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What to Do When There Is a Plumbing Emergency

Most households prepare themselves for an emergency like a house fire. Every resident knows exactly where the main exits are located, where the fire extinguishers are stored and who to call for help. Learning these basics keeps everyone safe and reduces the chances of your house getting destroyed.

In the same vein, everyone should learn how to react to plumbing emergencies. The quicker you can respond to the problem, the less damage there will be. Read these tips on how to get through these three urgent plumbing situations: 

A Burst Pipe:

You hear rushing water, run into a room and see that a pipe is spraying water everywhere. A massive puddle is already forming on the ground, and you worry that the entire basement will flood if you don’t do something.

Plumbing companies see more burst pipes during this time of year because the cold outdoor temperatures make the water in the pipes freeze. When a pipe freezes, ice inside of it expands and creates pressure that can build and build until the pipe breaks. The problem tends to happen to pipes that are not insulated and that are located in parts of the house with minimal heating — think of your basement, your crawlspace or your garage.

The moment that you see a burst pipe, find your house’s water shutoff valve and turn it off. It will stop the supply of water from coming through the plumbing system. It won’t fix the problem, but it will rein in the extent of the water damage.

When it comes to plumbing emergencies, knowing exactly where the water shutoff valve is will get you out of a big disaster from an overflowing fixture to a flooding basement. It’s usually located in your basement, near the water heater. It’s possible for shutoff valves to be placed on the house’s exterior, but that is common for homes in much warmer climates. It will either be a ball valve or a gate valve:

  • Turn the handle of the ball valve clockwise until it makes a right angle against the pipe
  • Turn the gate valve clockwise for several turns until it stops and is fully closed

Remember that you should only go through the pooling water if it appears safe to do so. If there are exposed wires or electrical outlets touching the water, you could get electrocuted when you walk through it. Assess the room and determine if you’re putting your health and safety at risk. If the area looks hazardous, you should call your electric company to turn off your home’s power before you go in.

After you turn off the water supply valve, the next thing you should do when a pipe bursts is to go to the sinks around the house and turn the taps on — this will reduce pressure sitting inside of the pipes. Then, call up a professional plumber to come to the house and repair the pipe as soon as possible. You will also want them to thaw any other frozen pipes that are at risk of breaking open.

An Overflowing Toilet:

There is nothing like the panicked feeling of watching the water climb up the toilet bowl. The average person dealing with an overflowing toilet will stand in the bathroom and pray that the dirty water won’t make it past the rim, but the best thing you can do in this situation is spring into action.

The first thing that you should do with an overflowing toilet is shut off the water valve — it’s usually located right in the middle of the metal hose going between the fixture and the wall. Turning that off should stop the water from steadily creeping up the bowl.

If you can’t seem to find a toilet’s supply valve, a quick solution is to lift the lid from the tank and find the toilet float. A toilet float, also called a ballcock, will look like a big plastic ball attached to a rod. Gently lift the ball high enough to stop the toilet water from running. After that, you or someone in the vicinity should go to the basement to turn off the house’s water shutoff valve.

The usual cause of an overflowing toilet is a blocked drain, so you need to clear the drain to make the water in the bowl go down. Before grabbing your plunger, try to limit as much mess as possible. If you’re wearing nice clothes, change into an outfit that you won’t mind getting dirty. If toilet water spilled over the rim, lay down towels or cloths to mop it up after you’re finished the job. 

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and pour excess toilet water into a bucket. Taking out some water will curb any splashing and make the plunging more effective. The best way to unclog a toilet is to place your plunger into the bowl and make sure the lip of the cup gets a good seal over the drain. Then plunge up and down in a repetitive motion, until the water drains. Test to see if the problem is solved by turning the water back on and giving it a flush.

There is a possibility that turning off the toilet’s supply valve or the house’s supply valve doesn’t work, and that the dirty water keeps moving up to the rim. In this case, you’re not dealing with a regular clog from using too much toilet paper — this is sewer backup coming through your toilet drain.

When this happens, call us to get 24-hour emergency plumbing services to come to your house immediately to deal with the unpleasant problem. Here’s what you can do while you’re waiting for the plumbers to arrive:

  • Grab valuables and move them out of the way from any liquid spilling from the toilet
  • Use towels or cloths to mop up the mess and prevent it from spreading across the floor
  • Open up nearby windows to let in some fresh air

We can use our camera inspection services to investigate your pipes to see what is causing the backup to come through your toilet so that we can determine the best way to solve the problem. Ignoring a blockage or a broken pipe in the plumbing system will lead to more overflows in the near-future. 

Sewage Backing Up In The Basement:

Sadly, this isn’t a situation that can be solved by turning off the main supply valve. When you see foul sewage coming through your basement floor, sink and toilet drains, you will need to call a plumber right away. If there is enough backup to flood the floor, call the electrical company as well to shut off the power.

Sewage backup can happen from bad blockages in the sewer line or broken pipes. When your house isn’t equipped with a backwater valve, you can get a severe sewage backup after the municipal sewage system gets overwhelmed in a heavy storm. The excess sewage in the city’s system pushes up your main line and through the drains on the lowest level of the house.

After calling for an emergency plumber, you should open up your windows and doors to let in fresh air. You want to dispel the pungent smell of sewer gas because breathing in components like hydrogen sulphide can make you feel ill. Exposure to gas can cause symptoms like eye irritation, coughing, shortness of breath and dizziness.

Here are some other simple things that you should do before the plumbers arrive:

  • Move valuables out of the way
  • Limit the mess by placing down towels or tarps
  • Keep children or pets away from the area

The best way for you to prevent plumbing emergencies from even happening is to notice the warning signs. Frequent clogs, slow drains, strange noises and foul odours are all clues that your home’s system needs attention. If you want to be vigilant, we can check and diagnose your plumbing system to determine any problem areas that could turn into disasters later down the line.

We can help make the right changes to prevent those plumbing fiascos from taking place. If you have a blockage in your toilet drain, we can clear it. If sewage backed up in your basement during a storm, we can install a backwater valve to stop the city’s water from getting through your drains again.

Explore our website to learn more about our company and to see how we can improve your home’s system so that you don’t have to worry about any of these plumbing accidents at all. If you have any pressing questions or inquiries, you can always call or send an email to talk to a representative.  

The worst thing that can do when you spot an emergency is freeze. When you don’t know what to do or how to fix the problem, all you can do is stare and watch the destruction grow. But now, you know how to react, how to limit water damage and what professionals you should call. You can be confident that you will do the right thing in the midst of a plumbing catastrophe.

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