Plumbing Emergencies that Require Immediate Service

what is considered a plumbing emergency

If you’re a homeowner, you know that there are minor plumbing problems and catastrophic plumbing emergencies, and numerous plumbing issues that fall in between. So, how do you know when to call that 24/7 emergency plumber? It’s important to know when to make the call because while after-hours emergency calls tend to cost more than business-hours service, allowing a serious issue to continue will not only cost a lot more in the long run but also puts your family’s health at risk.

So, what is a true emergency, and what can't wait until morning? Use this guide as a reference when you’re unsure whether your current problem is dire enough to justify a midnight visit from your local plumber.

What is Considered a Plumbing Emergency?

This helpful guide will help you determine whether you need an emergency plumber or the issue at hand can wait until the next business day.

Problem: Wetness on floor or walls

It’s an emergency if: The wetness is quickly accumulating or escalating but you cannot visibly see the source of the water. This could mean you have a burst pipe in the wall or under the floor.

It’s not an emergency if: You can easily see where the water is coming from and stop the flow of water without turning off the main water supply to the home.

Problem: Water heater is leaking

It’s an emergency if: You are unable to cut off the supply of water into the tank, you can’t reduce the temperature of the water, or you smell gas. Failing to call an emergency plumber immediately can result in an explosion from pressure buildup.

It’s not an emergency if: You can turn off the water heater’s power source and you can cut off the supply of water into the tank. If you smell gas at any time, it’s an emergency.

Problem: Blocked sewer line

It’s an emergency if: Sewage is backing up into the home from one or more plumbing fixtures. Sewage in the home poses a serious health risk to humans and pets.

It’s not an emergency if: The drains are slow but do clear. If multiple drains are clearing very slowly, you could have a problem that requires attention from a plumber but is not an emergency.

Problem: Your home’s water consumption is higher than normal

It’s an emergency if: Your water consumption suddenly and sharply increases without obvious explanation. This could mean a water supply line is broken, which can lead to significant damage to the home.

It’s not an emergency if: Your water consumption has moderately increased and you don’t know why. You could have a small leak that will need attention when the plumber’s office opens in the morning.

Overall, unless there’s a health or safety risk or your home is at risk of sustaining substantial damage, the problem can probably wait until morning. Use this quick-reference table as a guide:

Emergency Not an Emergency
There is a risk of flooding Preventative maintenance
A pipe may have burst Slow drains
Access to clean running water is limited or nonexistent Minor troubles like leaking faucets, water hammer noises or running toilets

While some plumbing problems can be quite serious, you can help mitigate damage or potential health risks by knowing where the main and auxiliary shutoff valves are located and how to turn them off, how to turn off your water heater and what toxic gas smells like. Arming yourself with these simple bits of knowledge can save your health, your home and your wallet. Most importantly, if you are unsure whether you are dealing with an emergency, err on the side of safety and call a plumber, especially if the plumbing issue involves gas or electricity. If you’re in the Indianapolis area, keep Hamm and Sons’ phone number handy - our plumbers are licensed, insured and well-stocked on tools and supplies to quickly address all of your plumbing needs.

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