No hot water is no good. Sewage backups are terrible. Burst pipes are even worse. Every homeowner will experience some type of plumbing emergency eventually. However, if you know what to do, and take action right away, you can prevent more damage from happening to your home.
The first thing you want to do is shut off the water. Stopping water flow will hopefully prevent further damage. Even a small leak from a pipe or the hot water heater can suddenly give way and pump hundreds of gallons of water into your home. These emergencies can cost thousands including structural damage and loss of irreplaceable items. So, you want to cut off the water supply as soon as possible.
If the leak is coming from a fixture like the toilet or a faucet, you can turn the water supply off at the fixture. There should be a shutoff valve close by.
If you can’t find a turn off valve, or water continues to flow, the next step is to turn off the main water supply coming into your home. The water shutoff valve should be close to your water meter.
Knowing where the main water shutoff valve is for your home is very important. Make a point to locate that immediately when you move in (or now), as well as noting where the individual shut off valves are for various plumbing fixtures in your home.
During a major plumbing emergency, or if you are at all unsure about what is going on, turn off your hot water heater. Only do this if you have turned off your main water supply. You don’t want the unit to keep cycling with no water supply or it could overheat or, worse, burst. Turn the gas supply off first if your hot water heater is gas powered.
Once you’ve shut off the main water valve, there will still be water in your pipes. You want to move this water away from your home as quickly as possible. The fastest way to do this is to turn on all your outside spigots. If there is a hose attached, be sure to open that up to drain all of the water pressure. Also open up the faucets indoors to clear all water from the pipes.
If you find a small clog during the emergency, try to open up the drain by gently plunging the backup. Don’t use any chemical drain cleaners during an emergency because they are toxic and can cause additional harm to your pipes.
Plumbing emergencies are not the time to try your hand at DIY plumbing repairs. Getting a pro over right away will help to prevent further damage to your home. While you may have to pay emergency rates, it could save thousands of dollars in repair costs in the long run. When you call and explain your situation, the plumber will likely have some recommendation for what you should do until they get there.
If the emergency is a problem with the main sewer line, a blocked sewer, or your main water line, contact the water company right away. They may send an emergency crew right out to help, and you may not be responsible for the repairs.
Plumbing emergencies can be extremely stressful. Don’t make them more stressful by not having anyone to turn to for immediate help. Find someone with a 24/7 emergency service, and keep that number in your Contacts. Being prepared with a good plumber’s contact information will go a long way to giving you the resources to handle an emergency.