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What to Do in a Plumbing Emergency

Monday, September 14, 2015 - 12:44pm

Almost every person and every home will have a plumbing emergency at one point or another. Learning how to handle a plumbing emergency will give you control to protect your home and get a repair service there much faster. Residential plumbing services are your best defense against home damage, and they can manage just about any situation that happens. Don’t get in over your head! Seek the right help immediately.

Tackling a plumbing project can be a great DIY hobby for many who enjoy working around the house. But if you come across a major issue and water is damaging your home, it’s best to call a professional so you minimize the harm and the cost.

If you come home to find a few inches of water on the floor, a leak in the ceiling or a soggy bit of drywall that’s fallen to the floor, it’s important to take the proper steps.

What to Do in a Plumbing Emergency

Plumbing emergencies can incite panic, but if you keep your cool, you can help minimize the damage to your home. The steps below will help you handle a plumbing emergency, but remember to always call a plumber during the process. The safest thing for your home is to have a 24/7 plumbing emergency team just a phone call away. We also recommend keeping your plumber’s number in a list of contacts, so it’s easy to access when you need it.

Here are plumbing emergency tips to help you get through a situation:

Shut off the water. Whenever an emergency strikes, turn off the closest water source as quickly as you can. For toilets, this can be as simple as turning the valve at the base or behind of your commode. For larger emergencies or flooding, you’ll want to turn off the main valve in your home. Most water valves require you to turn them clockwise for shut off.

Check your water heater. In a major emergency, it’s a good idea to turn off your water heater to avoid damage to the unit. Turn off the heater after the main valve is shut off to prevent heat from welling up inside of it, which raises the risk of bursting or overheating. If you have a gas water heater, always turn the gas off first.

Tackle small leaks. If you find a small leak that’s easy to identify, stop it as best as possible. Keeping some plumber’s tape in your toolbox will make this chore a lot easier. You can also stuff rags and towels around pipes or put buckets under dripping leaks to help stop further damage. Make a note of these leaks and let the plumbers know as soon as they arrive — this is a great way to ensure your problems are addressed in the safest order.

Open drains and spigots. There will still be water in your pipes even after the main water valve is shut off. You can move this water away from your home and potential damage areas by turning on any spigots that are outside of your home. Give the garden hose a few squirts to ensure it clears out any water, too. If you’re experiencing a small clog or backup during this process, try to open the drain with gentle methods such as a plunger. Don’t use any chemical cleaners in your pipes during an emergency because they may cause more harm before your plumber arrives.

Call and listen. People often forget to call a plumber while an emergency is occurring. Reduce as much damage as possible by calling right away. The best part of an early call is that you’ll get some initial help with the problem. Trained plumbing experts who answer your call can also let you know if the situation is too dangerous. When a professional or a government official tells you to leave your home during an emergency, please listen. It can save your life.

These tips can help save your home and get you in the right mindset to tackle an emergency. Being prepared is the best way to successfully handle any plumbing situation.

Plumbing Emergency Examples

Knowing what to do in a plumbing emergency requires you to know what an emergency looks like. The best rule of thumb is to call a plumber when you find water damage with an undefined source or when you come across a plumbing problem that you aren’t 100% sure of how to handle.

When looking at plumbing emergency examples, remember that the severity of your specific situation can vary greatly. Here are some of the most common accidents and mishaps that warrant a call to a residential plumbing service like Mr. Rooter of Greater Syracuse.

Extremely Hot Water

Everyone loves a nice, warm shower, but no one wants a burn. If the water coming out of your showerhead or the sink is steaming or hot enough to cause a burn, you’ve got a water heater issue. Typically this means your water heater has over-heated. In this situation, turn off your water heater. You can also turn on the hot water taps throughout your home if you can do it safely. The hot water will drain and become cold. Call a technician to assess the situation.

Faucet Drips

Leaking faucets are often annoying, but they typically aren’t an emergency right away. One thing that can quickly turn a drip into a full-blown leak is to use a wrench on its shut-off valve. When leaks are small, shut off the water with your hands only. Wrenches can break valves and even stick them in an open positive.

You should turn off the water to your home if you can’t turn off the faucet’s valve by hand. When the water is off, assess the faucet. If you’re familiar with the faucet and its inner-workings, it’s safe to attempt a repair. If you’re not sure about what you’re doing, call a plumber to avoid a true plumbing emergency.

Frozen Pipes

Every winter, plumbers are called to countless homes in every climate to deal with cold-weather damage. Here in the Greater Syracuse area, we’re dealing with frozen pipes more often than not.

