If you've contacted a plumber in an emergency, it may still take them awhile to show up. In the meantime, there's water flowing into or under your house from clogged drains, leaking faucets or toilets or burst pipes. Follow these steps to minimize damage, keep yourself safe and be prepared for the plumber when he arrives:
- Turn off the main water valve. The most important thing to do if there's water leaking in your home is to turn off the main valve to stop the flow. If you know the location of the leak is isolated to a sink or toilet, you can shut off the valve under the sink or next to the toilet instead of turning off all of the water to your home. Locating the leak and turning off the water in the affected area is also important if you live in an apartment or any other type of shared housing where you don't have access to the main valve.
- Turn off the energy source to your hot water heater. If you don't have hot water or you think your plumbing emergency might involve your hot water heater, turn it off to prevent further damage. Turn the switch to the pilot position if you have a gas heater. Unplug your heater if it's electric.
- Take care of electrical hazards. Unplug any appliances that are sitting in standing water as long as the plug and outlet aren't wet. If the outlets are wet or if any of your home's wiring has gotten wet or is submerged, turn off your home's main electricity supply while you wait. Never enter standing water that's touching a submerged electrical outlet or wiring.
- Clean up as much as you can. Use old towels or a mop and bucket to soak up as much of the water as you can to prevent further damage to your floors and walls while you wait for your plumber. Having a cleaner area to work in will make their job easier as well. Don't attempt to clean up water that contains sewage, however -- leave that to the pros.
- Keep your faucets turned on if you have a frozen water pipe. It's still important to turn off the main water valve, even when you're keeping the taps open, especially if you can't see the pipe you suspect is frozen because it could have burst when it froze. Do not apply use an open flame or electrical appliance to try to thaw the pipe.
Many companies offer emergency plumbing services. Don't wait to call a plumber if you have a water emergency -- the more time that passes, the greater the potential damage.