It’s 2 a.m. Christmas Eve morning and you’ve got a burst pipe. If you thought it was difficult to find a plumbing professional to come to your home on a Friday afternoon, you know it’s impossible in the middle of the night on a holiday. It’s these emergency plumbing situations that spark the need for you to know how to handle a leaking pipe, running toilet or clogged drain.
We understand that not every plumbing emergency will be something you can fix on your own, but knowing how to prevent further damage may save you some cleanup time and cash before the professionals arrive.
Plumbing Emergencies & Solutions
Fixing a running toilet is much easier than you might think. Start by testing the flapper: Push down on the piece and if the water stops, you’ve found your problem. Replace the flapper with one of the same style.
If the flapper isn’t to blame, check the fill tube connected to the overflow pipe. The water level may be set too high. If water is going into the overflow tube, adjust the float until the water is about an inch below the tube.
If you have a leaking pipe, turn off the water supply immediately. Allowing even a small amount of water to pool can cause serious damage to your home.
If the leaky pipe has a threaded connection, disconnect the pipes, dry the threaded surface and apply either Teflon tape or Teflon pipe joint compound. These materials will reduce leaking at plumbing joints.
Depending on the size of the leak, you will need to use different materials. For a pinhole size leak, use duct tape to stop the leak until a plumber arrives or you can replace the piece of piping. If the break in the pipe is large, use a piece of rubber against the opening and secure the rubber with a sleeve clamp (you will need to buy a clamp that fits your pipe).
You may not consider a dripping faucet a plumbing emergency, but consider this: just three drips per minute results in more than 100 gallons of water lost over 12 months. Use this water drip calculator to determine how much water (and cash) you’re losing to a leaking faucet.
Cleaning a blocked drain doesn’t require a bottle of chemicals. Grab some rubber gloves and a wire hanger or a plunger and get to work
If the problem is with the toilet or kitchen sink drain, use the plunger, completely sealing the rim of the plunger cup to the toilet bowl or sink for maximum effect.
If that doesn’t work, bend a wire hanger to the appropriate angle to grab or clear the blockage. This method also works for bathroom and shower drains. Hair and other material can build up in pipes over time, so using the hanger to remove the blockage rather than a chemical to push it further along in the pipes offers a better long-term solution.