Plumbing emergencies come in all shapes and sizes—but the fact remains, they’re no fun to deal with. The good news is, you don’t have to be an aspiring home handyman to fix small problems and prevent further damage with an emergency plumbing kit.
A good plumbing emergency kit is full of all the things you rarely think of but will thank yourself for having on hand when you need them. Here are the top eight things you should have in your emergency plumbing kit.
A simple five-gallon bucket may be the most versatile tool in your emergency plumbing kit. Not only can it be used to hold tools and equipment, but it can also catch water in the event of a leak.
When plumbers need to create a watertight seal around faucets, drains, pipes and more, they use plumber’s putty. This pliable compound is sold by the tub at hardware stores. If you find yourself needing to replace a faucet, drain, or other plumbing fixture, plumber’s putty is the way to go.
Here’s an easy five step overview of how you can use plumbing putty to form a watertight seal.
A plastic or rubber washer stops the flow of water when the faucet is closed. Over time, it can begin to drip—wasting water and driving up your bill. A cartridge is the valve that controls the flow of water into the faucet when you turn the handle, and it can leak as well. Keeping a replacement washer and cartridge can help you swap them out easily when the leaks start, instead of waiting for a plumber to arrive and do it for you.
You’ll need to make sure your replacement washer or cartridge is the same size and type as the old one. An easy way to do this is to uninstall the current one and take it to a hardware store to compare what’s available before you buy a replacement. Or, you could purchase a variety pack with several sizes and shapes.
Plungers—plural—are an essential part of an emergency plumbing kit. There are three types of plungers, and you’ll need at least two in your kit.
Sink plungers are what comes to mind when you think of the word “plunger”. They’re easy to recognize with their straight wooden handle and (usually) red rubber cup. The reason why these plungers are for sinks, and not toilets, is because they only work on flat surfaces. The curve of a toilet bowl makes it impossible for this plunger to form the seal it needs to create a vacuum. So, a sink plunger will work great for a stopped-up sink or shower drain but won’t help you unclog a toilet.
Also known as a flange plunger, this plunger has a rubber flap that folds out from inside the cup. This flap fits over a curved toilet drain to provide the necessary suction. The flaps can also be folded, enabling the plunger to be used on flat surfaces. However, to prevent the spread of germs, it’s not recommended to use the same plunger for both the toilet and flat drain surfaces like the sink.
Accordion plungers are made of hard plastic. There’s a bit of a learning curve to them, as the plastic makes creating a vacuum seal difficult, and the plunger must be fully submerged in order to work. But, when used properly, they can produce a lot of force to break up stubborn toilet clogs and can be an alternative to a flange plunger.
Duct tape is a low tech solution to stop minor leaks and will buy you some time to troubleshoot the cause. It shouldn’t be considered a permanent solution, but it’ll come in handy in a pinch. Before applying the tape, make sure the area is dry by either turning off the water to the leaking fixture or temporarily plugging the leak at the source.
What’s an emergency kit without tools? If you need to twist, turn, squeeze, or loosen a plumbing component, turn to any of the trusted items below.
Owning a tool set is one thing but knowing how to use it is another question entirely. Make sure you’re familiar with how to operate each tool you own before you need it in an emergency. Here’s a general guideline of what each one is used for:
This wrench is designed to grip pipes and other round objects. It has sharply serrated teeth that dig into the surface, increasing pressure as you turn the wrench. Because it leaves teeth marks behind, it’s not recommended for shiny fixtures or fragile pipes.
Adjustable wrenches are used to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts. As the name suggests, it adjusts to accommodate a range of nuts, bolts, and fittings. For a good, all-purpose wrench, look for a 10-inch adjustable model.
Slip-joint pliers are also known as tongue and groove pliers, channel-type pliers, or by the brand name Channel-Locks. They’re adjustable, with angled jaws that make it easy to grip pipes of various sizes. Thanks to their long handles, slip-joint pliers have great leverage for twisting, squeezing, and adjusting stubborn parts.
Screwdrivers come in various shapes and sizes, to accommodate various sizes of screws, nuts, and bolts. Having a set ensures that you’ll always have the right size for the job. However, you can also opt for a single 4-in-1 screwdriver instead of a full set. These have a removable shank and interchangeable tips, so you can customize for the needs of every repair. Simply turn the screwdriver left to loosen, and right to tighten.
The lighting under your sink or underneath your appliances is probably non-existent. That’s why a flashlight is a must have to make sure you can see what you’re doing. To make things even easier, you should look for a hands-free flashlight, like a headlamp. That way, you won’t have to fiddle with holding a flashlight while working on a plumbing repair.
Plumbing repairs can get messy. Protect your hands from germs with a pair of disposable nitrile gloves. Unlike latex, nitrile doesn’t degrade as easily. It’s also stronger, so nitrile gloves and can stand up to messy jobs with ease.
While a good emergency plumbing kit can fix small problems, sometimes it’s best to call in the professionals. At Chas Roberts, our emergency plumbing services are available seven days a week, 365 days a year, so we’re always only one call away when you need us.