Top 10 Plumbing Emergency Tips

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Plumbing emergencies can occur at any time, and they almost always occur suddenly and without warning. Whether you own or rent your home and whether your home is older or very new, you will certainly encounter some kind of plumbing problem at least once.

Knowing what to do when a plumbing emergency arises will help minimize damage and frustration.


1.  Water shut off valveFinding the home’s main water shut off valve should be one of the first things a person does when moving into a new home. For homes on a city water supply, the shut off valve is usually located near the water meter or near an exterior access point of the home’s crawl space. For homes using well water, the shut off valve will be located on or near the well pump–most likely in the well house.

In almost any plumbing emergency, the water supply will need to be shut off. It won’t always be necessary to shut off the main valve, but knowing its location is vital.

2.  If hot water is leaking or dripping from a faucet or supply line, the first step is to shut off the main water supply. Because the hot water is leaking, the hot water tank will drain. In a case like this, it is essential to shut off the breaker that supplies electricity to the hot water heater. If the hot water heater is allowed to run dry while still operating, the heating element will burn out and need to be replaced.

This costly repair can be prevented by simply shutting off the electricity at the first sign of hot water leakage.

3.   A clogged and overflowing toilet may be the most common plumbing problem that a household faces. All family members should know that preventing a complete overflow is possible if you catch it in time. If the toilet’s water level appears to be approaching overflow, turn on the cold water in the nearby sink or bathtub. This can slow the water flow enough to prevent an overflow.

The water shut off, located on the water supply line close to the floor behind the toilet, should also be shut off by turning clockwise. With the water supply turned off, a person can work on unclogging the toilet without worrying about water flooding the floor.


4.  flange plungerA clogged toilet requires a special tool called a flange plunger. This plunger, usually black in color, has a deep upside down bowl with a rim two to three inches in height at its bottom. This rim, or flange, is inserted into the toilet opening to create a snug seal. Pumping the plunger quickly several times builds up a vacuum suction, and then the entire plunger should be pulled up sharply. This usually does the trick to pull the blockage out of the drain trap.

5.  A clogged sink, however, needs a standard cup-style plunger to get it flowing freely again. These plungers are often a dark red color and have a flat, somewhat wide rim. The plunger should be centered over the drain and pumped several times to create a vacuum. The suction will, most likely, loosen the clog and allow it to flow freely down the drain. Some clogs, especially hair, will be sucked out of the drain.

Cup plungers come in various sizes–the smaller ones are best suited for sinks, and the larger sizes work best in showers or bathtubs.


6.  A leaking or dripping faucet should be repaired as soon as possible since even small drips add significantly to a home’s water bill. Whether you plan to repair the faucet yourself or call a plumber, the water supply to the sink or tub should be turned off as soon as the leak is noticed.

A sink’s shut off valve is located under the vanity or cabinet. The shut off valve for a bathtub, may be located behind an access panel on the wall behind the tub’s faucet. Though only the hot or cold water supply valve, depending on which is leaking, may need to be turned off, both valves must be turned off before replacing the faucet.

7.  Sometimes a toilet’s flush mechanism will fail and cause the water in the tank to constantly run or cause the toilet to flush occasionally on its own. To stop this waste of water, turn off the water supply using the valve located behind the toilet near the floor. The entire flush mechanism may need to be replaced, or it may simply need adjusted. Contact a professional plumber if you’re uncertain.

8.  If a washing machine malfunctions and continues running water even when the basket is completely filled, shut off one or both of the water supply valves on the hoses behind the washer. These are often visible but may sometimes be located behind an access panel in the wall. (In case of any water problems with a washing machine, turn off the washer and shut off the circuit breaker to prevent any electricity from reaching the machine.)


9. frozen pipeFrozen pipes can cause a panic for even the most seasoned homeowner. Not only are you without water, but you run the risk of burst pipes and the related water damage. With special care, a hair dryer or space heater can be used to thaw frozen water pipes. To prevent fires, no heater should be left unattended and it may be best to use the hair dryer or heater for only ten to 15 minutes at a time. When thawing pipes, nearby faucets should be left open to allow thawed water to escape.


10.  Have a plumber’s number handy!  (Ours is 253.212.9567.)  No matter what plumbing emergency occurs in a home, a professional plumber will always be able to offer advice and make any needed repairs.