Home Articles

When to Hire Emergency Plumbers and What to Do Before They Show Up

Written by Joe Roberts

Published on December 21, 2022


When to Hire Emergency Plumbers and What to Do Before They Show Up

Plumbing issues should be fixed ASAP. Read our guide to find emergency plumbers, learn what to do until they arrive, and estimate how much you’ll pay.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

Read about our editorial process here. Want to use our cost data? Click here.

Plumbing problems should be dealt with quickly to prevent bigger issues like flooding and extensive water damage. However, plumbers often have long wait times, and plumbing emergencies may occur outside of regular business hours. This might mean you have to wait a few hours to get repairs done, but don’t worry. You can hire emergency plumbers to handle them sooner. 

Unfortunately, many plumbing companies charge premiums for urgent and after-hours plumbing repairs, so waiting to fix minor issues like broken garbage disposals and leaking faucets can save you money. If you’ve got a bigger issue like a busted pipe, a malfunctioning water heater, or some unidentified flooding, emergency services are worth the cost. 

If you’re experiencing a plumbing emergency, don’t wait. Contact a local plumber immediately, then keep reading to learn what you should do until they arrive.

Have a leak? Hire an emergency plumber in your area

What to do before your plumber arrives

Even if you hire an emergency plumber, it can take them a while to arrive. In the meantime, there are a few things you can and should do to minimize the damage caused by the plumbing issue.

Shut off the water supply

A water shutoff valve features a twisting knob that shuts off the water line’s supply. Your shutoff valve may indicate the “On” and “Off” orientation of the knob. Image source: Lowe’s

If any part of your plumbing system is leaking, the very first thing you should do is turn off the water supply. If you can find a shutoff valve that will stop water from flowing through the leaking pipe or fixture, twist the valve’s knob clockwise to the off position. This should stop water from flowing through the valve.

Different fixtures and appliances have shutoff valves in different places, so here’s a quick list of where to find them:

  • A sink’s shutoff valve is typically found in the cabinet below the sink. Look where the water line feeds into the faucet’s tailpiece.
  • A dishwasher’s shutoff valve can often be found near the kitchen sink’s supply line, and the two fixtures may even share a supply line.
  • A toilet’s shutoff valve is usually on the floor under the toilet’s water tank.
  • Shower shutoff valves are often harder to access than those of other fixtures. They’re frequently either located behind removable panels in nearby walls or the ceiling of a room below.
  • A water heater’s shutoff valve is usually on top of the tank.

If you can’t find a shut-off valve for whatever fixture or pipe is leaking, it’s best to turn off the water supply to the whole house. This will mean going without water until your plumber arrives, but it’s the right call if a leak is causing significant flooding. 

Go to your home’s water meter outside and locate its shutoff valve. It will probably be a bit larger than any of the shutoff valves for the individual fixtures in your home. Twist this valve into the off position to shut off your water supply. If you live in a rural area and have a well, the valve will be where the water line runs into the pressure tank.

Once you’ve shut off the supply, it’s time to flush the remaining water out of the system. Otherwise, it may keep leaking for a while. Turn on a few of the faucets throughout your home, ideally those in the basement or ground level, and leave them on until no more water flows. This will empty your system and stop supply line leaks. 

Deal with your electronics

If you have a leak, you should unplug and remove nearby electronics. If water comes into contact with these appliances, it may cause electrocution and fires. To make this as safe as possible, go to your electrical panel and turn off the power to the room or floor that’s flooding.

Never touch wet electronics that are plugged into a live outlet.

Remove standing water

Once you’ve shut off the water supply and ensured your electronics won’t become a serious hazard, it’s time to start removing any water that you can. If necessary, use buckets or cups to remove especially deep water, then soak up whatever you can with towels and rags.

Along the way, remove any furniture and other belongings in the surrounding areas to a drier location, even if they’re already wet. Leaving them standing in the water will only increase the damage they’ll take. 

Document any damage

If the water damage to your home or belongings is serious enough to necessitate an insurance claim, take careful notes and pictures to document it all as soon as possible. This step should wait until there’s no longer an emergency, but it’s best to get it done before everything dries. 

Plumbing issues that may require an emergency plumber

If you’re unsure if your situation calls for an emergency plumber, check this list of common plumbing emergencies. 

