A plumbing problem can strike at any time. While some issues, like a dripping tap, may not be that serious, some plumbing problems can have major consequences. From threatening your health and safety, to the risk of electrical fires, to major water damage, some plumbing jobs are simply too important to wait.
In many cases, calling out an after-hours plumber will come with a price premium. So, before you go ahead and call that emergency plumber, it’s worth considering if you actually have an emergency plumbing situation on your hands. So let’s have a look at a few common problems and work out whether they constitute plumbing emergencies.
When a pipe bursts, it’s definitely a plumbing emergency. And you need to act fast. A burst pipe can cause serious damage to your home. Water damaged carpets may need to be ripped up, furniture may need to be disposed of and even structural components, like timbers and foundations, can be damaged. And let’s not forget about all the water that a burst pipe can waste.
Knocking or Noisy Pipes
While knocking or noisy pipes aren’t a plumbing emergency, they should still be treated seriously and handled sooner rather than later. Common causes of pipe noises include loose valves or shifting pipes. This could be due to high water pressure or because the pipes weren’t properly installed.
Whatever the cause, a knocking or noisy pipe can quickly get out of control. If pipes knock together or against walls with enough force, they can break or do damage to the walls. While not a plumbing emergency, you should definitely have your pipes looked at by a qualified plumbing before the problem has a chance to escalate.
After turning off the water, a little dripping from a faucet or shower head is common. Some water can be part-way through the pipe when you turn the tap off and it may drip out for a minute or two. However, if you’re living with a constant drip, it’s another matter.
Continual dripping can indicate that your water pressure is too high, placing unnecessary stress on your plumbing. If ignored, the drip could develop into a worse problem, like a burst pipe. It’s not an emergency but does need to be dealt with quickly.
Alternatively, the drip may be the result of a loose valve or worn tap fittings. While this is less of an emergency than high water pressure, you should still get the problem sorted swiftly. A dripping tap can waste a lot of water and unnecessarily increase your water bill.
The cause of your discoloured water will dictate whether it’s an emergency or not. Generally, you can diagnose the problem from the water colour. For instance, yellow, brown or red water often means your pipes have rusted and need to be replaced. This water is safe to drink, despite looking unappealing, but try and get your pipes replaced as soon as possible.
White or cloudy water typically means there is air in your pipes. This can happen after repair or service work is done and you usually just need to run the tap for a few minutes for the water to clear.
However, white water can also indicate copper corrosion. If the water doesn’t clear, or instead changes to blue or green, your pipes may need to be replaced. Do not drink water that has high levels of copper as this can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Contact a plumber immediately and drink bottled water in the meantime.
No Hot Water
Depending on your hot water system, running out of hot water can just mean that there’s been one too many hot baths or showers that day. However, it can sometimes be more than that.
For instance, your hot water system may not be getting enough power. Alternatively, it could mean there’s a leak in the system. If you aren’t getting hot water regularly, you will need a plumber to investigate. However, it doesn’t count as an emergency.
Typically, leaks aren’t an emergency, but they should be handled quickly. Leaks can cause water damage in your home, while also being a symptom of other plumbing problems, like high water pressure, cracked pipes or worn fixtures. If you notice a leak or hear running water, investigate the source and act accordingly.
A backed-up toilet is most certainly a plumbing emergency. Sewage isn’t only deeply unpleasant, but it also poses a health risk. If your toilet no longer flushes or expels sewage, call a plumber immediately.
And if you ever notice sewage where it shouldn’t be, including a strong smell of sewage, call a plumber fast. Your pipes may have become backed up and sewage has begun to leak.
Blocked drains can be unpleasant. While not an emergency, don’t put off calling a plumber for too long. A blocked drain isn’t just a nuisance, it can also add unnecessary strain to your pipes as water tries to flow through a too-small space. Your pipes may even burst if the blockage is left for too long.
Organise a visit from your regular plumber to determine the cause of the blockage and clear it. They may also be able to provide you with tips to stop it happening again, like ways you can regularly clean your drains.
- If in Doubt, Call
While it’s important to use your best judgment when declaring a plumbing emergency, remember that if you’re unsure, it’s better to call. Choose to find out the problem could have waited than to play the odds and risk severe damage to your plumbing and home.
Use this guide to help you determine whether you’re dealing with a plumbing emergency or not. However, remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, if you aren’t sure, schedule a visit from your plumber sooner rather than later.