What counts as a “Plumbing Emergency?”

Plumbing problems don’t always happen during business hours. Maybe it’s a leak that starts in the middle of the night. Or, a sudden burst pipe, broken fixture, or other plumbing headache. When you reach for the phone, you may stop and ask yourself “is this a plumbing emergency, or can it wait?”. Calling an emergency plumber comes with an associated cost, and nobody wants to find out that their problem was actually minor and the emergency service wasn’t necessary.

Questions to ask

Time is of the essence when it comes to plumbing problems and emergencies, both big and small. The first thing to do is stay calm and ask a few key questions to evaluate the scope of the problem. The answers will reveal if you’re looking at an emergency or a problem that might not require an emergency call.

Can the problem wait until normal business hours?

Some problems may require the attention of a plumber, but not necessarily right away. A stopped up sink or a clogged toilet in your guest bathroom is an example of a problem that can wait until morning, as long as your household has another bathroom to use in the meantime. Minor leaks can wait as well, especially if you stop the leak with quick fixes like duct tape or epoxy putty.

Can you shut off the water?

Shutting off the water can buy you some time to wait and call a plumber in the morning. Toilets, sinks, and washing machines all come with their own shut off valves. These valves may be located behind, next to, or underneath the fixture, depending on its design. To shut off the water, simply turn the valve clockwise.

Will the problem cause significant damage if you leave it alone?

If the problem is major enough that it’ll cause notable damage to your plumbing fixtures, flooring, walls, or other parts of your home, it’s a plumbing emergency. A persistently leaking pipe can create significant water damage, while a clogged sink won’t cause damage overnight.

Is the scope of the problem out of your control?

For example, calling an emergency plumber to troubleshoot a sudden loss of water pressure won’t do you any good if the problem is caused by your water company or utility provider. These issues will be fixed by the associated company at no cost to you.

Emergency or not? Common plumbing problems

Every plumbing job is different, but there are general guidelines that can separate the routine from the not-so-routine. Here are some of the most common plumbing emergencies our plumbers encounter. When in doubt, our emergency plumbing services are available 365 days a year—so you can err on the side of caution and opt for emergency service with ease.

Burst pipes

Burst pipes are a definite plumbing emergency. When pressure in pipes reaches dangerous levels, the pipe can suddenly burst and send a flood of water into your home. While it’s a scary situation, you can turn off the water before the plumber arrives to minimize the damage. In order to do so, you’ll have to find your home’s main shutoff valve, and close it to stop the water supply to your home’s plumbing fixtures. The plumber will take it from there, and work to repair or replace the affected pipe.

Leaking pipes

A major leak is a plumbing emergency. After all, you don’t want to deal with the flooding and water damage that can result from stubborn leaks. However, minor leaks can be stopped with several homemade remedies, including:

  • Duct tape
  • Epoxy putty
  • Pipe wraps


Some leaks can occur in pipes that are hidden behind the walls or flooring in your home. In those cases, you may not notice the leak at first. Look out for common signs like staining on walls or flooring, a musty odor, or warped floorboards to spot leaks before they turn into major problems.

Overflowing toilet

An overflowing toilet can be unpleasant to say the least. While it’s a plumbing emergency, it’s important to stay calm and act quickly to minimize cleanup. You can turn off the water to the toilet by turning the water valve. This oval-shaped knob is located under your toilet’s tank. Turning it clockwise shuts off the water, while turning it counter-clockwise restores the water supply. Once the water’s off, you can plunge the toilet to try and clear the clog that caused the overflow, or wait for the emergency plumber to handle it for you.

Sewer gas smell or gas leaks

Sometimes, a sewer gas smell results from leaks or bacterial buildup in drains. But, if the smell is very strong and permeates throughout your home, you may be dealing with hydrogen sulfide. Drain pipes are designed to prevent hydrogen sulfide from entering the air in your home, but if the pipes are malfunctioning or compromised, the gases can flow uninterrupted. Along with a foul smell, prolonged exposure to sulfide can cause nausea, dizziness, and, in very extreme cases, death.

Creating your emergency plumbing kit

When you’re faced with a plumbing emergency, you can help prevent further damage while you wait for a plumber to arrive with the help of 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 ten things you should have in your emergency plumbing kit.

  • A five-gallon bucket
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Washers or replacement cartridges
  • Sink and toilet plungers
  • Duct tape
  • A tool box with a pipe wrench, adjustable wrench, slip-joint pilers and a screwdriver set
  • A flashlight
  • Disposable nitrile gloves
  • Drain snake
  • Protective eyewear

Trust Chas Roberts for plumbing emergencies and more

Our emergency plumbers are here to put your mind at ease and help address problems big and small. From fixing a leaking pipe to stopping an overflowing toilet, we’re here when you need us most—seven days a week, 365 days a year. Give us a call to get started.