When a pipe in or outside of your home freezes, give the pipe a close look. Check for areas where the pipe has split open or any spots in the fittings that have been pushed apart and broken. Immediately call a plumber if you see any damage at all.

If you don’t see any damage, you can start to thaw a pipe with a hair dryer on low heat. Be sure to thaw the entire pipe and not only focus on a single area. Always be safe and avoid using a hair dryer if you’re near any pooling water. Using a flame of any sort is a big risk and never advisable. You could harm yourself or even damage the pipe and cause a major leak.

To avoid a frozen pipes:

  • Disconnect attachments such as garden hoses
  • Wrap your pipes to insulate them
  • Open cabinets to help warm air reach pipes in your home
  • Keep your home at a warmer temperature

Leaking Pipes

Unfortunately, there is very little you can do when you have a leaking pipe. Immediately turn off the main shut-off valve for your home and call us. Leaking and broken pipes always require a professional to repair or replace them, as well as to check the rest of your plumbing for any other damage.

Many home-remedy fixes you read about online can cause significant damage to your home and plumbing. Always address a leak by turning off your water and leaving the pipe itself alone. Pouring chemicals and other solutions down your drains or applying a homemade patch to the pipe may not only slow down professional repairs, but it could also spread the problem further.

Leaking Water Heater

Leaks from a water heater can lead to major floor and wall damage, especially when they quickly fill your drip pan. Check this basin to confirm the problem is coming from your water heater. If it’s empty you may just have a problem with the drain in that room, but it’s still best to call a plumber.

If the leak is from your water heater, immediately shut off the cold water line that delivers water to your system. This is usually a large valve located above or on the side of your heater. As an extra precaution, you can also turn off the main valve to your home. After the water is off, you should also turn off the water heater itself. How you turn it off depends on the type you have:

  • Electric Water Heater. You must shut it off at your circuit breaker. Some units have a plug, which you can unplug after the power is shut off at the breaker box.
  • Gas Water Heaters. You must turn off the gas line. In most setups, your gas line will connect to a box-like valve at the bottom of your water heater. The gas line is often black, yellow or striped with those colors. Most valves have a red handle and a large arrow showing you the direction to turn it off.

Some water heaters aren’t located near a drain. If yours is like this, you need to get the water away from the bottom of your heater. When it’s turned off, you can connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of your heater. Attach the hose and let the heater drain.

If you’re uncomfortable with any of these situations or still don’t understand how to take the first steps to handle a plumbing emergency, call a local plumber as soon as you notice the problem. Plumbers should arrive to your home quickly and walk you through any immediate steps to take to keep your home safe.

Plugs and Clogs

Drains get a lot of use every day and face many daunting tasks. Common use also makes them a common place where clogs occur. If you have a drain that empties very slowly or not at all, it’s probably time to call a plumber.

For equipment that drains slowly, but still drains completely, you can attempt some home efforts to clear the clog. Use a plunger with a straight, smooth up-and-down motion to dislodge clogs. If that doesn’t work, you can also try a chemical cleaner to help clear out any gunk that is starting to build up. Always make sure the chemical you’re pouring is labeled for use with the type of drain that’s clogged.

If your drain is completely clogged, don’t pour any cleaners down it first. You should try to see if a plunger will remove enough of the clog so that it starts to drain. Find success? Then go ahead and use a chemical cleaner. If you weren’t successful, it’s time to call your plumbing professionals.

Whenever you have a clog or drain that’s pouring water back into your home, immediately call a plumber. This can be a sign of a major disaster in the works, such as a sewage backup.

Toilet Troubles

Unfortunately, toilet issues are extremely common. The plunger is the best tool for tackling a clog on your own. If plunging doesn’t work, it’s time to call a plumber so that we can come in and remove the clog while preventing waste water from harming your home.

A running toilet is usually something you can handle on your own. Open the tank and inspect the different elements, such as the flapper and seal. Most hardware stores have a toilet repair kit specific for your brand. If you have a unit where the mechanics are enclosed and you can’t easily access them, call a plumber to prevent any major damage.

If your toilet is leaking in the bowl or onto the floor, exchange your plunger for a phone and give a local plumber a call. Leaks can occur due to a wide range of breakages, and some may be caused by more significant plumbing issues.

Always shut off the water using the valve at the base or behind your toilet before doing any work on it.

Waste Smells

If the water in your home smells like sewage when you turn on a faucet or the smell is coming from a leak, immediately call a plumber. A foul smell is usually a sign that you’re experiencing a major problem with your septic system, sump pump or other plumbing. Trying to fix this yourself can be very hazardous to your health by exposing you to harmful bacteria and other elements.

