What to Do in a Plumbing Emergency: 7 Steps

Man and woman holding buckets during a plumbing emergency

Panic sets in as soon as the sound of dripping, gushing or running water occurs where it shouldn’t. By staying calm, acting fast and knowing what to do in a plumbing emergency, you can make a potential disaster that might cost thousands an ordinary, manageable fix. The key is to act fast.

If you’re having issues right now, call us at 770-532-9130. We are a 24-hour emergency plumbing service in Northern Georgia that can get on the job right away.

What is a plumbing emergency?

A plumbing emergency is a plumbing situation that will lead to damage to the home. Soaked floors, wet walls and flooded basements can cause potentially thousands of dollars in repairs, and, in extreme cases, can even affect the structural integrity of the building. While some small repairs and actions can be taken by a layman to stop the situation from getting worse, it’s best to call a 24-hour plumber near you.

But you might have more detailed questions on what actually “counts” as an emergency. For instance, is a leaking ceiling an emergency? What about a flooding toilet?

Here are some examples of what constitutes a plumbing emergency:

  • Burst pipes
  • Failed sump pumps
  • Blocked sewer lines
  • Sudden damp spots on walls, ceilings and floors
  • Leaks leading to flooding
  • Water heater issues (especially if you smell gas)
  • Sudden and extreme overflowing toilets
  • Intense, unusual sewage smells

Coverage may depend on your insurance company, but these are several types of plumbing emergencies that need a fast, professional plumber.

How to Deal with a Plumbing Emergency

Stay calm and follow this step-by-step guide to handling the situation.

1. Shut off your water.

Close off the source of the water as quickly as possible.

  • For Small Leaks: Turn off your water at the source, such as under your sink.
  • For Big Leaks: Turn off your home’s main valve, which is typically located in the basement near the front foundation wall. In some homes, the valve may also be located outside toward the street.
  • For Toilets: Shut off the valve behind the toilet.
  • For Sewage: Depending on the situation, you may not be responsible for the repair of the sewer main. If there are issues with the main water line or sewer main, call the city or water company.
  • For Flooding: If your house or street is flooding due to weather, evacuate. If possible, turn off your main water valve and turn off all electricity before you leave.
  • For the Water Heater: If the water temperature is too high or the relief valve is broken, an explosion is possible. Close off the cold water supply coming into the system and then shut off the power source.

2. If you’ve shut off the main valve, open spigots to the outdoors.

If a flood has happened and you have shut off the main water valve to your house, open any spigots leading the water outdoors to drain out your plumbing. If you experience clogs during this process, don’t use chemical cleaners; use a plunger to get the water to run outside. This step is not necessary if your leak is located in one area, like the kitchen or bathroom.

3. Consider safely turning off electricity in the affected area.

If the damage is in your walls, on your ceiling or near an outlet, shut off the electrical to those rooms by using your circuit breakers. Don’t try to do this if you yourself are wet or if the electrical box is also near the wet area. If you’re nervous, feel free to call an emergency plumber before this step.

4. Take photos.

Your insurance and your plumber may want to see the extent of the damage, so it may be smart to snap a few photos before the mess is cleaned up.

5. Prevent water from spreading.

Towels and mops can help to block much of the water. When dealing with water from bathrooms and kitchens, remember to wash your hands and not touch your face, which might lead to a bacterial infection.

6. If there’s a safe area to plug a device in, use a fan to dry out damp floors.

Only do this if you are 100 percent certain that your electrical has not been affected by this flood. (In other words, there should not be water riding up your walls or on your ceiling.) Prop up a fan on a chair in a nearby hallway and let it blow air into the damp room. Pushing around air can help you fight against severe damage and mold.

7. Call a 24/hour plumber.

This is when to call an emergency plumber. Most cities and counties will have a trusted emergency water plumber nearby who can react 24 hours each day, 7 days per week.

For those in the Atlanta and Northern Georgia areas, contact us at Gainesville Mechanical by calling 770-532-9130. We can handle a host of residential plumbing issues and are available anytime to handle your local plumbing emergencies in Georgia.

This is the basics of how to handle a plumbing emergency, but if you’re nervous about any of these steps or confused about the plumbing terminology, feel free to call us and we can help to resolve your plumbing issues quickly.

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