A plumbing emergency can be devastating for a home and its occupants. However, a level-headed approach and some basic preparation can help mitigate damage, expenses, and inconvenience.

One of the best ways to prepare for a potential emergency is to familiarize yourself with common plumbing problems and their fixes. This article from Martens Plumbing & Heating breaks down some essential information every homeowner should know.


Plumbing emergencies can wreak havoc on your home, and they’re oftentimes extremely expensive to fix. Whether it’s a clogged drain or a burst pipe, having the right information can help you defuse the situation and minimize the damage.

A significant leak can cause serious water damage to your property in a short amount of time, and it’s important to take action immediately. You can prevent this from happening by locating the shut-off valve for your home’s water supply, which is typically located near your water meter. Having a bucket or other container nearby to catch the water will also be helpful. If your leak isn’t a large one, you may be able to stuff rags in the affected areas to absorb any excess water until an emergency plumber arrives.

Most leaks occur when a fixture or pipe is damaged, but they can also happen due to age or a shift in the ground’s water pressure. You should regularly check your pipes for signs of wear and tear, such as rust or kinks, and replace your fixtures when necessary. It’s also wise to have an emergency plumbing kit handy in case of a problem. This should include a plunger, wrench, and pipe sealant tape.

Another common cause of plumbing emergencies is a backed-up sewer system. This is a health and safety hazard, and it can lead to flooding in your home’s basement. You can prevent this from happening by regularly cleaning your drains, avoiding flushing objects down the toilet that shouldn’t be there, and keeping grease out of your sinks.

Having an emergency plan in place is an essential part of being a homeowner. If you don’t have a plan in place, it’s important to make sure that you know what the most common plumbing problems are so that you can contact a plumber as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming more serious. This will save you money and peace of mind in the long run. You should also consider purchasing a home warranty to help with unexpected repairs and maintenance costs.

Clogged Drains

Among the many things you don’t want to wake up to in your home, a clogged drain or toilet ranks near the top. Whether you’re trying to relax in the tub after a long day or you’re trying to throw food scraps into your garbage disposal, having a clogged drain can turn a pleasant experience into a nightmare.

You can prevent many clogs by being vigilant about what you put down your drains. Make sure to avoid flushing anything other than toilet paper, and consider using a drain strainer or hair catchers to keep large items from going down your sinks and tubs. Avoid pouring chemical drain cleaners down your drains, as these caustic products can damage pipes and offer only a temporary solution at best.

If your drains seem to be getting slower and slower, or you notice water backing up into showers, bathtubs or sink basins, that’s a clear sign of a blockage. You can try plunging the affected drain yourself, or if that doesn’t work you should call a plumber.

A backed up sewer line can cause drains in your entire home to back up and overflow, which is definitely a plumbing emergency that requires an immediate response. It’s important to know how to shut off your main water valve and the individual breakers for each fixture in your house, so you can stop the flow of water if necessary while you wait for a plumber to arrive.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the location of your home’s sewer line so you know where to look for it. The sewer line is what connects your home to the city’s sewage system beneath the street, and when it backs up because of a tree root invasion or something else, no water will leave any of your drains. Knowing where to find your sewer line and how to shut off the water so you can get it taken care of before a major problem occurs is a must-have for any homeowner. This will save you both time and money in the long run.

Overflowing Toilets

If your toilet is hydro jetting, it’s a surefire sign that you have an urgent plumbing issue to address. While an overflowing toilet can be a disaster, it’s also typically quite easy to fix, provided that you act quickly enough.

One of the first things that you should do when your toilet is overflowing is to turn off the water. This is usually a simple matter of finding the shut off valve that is located near your toilet’s base and turning it until it stops the water from entering your toilet.

After shutting off the water supply to your toilet, you should try to stop any additional overflow by removing any excess water that has spilled on the floor. You can use towels to soak up a small amount of water or a wet vacuum for larger spills.

You should also take this opportunity to protect your family by keeping them out of the bathroom until you can call emergency plumbers. A toilet overflow can spread dangerous bacteria in your home, and if your kids touch it or ingest any of the blackwater, they could become seriously sick.

The main reason that toilets overflow is because there’s a blockage in the pipes. This could be because of something that was flushed down the toilet, like a toy or food item, or it might be a sign that there’s a bigger problem with your main line. Your pipes might have corroded, collapsed, or shifted, for example.

Another cause of overflowing toilets is a defective wax seal on the drain. These seals are designed to hold the drain in place, but over time they can degrade and leak. This is particularly common with older homes. If you notice that your toilet is constantly leaking, you should consider replacing the seal.

Once you’ve stopped the overflow by locating and turning off the water supply, it’s time to call emergency plumbers. Skilled technicians can identify the underlying cause of your toilet overflow and provide you with expert repairs to prevent future emergencies. They can even help with cleanup and water damage restoration if needed.

Sewer Backups

Sewer backups are a sure sign of a major plumbing emergency. If sewage is backing up into your home’s drains, toilets, bathtubs or showers, it’s time to call for professional help. Sewage contains harmful bacteria and viruses that can make people sick. It’s also a huge mess that can cause damage to your floors, walls and furniture.

Before you call for professional assistance, determine what is causing the problem. If it’s a small clog or minor issue, you may be able to resolve it yourself without needing a plumber. However, if it’s a large sewer clog or backup that is causing serious water and sewage damage, it will likely take much more work to repair.

First, evaluate whether the backup occurs only when you run your water. If so, this indicates the problem is caused by your home’s plumbing inside of your house and not your sewer line. If it happens independently of running water, this is likely a municipal sewer problem and you should notify your municipality’s public sewer department immediately.

If sewage is flowing into your home, shut off the main water valve to prevent further damage. It’s also a good idea to disconnect any appliances or electronics in the affected area until a plumber can inspect and restore them. Do not enter any flooded areas unless you are absolutely certain it is safe to do so. If you must enter a flooded area, wear protective clothing including a face mask and gloves. Turn off any electrical devices in the area and open windows and doors to ventilate the space.

It’s important to note that sewer backups are typically not covered by standard homeowners’ insurance policies, unless you have purchased extra endorsements for sewers and drains. Be sure to review your policy carefully and ask any questions you have about coverage.

You can prevent many of the most common causes of sewer backups by properly disposing of grease, cleaning your drains regularly and avoiding flushing anything other than toilet paper and human waste. Pouring cooking oil down the drain can cause clogs, so it’s best to use a separate container for this purpose and pour the grease into the trash. Also, do not plant trees or shrubs near a sewer line and keep the roots from growing into them.

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