Sewer line backflow

Sewage backflow is when dirty water from a sewage line starts flowing backward and coming out of a home’s drains. This is most often caused by clogs in sewer lines, failed lines due to root infiltration, a full septic tank, or a failed septic system. 

In addition to typical water damage, sewage backflow can cause other serious issues like permanent odors, stained furniture and carpets, and even illness since sewage is toxic. So if your sewage system is back flowing, it’s an emergency situation that calls for a plumber. 

The early signs of backflow can be subtle, so to diagnose backflow before it becomes disastrous, watch carefully for multiple simultaneous drain clogs or sewage smell arising from drains. 

If you notice these issues, or a more obvious sign like sewer water coming up from your drains, call a plumber immediately to schedule an urgent sewer line repair or unclogging.Unidentified leaks and flooding

If you notice a water bubble in your ceiling or you’ve found water pooled at the base of a wall but you can’t actually see the pipe it’s coming from, you should call a plumber to help diagnose and fix the leak. Without knowing where water is coming from, there’s no telling how serious the problem is until an expert arrives. 

Leaky or burst pipes

If you’ve found an exposed pipe that has burst and is gushing water from a rupture or small leak, you should take it seriously. Even a small amount of moisture can cause significant problems like rotten drywall and mold.

If you can get the leak or burst pipe to stop pumping water into your home by shutting off the water main, this issue probably doesn’t have to be resolved in the middle of the night. However, the sooner you take care of it, the better.

Water heater failure

If your water heater tank is leaking, you should treat it with the same—if not more—urgency you would a burst pipe. The tank is likely holding several dozen gallons of water that will continue to leak even after you turn off the water supply, so the sooner you get a plumber on the job, the better.

If the tank isn’t leaking but isn’t giving you any hot water, you probably don’t need an emergency plumber. It means the heating system has failed somehow, and this issue can usually wait for as long as you can stand to go without hot water. 

However, if you smell gas near your water heater, the heat loss is likely the result of a gas leak, and this is an emergency. Shut off the gas line, open a few windows in your home, and contact a plumber at once. To turn off your home’s gas supply, go to the gas meter outside your house, locate the shutoff valve, and twist it to the off position. 

Leaking appliances

If any appliances that use water like your dishwasher, fridge, toilet, or washing machine are leaking water, get the leak fixed before using them again. Otherwise, every flush or cycle will result in water all over your floor, potentially damaging your home and belongings.

Sump pump failure

Sump pumps are small pumps found in the basements of homes that are prone to flooding. They collect water that accumulates in a basement and then pump it back outside. Not all homeowners have sump pumps, but if your home needs one, it should be in working order.

If your sump pump isn’t working, groundwater and rainwater can quickly flood your home, so you should call an emergency plumber to come and fix your pump as soon as you notice it failing. 

Other issues

We’ve listed the most common plumbing emergencies, but you can hire an emergency plumber for all your plumbing needs. If you simply can’t wait for water heater repair, drain cleaning, or rooter services, you can always find a local plumber to come out and take care of these issues immediately. As long as you’re willing to pay the price for expedited repair services, that is. 

Emergency plumbing costs

In general, a plumbing service call comes with an hourly rate plus the cost of materials, though some plumbing companies charge flat rates for certain jobs. 

For emergency plumbing repair, prices are generally much higher.

And the longer it takes to resolve, the more expensive it will be. 

Check out our plumbing service cost guide to learn more about plumbing prices.

Solving your plumbing emergency

Despite the relatively high prices for emergency plumbing services, you still shouldn’t let urgent plumbing situations wait. Leaks, pump failures, and major water heater issues should always be taken care of as soon as possible. However, if you’ve simply got a dripping faucet or want to replace one of your bathroom’s fixtures, it’s probably best for your wallet to wait until you can pay standard rates for the service.

Find an emergency plumber in your city

Written by

Joe Roberts Content Specialist

Joe is a home improvement expert and content specialist for Fixr.com. He’s been writing home services content for over eight years, leveraging his research and composition skills to produce consumer-minded articles that demystify everything from moving to remodeling. His work has been sourced by various news sources and business journals, including Nasdaq.com and USA Today. When he isn’t writing about home improvement or climate issues, Joe can be found in bookstores and record shops.