Plumbing Emergencies

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A home with well-maintained plumbing will be less likely to have a plumbing emergency, but any home can be struck by a sudden plumbing problem. If you keep home plumbing supplies on hand, you may be able to address some emergency plumbing situations. At times, however, serious troubles will require an emergency plumber or emergency plumbing services.

Here are some common emergency plumbing situations and what to do about them:

  • Burst pipes: A burst water pipe can be a frightening occurrence. Because the water that comes into your home is under pressure, a broken pipe can send a lot of water into your home very quickly. Should this occur, you should take two immediate steps: turn off the main water valve in your home, and call an emergency plumber. Most main water valves can be turned off without any special tools, but if you have to shut off your water at the meter, you will need a meter key. Make sure also to turn off your water heater after you call for emergency plumbing services, so that it won't fire on an empty tank.
  • Frozen pipes: Pipes can bust when they freeze in cold weather. Prevention is the best remedy. Insulate pipes, wrapping them with heat tape, and turn off outside valves for hoses (or anything else that runs water) in the winter. If your pipes do freeze, you may first notice that water will not come from your faucet when it is turned on. Leave the faucets turned on, shut off the main water valve, and call an emergency plumber.
  • Gas leaks: Leaks in gas pipes are actually a job for an emergency plumber. If you notice a gas leak, shut off the gas at the meter and call an emergency plumber. To shut off the gas, you will need a wrench or other gas shut off tool. Although natural gas is odorless, the supplier infuses it with a strong smell to alert you to this potentially hazardous situation.
  • Sewer backups: A sewer backup is an emergency plumbing situation that might not announce itself as critical right away. You may believe that you have a simple clog in your toilet or drain and may use common home plumbing supplies to try to solve the trouble. However, these tools won't effectively correct a large sewage backup--you'll likely have to call emergency plumbing services. In the meantime, stop using the water and toilet.

Plumbing: An Overview

All of us will face a plumbing problem eventually. The good news is that most plumbing troubles can be solved with a few plumbing tools, some home plumbing supplies and a bit of know-how. Here's an overview.

  • Drain clogs: Clogged sink or tub drains occur with buildups of food particles, grease, hair or soap residue. Having on hand some general plumbing supplies--such as chemical drain cleaners--is a good idea, although using them might not always be your best first choice. Plunging the drain often works well, and removing and cleaning the trap beneath a sink is a job most people can easily manage with a couple of simple plumbing tools, like a wrench and screwdriver.
  • Leaking faucets: Fixing a dripping faucet is a simple procedure, though it's a job many people put off, costing them money on their water bill. Often, a worn washer in the faucet seat is the cause of the leak. The faulty washer can't hold back the pressure of the water supply, causing drips. Fixing the trouble will require a new washer, a couple basic plumbing tools (like pliers and a screwdriver) and about 15 minutes of your time.
  • Noisy pipes: The pipes in your home can sometimes make a lot of noise, banging during or after water use. If pipes bang when either hot or cold water is running, then one or more of your pipes is probably loose and banging against a wall, a joist or another pipe. Keep the water running, follow your ear to the loose pipe and secure it with a bracket, a wood block or a piece of rubber. Hot water noises are likely due to a water heater that is turned too high, causing steam in the pipes. Pipes that make a hammering sound when you turn off the tap are usually caused by a waterlogged air chamber. Locating and cleaning the air chamber is pretty straightforward, though you might need assistance the first time around.
  • Toilet problems: Toilets are pretty simple appliances, but a number of things can go wrong with them--they can clog, they can flush inadequately (or not at all) or they can run continuously. Clogs are perhaps the most frequent problem that occurs with toilets, and most of the time they can be solved with the most basic of plumbing tools--a plunger. A toilet auger can help with more stubborn blockages. If the bowl is not filling adequately with water, you may need to adjust the float inside the tank or replace the float ball assembly. Running toilets might require the replacement of the tank ball.

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