Plumbing Emergency Basics: All You Need to Know


Plumbing emergencies can strike any moment, causing significant damage and disrupting your daily routine. In the long run, knowing how to handle them helps minimise the damage and cost of repairs. This guide will walk you through the plumbing emergency basics, including common scenarios, essential steps to take, and how to find a reliable emergency plumber.

Common Plumbing Emergency Situations

Burst Water or Heating Pipes

Causes: Sudden temperature changes, aging pipes, or frozen pipes.

Symptoms: Water damage, loss of service, and potentially structural damage.

Remedy: Shut off the water supply to the affected pipe and call a plumber for assistance.

Clogged Drains

Causes: Blockages in sinks, showers, toilets, or main sewer lines.

Symptoms: Slow drainage, backups, and potential water damage.

Remedy: Stop using the affected drain, call a plumber for assistance, and consider installing a WiFi-connected sewer alarm to prevent future backups.

Leaking Plumbing Fixtures

Causes: Sink faucets, toilets, outdoor outlets, or leaky showers.

Symptoms: Water waste, potential damage, and mould growth.

Remedy: Turn off the water supply to the fixture and call a plumber to repair the leak.

Overflowing Toilet

Causes: Clogged drains or improper flushing.

Symptoms: Water damage, potential structural damage, and unpleasant odours.

Remedy: Turn off the toilet's water supply, avoid flushing, and call a plumber to resolve the issue.

Gas Leaks

Causes: Natural gas, propane gas, or sewer gas leaks.

Symptoms: Dizziness, nausea, or strong odours.

Remedy: Evacuate the area, turn off gas appliances, and call a licensed professional to address the leak.

Frozen Water or Heating Pipes

Causes: Sub-freezing temperatures.

Symptoms: Pipes freezing and potentially bursting.

Remedy: Prevent pipes from freezing by insulating exposed pipes. Determine how you can safely melt the ice from the pipes.

Essential Steps to Handle Plumbing Emergencies

1. Shut Off the Water Supply

Identify the nearest shut-off valve and turn it off to prevent further damage.

2. Check the Water Heater

Turn off the water heater to prevent overheating or bursting.

3. Open Spigots and Drains

Open outside fixtures and use a garden hose to clear water from the pipes.

4. Reach Out to the Experts

Call a licensed plumber to assess and resolve the emergency.

What are the most common signs of a plumbing emergency?

The most common signs of a plumbing emergency include:

Burst or Frozen Water/Heating Pipes

Sudden temperature changes or aging pipes can cause pipes to burst, crack, or split, leading to significant water damage and loss of service.

Clogged Drains

Blockages in sinks, showers, toilets, or main sewer lines prevent proper drainage and can lead to backups and water damage.

Leaking Plumbing Fixtures

Excessive leaks from faucets, toilets, outdoor hose connections, or showers can waste water and cause damage over time.

Overflowing Toilets

Clogged drains or improper flushing causes toilets to overflow and flood the bathroom.

Gas Leaks

The smell of natural gas, propane, or sewer gas and symptoms like dizziness or nausea indicate a potentially dangerous gas leak.

Multiple Clogged Drains

When multiple drains in a home are clogged, it can signify a more serious plumbing issue.

Inability to Unclog Toilets with DIY Methods

When standard plunging or other DIY tactics can't clear a toilet clog, it likely requires professional attention.

Drains and Toilets Backing Up

When wastewater cannot properly drain and backs up into the home, it indicates a plumbing emergency.

Dripping Sounds from "Invisible" Sources

Hearing unexplained dripping noises can point to a hidden leak that you should address.

The key is recognising these common signs promptly, mitigating damage, and getting professional plumbing assistance.

What tools should I have at home to handle minor plumbing issues?

To handle minor plumbing issues at home, you should have the following plumbing tools:

Adjustable Pipe Wrench

This wrench provides tremendous leverage and grip for round objects like pipes.


A plunger is essential for clearing clogs in sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Having multiple plungers, including a flange plunger for toilets and a cup plunger for sinks and tubs, can be helpful.

Drain Snake

You can use a drain snake to clear minor clogs in pipes without damaging them.

Needle Nose Pliers

These pliers are useful for clearing hair and other debris from sink and shower drains.

Thread Seal Tape

You can utilise this tape to temporarily seal small leaks and prevent further damage until you find a permanent solution.

Basin Wrench

A basin wrench is necessary for removing or installing faucets, especially inaccessible ones.


A hacksaw is useful for accurately cutting metal and plastic pipes.

Stubby Screwdrivers

These screwdrivers are designed for hard-to-reach areas and are essential for working on plumbing fixtures.

Hex Wrenches

Hex keys are necessary for working with hex bolts and plugs found in faucets and other plumbing components.

Plumber's Tape

This tape prevents leaks at threaded plumbing connections and is essential for any plumbing project.

Plumber's Putty

This putty creates watertight seals around faucets, drains, and other plumbing parts.

Nitrile Gloves

These gloves are useful for protecting your hands while working on plumbing projects.

Work Gloves

Work gloves provide additional protection and grip while working on plumbing tasks.

Goggles or Safety Glasses

Safety glasses provide eye protection against debris and other potential dangers during plumbing projects.

Knee Pad

A knee pad helps protect your knees from wear and tear while working on plumbing tasks.


A bucket is useful for catching water and other liquids during plumbing projects.

Ratchet and Socket Set

You can use a ratchet and a socket set for various plumbing tasks, such as tightening or loosening fittings.

Stiff Putty Knife

A stiff putty knife is useful for scraping and cleaning surfaces during plumbing projects.


A flashlight is essential for illuminating dark areas and providing better visibility during plumbing tasks.


Rags are useful for cleaning up spills and wiping down surfaces during plumbing projects.

These tools will help you handle minor plumbing issues effectively and efficiently.

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