Whirring Disposals

Many garbage disposals will try to shut off in the event of a blockage or emergency. This can be a great feature that prevents harm to your home. When your disposal stops running but you still hear its mechanical hum when flipping its switch, reset the unit. You can easily reset your disposal by pressing the large button – usually red and located at the base of your disposal – until it pops out.

If your disposal still won’t run, and you’re comfortable with a little work, you can try to clear the clog yourself. Find an Allen wrench and insert it into the button of your unit. Once secure, turn the wrench left and right a few times; this will move the disposal blades and elements around to pop up any item causing a blockage.

Use tongs, preferably a long set like those used during grilling, to remove any item that you dislodge. Run cold water down your disposal for a brief moment. Next, head back down and press your reset button. Turn on the cold water and then flip on your disposal.

If you don’t have any movement, don’t hear an engine whirring sound at all, or the above resets don’t work, it’s time to call a plumber. Plumbers can inspect the mechanics of the unit itself as well as the pipes and electrical lines.

Any Gas Leak

Plumbers aren’t the first people you think of when you have a gas leak, but a residential plumber service can be your safest bet during any gas or plumbing emergency.

When you smell the rotten-egg odor added to gas, quickly turn off any gas valve if possible and then leave your home. Staying in any area where there is a gas leak can be an extreme hazard. Gas leaks can poison people or pets, as well as cause injury or death due to fires and explosions.

Plumbers work with gas lines all the time. We know exactly how to safely enter your home, turn off the main valve, and begin looking for a leak. If you have any gas-related emergency in the Greater Syracuse area, call Mr. Rooter as soon as you can to ensure your family’s safety.

What You Can Do to Avoid a Plumbing Emergency

Some of the plumbing emergencies you read about, or even experience, can be prevented. Problems may arise all of the sudden, but they’re often the result of long-term abuse or improper homemade repairs.

People spend a lot of time in their bathrooms and kitchens, and that means bad habits can quickly compound. Here are a few plumbing emergency prevention tips that come from plumbers themselves:

Learn your system. Typically, you’re the first person to notice a leak in your system. That means you can minimize the damage done by a leak if you know where your main water valve is and how to shut it off. Knowledge is the best way to keep your home as protected as possible.

If you’re unsure, don’t try to fix things. Complex plumbing problems and mid-sized leaks can be made much worse if you try to do a repair yourself. If something is outside of your ability, or you don’t know what the problem is, call a plumber. They will diagnose and repair problems much sooner, and usually with much less long-term damage.

Remember that drains aren’t trash cans. Toilets and garbage disposals are made to process specific types of items and waste, but they can’t handle much else. Some of the most common plumbing emergency examples come from people mistreating their plumbing. For toilets, don’t toss in make-up removers, scrubbies or even kitty litter. Garbage disposals can’t handle fibrous or sludgy materials, so don’t shove bananas or pour oil down.

Replace worn-out parts. Water heaters are a major cause of plumbing emergencies that do significant damage to a home. Gas water heaters last about 10 years and electric models can last up to 15 years. If your water heater is older than 12 to 15 years, you run the risk of a flood in your home. Simply keeping track of the age of your equipment can prevent a lot of stress.

Use protection systems. A leak detection and protection system can give you an alarm and shut off your main water valve whenever a leak is detected in your appliances or plumbing. While a protection system can cost you a few hundred dollars, replacing 100 square feet of drywall can cost you up to $400. Repairing mold damage quickly gets much more expensive.

Be stingy with chemicals. Home plumbing chemicals are designed for specific pipes and may not always work. Depending on the nature of your clog, a drain cleaner might not be strong enough to remove major build-ups or crust that’s hardened in your pipes. Some chemicals also cause damage to your plumbing or cause clogs, including the toilet fresheners in your tank or the bowl.

There are many things you can do to help protect your home, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be emergency-free. When you find yourself facing a problem that you can’t handle or an emergency that makes your home unsafe, reach out to a local professional plumbing service for help and a quick remedy. Plumbers know what to do in a plumbing emergency and can start the repair process immediately.

Mr. Rooter Is Your Plumbing Emergency Partner

Mr. Rooter of Greater Syracuse can handle all of these plumbing emergencies and many more. We’re here to keep your home safe and keep everything running smoothly. If you’re having problems, please contact us right now.

Mr. Rooter’s plumbing professionals will arrive at your home or business when there’s a problem. Our emergency services can help to quickly diagnose and fix any problem. You remain part of the process, and we’ll always inform you of what needs to be done and what can fix your plumbing problems.

If you want to keep problems away, read our blog for the best in plumbing emergency tips to avoid big damage.

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