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Water leaking from a pipe, the smell of natural gas, sewerage backing up into your basement. All these situations can be scary and stressful and feel like emergencies. But what is a true plumbing emergency requiring an immediate visit from a plumber and which situations are you able take some steps to diffuse the situation until a plumbing appointment can be made.
Know where your Main Shut-off Valve is
It is important that everyone in the house knows where the main shut-off valve is. Any time you have a water leak emergency this shut-off valve can be used to stop the flow of water into your home until you can have the leak repaired by a plumbing professional. Your main shut-off valve is usually found where the water supply enters your home, perhaps in the basement, the crawl space or near the water heater. Once you find the master valve, test it to see that it is the right one and that it works properly. If you close it, the water supply coming into your house should stop. Label the valve with bright colored tape or a sign.
Leaking supply line
If you have a leak at a supply line to a bathroom or kitchen sink faucet or toilet, turn the shut-off valve before the leak to the off position. This will stop the water from leaking from the line until you can make an appointment with a plumber. If your local shut-off valve is not working, turn the water off to the whole house to stop the leak. A typical shut-off valve at a toilet or under your kitchen or bathroom sink will look like this:
Leaking Water Heater
As your water heater ages it becomes more likely that the tank will fail, and a leak will occur. Should you find your water heater is leaking, turn the water supply off to the water heater using the shut-off valve above the water heater. Because a water heater typically holds 50 to 80 gallons of water it will continue to leak until the tank empties. A leaking water heater tank cannot be repaired, and the water heater will need to be replaced. If the shut-off at the water heater does not work, turn the water off to the whole house to stop water from flowing into the water heater. A typical shut-off valve at your water heater will look like this:
Water Main Breaks
If you are on municipal water a water service line runs into your home from the local water authority main. Although not common, if you find water entering your home through the foundation of your home where the water service comes into your home the water service is likely broken. This is an emergency and plumber should be contacted to help get the water turned off to your home to prevent the flooding of your home. A qualified plumber will then be able to provide you with options for repair or replacement of your water service.
There are many reasons a basement may flood including main line stoppages, sewerage ejector or sump pump failures. In these cases, it is best to limit the usage of water and toilets in the house. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine or take showers/baths until you are able to set up a plumbing appointment.
A natural gas leak is always an emergency. You should immediately contact your gas supplier or fire department to have them confirm the leak and have the gas service turned off to your home until the leak can be addressed. Do not wait for normal business hours to have your gas supply turned off in the event of a leak.