:
- Call an emergency plumber.
- Turn off the water supply at its main source.
- Open all the faucets to run any remaining water out of the system.
- Turn off the electricity if you have any concerns that the water leaking from the pipe could have already, or be at risk of, getting into any electrical system.
What to do if your water heater is leaking
If you can confidently identify the water heater is the actual source of the leak you need to act fast to prevent some major damage to your floors and walls.
- Call an emergency plumber.
- Close down the cold water line into the system. (There should be a valve for this on the side or just above the heater – check its location before there’s a problem if you can, to save time and stress in an emergency).
- It’s also worth turning off the main water valve in your home, just as a precaution.
- If the water heater is powered by electricity, close it off at the circuit breaker source, and if there is a plug involved, unplug that after closing down the electricity supply. If it uses gas, turn off the gas line, this is likely to be black or yellow, or a mixture of the two in stripes, and it will be connected to the heater via a valve around the bottom end of your heater. Pay attention to the diagram or arrow which indicates the correct direction to turn it off.
What to do if your waste disposal unit only hums and whirs
This is a clear sign of a blockage, and of you are not capable of, or confident enough making a DIY fix you should definitely call the emergency plumber. In the meantime, its best to leave it be and under no circumstances should you try to clear the blockage with any kind of implement or chemical solution.
Some takeaway advice
Some plumbing emergencies could definitely be avoided with regular maintenance of systems which use water in any way, or by employing qualified plumbers to fix minor things rather than attempting a ‘just good enough’ DIY job. It can also help if you understand where things like water valves are and how they work, and make sure you have things like boilers and heating systems serviced regularly.
Finally – take care of your plumbing system by not expecting it to cope with things it wasn’t designed for. Taking care not to mistreat your toilet, waste disposal and drains will pay off, saving you time, money and a whole load of stress as the number of possible plumbing emergencies is likely to be reduced significantly.