Emergency Plumbing Hacks Every Homeowner Should Know

Plumbing emergencies don’t just interrupt your day-to-day activities; they can also cause permanent damage. That’s why it’s important to know how to handle them until a plumber arrives.

In this episode of This Old House, Kevin O’Connor meets Richard Trethewey to learn about some simple tips and tricks for controlling a plumbing emergency until you can call in a plumber.

1. Turn Off the Water

Often, utilities such as water, electricity, and gas can cause a lot of problems in a home. A gas leak, a burst pipe, or an outlet that isn’t working can all create hazardous situations and require immediate action.

Knowing where your main water shut off valve is and how to turn it off can make all the difference in a plumbing emergency. This knowledge can save you thousands in repairs and prevent your home from flooding.

You should also know where all the individual shut off valves are located in your home. These are usually found on the supply lines to each fixture.

These shut off valves typically have a small, round handle that you can rotate clockwise to stop the flow of water. They are located on the supply lines for most appliances, toilets, and faucets.


2. Turn Off the Main Water Valve

Knowing where your main water valve is and how to shut it off in an emergency situation can help you save money on plumbing repairs and property damage. This is particularly true if you have an active pipe leak or burst pipes that may be causing major damage to your home.

In most houses, the main water valve is located in the basement or crawl space near the front of the house, depending on your climate and location. It is often hidden behind a removable panel.

Once you have found your main valve, turn it off by turning the handle clockwise until it is completely closed. Never try to force it open or close as this could cause irreparable damage.

There are two types of shutoff valves for a main water line: gate valves and ball valves. A gate valve, which looks like a circular spigot, is more common in older homes. It is often made of brass and closes by lowering a wedge-shaped gate into a slot. A ball valve, on the other hand, uses a pivoting stainless steel ball to close.

3. Identify the Source of the Leak

If you have a leak, it is important to know where it is coming from. A professional plumber will be able to identify the source of the leak and help you create a plan for fixing it.

A plumbing leak can be a terrifying experience. They can cause severe damage to your home and can be very expensive to repair.

Fortunately, there are several signs to look for when you are suspicious that you may have a leak. Some of these signs include a spike in your water bill, strange smells and noises, or discoloration on your walls.

The best way to determine whether you have a leak is to check the meter. After shutting off all the water in your house, make sure to check the meter again in an hour to see if the leak indicator has changed.

4. Remove Any Leftover Water

If you’re lucky enough to have a modern plumbing system, chances are you have a plethora of fancy fixtures. To keep the good stuff in good working order, you need to keep an eye out for the telltale signs of trouble. In the event of a leaky faucet or toilet, a quick sweep of your kitchen and bath can go a long way toward catching a red light before it becomes a flood. Thankfully, there are several dos and don’ts to help you avoid a trip to the ER. The best bet is to always have a backup plan, in case the worst happens. You never know when the unexpected will rear its head. This is especially true if your household includes young children who are unsurprisingly curious about all things manly and womanly.


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