What to Do in an Emergency Plumbing Situation

What to Do in an Emergency Plumbing Situation

We’re all familiar with the cartoon scenes where a pipe bursts in the bathroom causing water to flow down the stairs carrying a frantic cartoon character with it. Although most plumbing problems can be avoided with regular maintenance and checkups, accidents happen. In order to avoid being swept away like a frantic cartoon character, it’s good to know what to do in an emergency plumbing situation.

What is an Emergency Plumbing Situation?

Before anything, it’s important to understand what are considered as “emergency” plumbing situations. The golden rule is: when in doubt, call your plumber immediately. However, it’s good to know some of the different types of plumbing emergencies.

  • Frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are usually caused when the pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures due to running outside or being poorly insulated. When the water expands as it freezes, it puts a lot of pressure on your pipes, potentially causing them to burst.

  • Leaking pipes

Pipes can begin to leak from virtually anywhere and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where the leak is coming from. As your pipe leaks, the water can drip and collect in your ceilings and floors, causing them to warp or even fall through.

  • Broken water line

All underground pipes are susceptible to natural elements, and eventually could begin to leak. An unusually high water bill or unexplained puddles in your yard are both potential signs of a broken water line.

  • Clogged Pipes

A clogged toilet, sink, or shower drain can usually be fixed with a plunger. However, if your attempts with plunging do not work, this could be a sign of a bigger clog, and continuing to plunge or use chemicals will make it worse. Do not use a chemical drain cleaner.

  • Gas Leak

Natural gas is almost completely colorless and odorless, making it extremely dangerous. The main sign of a gas leak in your house is the smell of sulfur (rotten egg smell), which was injected by the gas companies to make it detectable.

Step 1: Shut Off the Water or Gas Line

The first thing you should do is to locate and turn off the main shutoff valve for your water line or gas line, depending on the situation. It is important to know where the shutoff valve is in your home, and it’s usually in the basement or outside wall in the utility area of your house.

Step 2: Call a Plumber

After or while you’re turning off the main shutoff valve, call a professional plumber. Attempting to fix the issue yourself could potentially make things worse or be putting yourself in a dangerous situation, especially with a gas leak or frozen pipe. Stay calm, and describe exactly what is happening to your plumber. It is also beneficial to take pictures and document everything about the situation.

Step 3: Turn Off Your Water Heater

If you think your water is going to be shut off for more than a few hours, it may be beneficial to also shut off your hot water heater as will. This can prevent any damage to your water heater as well as save some energy.

Step 5: Remove Any Damage

Now that the systems are off and a plumber is on the way, you can go back to the area of the incident and remove anything that was or could potentially be damaged. This includes furniture, personal items, pieces of drywall, etc. This way, you are preventing any further damage as well as cleaning the way for your plumber to do their work.


If you notice any warning signs for a plumbing emergency, don’t hesitate to call Mike Wilson Plumbing any time, any day of the week at 804-641-6570. For non emergencies, schedule an appointment with us for all your plumbing needs!