What To Do in a Plumbing Emergency

Upside Down tech with van (for plumbing emergencies)

Having a plumbing emergency is as utterly baffling as it is chaotic. There’s a burst pipe spewing water, a toilet on the brink of overflowing, and perhaps a scent of gas permeating the room.

These are all instances of plumbing emergencies that require swift action.

In the throes of frenzied perplexity, remembering what to do in a plumbing emergency could well and truly save the day.

How to Identify a Plumbing Emergency

A plumbing emergency is generally classified as a situation that involves the plumbing system and requires immediate professional assistance due to the imminent potential for physical damage or health hazards.

Here are some common scenarios that are classified as plumbing emergencies:

  • Burst pipes: When a pipe bursts, it allows a significant amount of water to escape into your home in a relatively short amount of time. This can trigger severe flooding, potentially leading to major water damage.
  • Major leaks: Major leaks, whether from pipes, taps, or appliances, can wreak havoc on your house and property. These leaks can cause rapid water damage to walls, floors, furniture, and electrical systems if not addressed immediately, hence being classified as an emergency.
  • Sewer backups: Sewer backups are not merely inconvenient; they are a serious health risk. If your sewer line backs up, it can cause raw sewage to come up from drains or toilets, posing a significant hazard to the health of the house’s inhabitants, and the infrastructure of your home.
  • Overflowing toilets: More than just a minor inconvenience, overflowing toilets can pose a health risk, especially if sewage waste begins to overflow. It is of paramount importance to call a plumber immediately if the situation cannot be resolved with a standard plunger.
  • Water heater problems: While not always an urgent issue, certain water heater problems can be classified as emergencies. If your water heater is leaking extensively or not functioning in the middle of winter, it could be considered an emergency due to the potential risks involved, including the possibility of water damage from leaks and health risks from lack of hot water.
  • Gas leaks: Gas leaks, while not a typical “plumbing” problem, are indeed emergencies that plumbers in addition to gas fitters often attend to. A gas leak can present a significant danger, potentially leading to fire or explosion, and serious health repercussions from inhaling the gas, and it should thus be addressed immediately.
  • Uncontrolled running water: When water is running from your plumbing system uncontrolled, whether it’s from a broken tap, a malfunctioning shut-off valve, or a similar issue, it’s a plumbing emergency. When left unchecked, uncontrolled running water can quickly escalate into a flooding situation, leading to serious water damage to your property.

It’s essential to understand that an emergency doesn’t always have to be a catastrophic event. Anything that is causing significant inconvenience, poses a health risk or has the potential to escalate quickly if not tended to can be considered an emergency.

A couple deals with a plumbing emergency

The First Rule: Stay Calm

Yes, you read that right. The first step, amidst the ensuing chaos of a plumbing emergency, is to stay calm.

By maintaining composure, you’ll be able to think clearly, react sensibly and decidedly mitigate further water damage.

Step One: Shut Off the Water

Turn off the water! Any plumbing issue, particularly an emergency, should trigger an immediate reach for the shut-off. This could be the shutoff valve situated beneath your toilet or sink, or the main water valve controlling your entire home’s water supply. The earlier you turn off the water, the better you’ll control the deluge and prevent water damage.

Step Two: Begin the Cleanup

Next is a step aimed at mitigating the effect of excess water. Is it a small puddle or a minor sewer backup? Grab your trusty mop and bucket and start cleaning. During these initial stages of a plumbing emergency, remember that the goal isn’t a spotless floor but to limit any water damage as much as possible.

Step Three: Evaluate the Emergency

Once the immediate threat of water damage is under control, take a moment to assess the situation. Could you temporarily fix the issue? Maybe a blocked drain could do with an emergency plumbing kit for a short-term solution. Maybe some Teflon tape for a small leak.

Perhaps it’s a water heater issue, or worse, a gas leak from your gas appliances. Only attempt a fix if you’re confident, and remember, quick-fix measures are by no means a permanent solution to your plumbing emergency.

Step Four: Call a Professional

Some plumbing issues are well beyond the fix-it-yourself realm. Like a symphony needs a conductor, so does the intricate composition of your plumbing system demand an experienced maestro.

This is when you dial your emergency plumber. Be it a pipe puncture, a blocked toilet, or the nightmare of an overflowing toilet, a local, professional plumber can untangle the mess with expertise.

Professional emergency plumbing services aren’t confined to wielding their magic wand over your existing problems. They can also scan your premises for warning signs of future ailments.

Be it small leaks, blocked drains, or checkups for hot water systems, an experienced plumber will spot these plumbing problems before they bloom into a full-blown emergency.

A woman struggles to cope with a burst pipe

Moving Beyond the Immediate Emergency

What to do in a plumbing emergency primarily revolves around taking the right steps to manage the situation as soon as possible. Preventing full-scale chaos involves just a bit more. Initiating regular maintenance or an annual plumbing health check-up goes miles towards preserving your home’s plumbing sanctity.

An experienced plumber is adept at looking out for potential problems like water leaks, ensuring your drains are clear of everyday blockages like coffee grounds, and that your pipes are in robust health.

Further, be prepared for surprises by stocking an emergency plumbing kit. Essential tools like a plunger, a pipe wrench, and a snake are great preliminary aids for some of the less-threatening emergencies.

Above all else, ensure you know your home’s plumbing well – know where the main valve is, how to turn off the water supply to your appliances, and how to cope with a sprung leak quickly.

Stay Safe and Prepared with Emergency Plumbers

Plumbing emergencies can strike at the oddest hour and generally bring with them a volley of disruptions. Knowing what to do in a plumbing emergency can make the difference between a mild inconvenience and an utter catastrophe.

The best defence against plumbing emergencies is good offence – regular maintenance, a well-stocked emergency plumbing kit, and an ever-ready professional emergency plumbing service just a call away.

However, the ace up your sleeve truly is, understanding the potential severity and the ripple effects a plumbing emergency can cause. So, take it in your stride, get to know your home’s plumbing, and be prepared to face off any emergency should it ever occur. After all, being forewarned is being forearmed.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.

Last Edited on: 21st February 2024