As a new homeowner, I can tell you that things aren't always as simple as they appear. I started thinking about it a few years ago, and I realized that there were some serious problems with our plumbing system. We had issues with drains working correctly and toilets flushing like they should, so I started focusing more heavily on understanding the basics of our plumbing system. Within a few short months the entire system was operating more fluidly because of a few changes that I made, so I wanted to create a blog all about my journey. Check out these articles to learn more about the plumbing basics.
Hopefully you never have to deal with a plumbing emergency like a major leak or an overflowing toilet. But this is the real world. Things don't always go perfectly, and there's a very real chance your plumbing might fail you one day. It does not have to be an all-out disaster as long as you handle the problem in an organized, step-by-step manner. Here's how.
Step 1: Stop the flow of water.
Most plumbing emergencies involve water gushing everywhere. The first step is to stop that flow of water to keep the damage from getting any worse. If it's a toilet that is overflowing, you can turn the valve near the floor, which will cut off the water supply to the toilet. If a faucet is gushing water everywhere, check under the sink; there should be a shut-off valve you can turn to stop the water from flowing to the faucet.
If the leak is in a larger pipe, or if you can't find the shutoff valve associated with the affected sink or toilet, then head down to your main water valve, and just turn off the water supply to the whole house. The water might keep flowing through the leak site for a few minutes as the pipes are emptied out, but then it will stop. You can turn on another unaffected faucet to drain the pipes and minimize the amount that leaks out during this emptying process.
Step 2: Turn off the water heater.
You really only need to do this if you shut the water off at the main valve. You don't want to leave the water heater on because if it is partially empty and has not had the chance to fill back up, the continual heating could damage the unit. There should be a water shutoff valve near the top; turn this off. Also turn off the power or gas to the unit.
Step 3: Soak up major spills.
Don't leave the spilled water in place any longer than necessary. If you mop it up quickly, you can mostly prevent it from soaking into surfaces like your drywall and flooring. Use towels or sheets — whatever you have on hand.
Step 4: Call a plumber.
Now that you have the problem under immediate control, it's time to call in an emergency plumbing contractor. Don't attempt to make plumbing repairs yourself. Any mistakes could just lead to additional leaks, making things a lot worse. If it's after-hours, you may need to call an emergency plumber rather than your typical plumber.
Handle any plumbing emergencies in a step-by-step manner, and you should find success. Good luck!