Few phrases quicken a homeowner’s pulse quite like plumbing emergency. A burst water pipe can cause significant damage to your home and everything in it. Homeowner claims for such an emergency average $5,000. A backed-up sewer line is worse, subjecting you and your family to noxious odors and bacteria.
While slow leaks and drips account for “only” 10% of the average American household’s water bill, plumbing emergencies can be financially devastating. For the most part, major plumbing problems can be avoided through proper preventive maintenance. But emergencies are a lot like accidents: They just happen. And it’s good to know, in advance, how to handle them.
NOTE: If your emergency is natural gas-related, not water-related, leave your home immediately and call 911 and your utility company, in that order. When the emergency is under control, a plumbing professional can offer gas line repair services.
Plumbing emergency #1: A Burst water pipe
- The most important step to take in a plumbing emergency is to shut off the water supply to your home. Do you know where the control valve is? If not, take a break from reading this post, find it, and try turning it to make sure it’s not seized up.
- Call a plumbing professional for expert help. You’ll be tempted to hit the internet for some DIY advice in an attempt to avoid a service fee. But saving a little money in the short term can cost you thousands in the long run. It’s better to get a qualified plumber on site as soon as possible.
- While you’re awaiting the plumber’s arrival, open the cold-water valve on every fixture to drain the pipes. When there’s no water coming from the tap, close the valve. (It’s important to close them so you don’t have another flood when your plumber turns the water back on.)
Plumbing emergency #2: Frozen water pipes
- Whether or not your frozen pipe has actually split, turn off the water supply to your home. That way, if it bursts while you’re working to thaw it, you won’t create a secondary emergency.
- Slowly and gently thaw the pipe using a heat lamp or a space heater. Don’t use an open flame of any kind. Have some towels or buckets on hand to catch water that may leak (or gush) once the frozen section has melted.
- Call a plumber to inspect and repair vulnerable sections of pipe that could cause future emergencies, and get expert advice on preventive strategies. [Follow this checklist to help prevent frozen pipes].
Plumbing emergency #3: A Burst or Leaking Water Heater
- First, remember your water heater is full of hot water. Take precautions to avoid burns.
- Turn off the power to the water heater—at the breaker box if it’s electric or by closing the gas valve.
- Turn off the water supply to the heater. (Again, if you don’t know where this valve is located, go find it now.)
- Call a plumber for assistance in locating and repairing the leak.
Plumbing emergency #4: A Clogged Drain or Toilet
- Most clogged drains and plugged toilets are relatively easy to handle. But if they repeatedly cause trouble or if you have multiple fixtures malfunctioning at once, an emergency may be imminent. It’s best to call a plumber to inspect your system for grease and debris, tree roots, or other obstacles.
- If your sewer line is actively backing up or if a line has burst, call a plumber immediately.
- Turn off the electricity to the affected portion of your home and shut off the main water valve to prevent additional waste traveling through the system.
- In addition to inspecting and repairing your sewer lines, your plumber can advise you on proper cleaning and/or disposal of affected items. [Click here for a drain cleaning coupon!]
For more than 30 years, St. Louis-area homeowners have trusted Maplewood Plumbing and Sewer for everything from regular maintenance to repairs and emergency services. Give us a call at 314-300-0189 or fill out our online contact form to get help with your plumbing issues.
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