There are many small home
emergencies, which, if not attended to properly, can quickly become
big home emergencies. But, don't panic. Below are the solutions to
the most common small home emergencies.
Q: What kinds of plumbing
emergencies could possibly occur?
If a water pipe were to break in the house, a homeowner should know
where the main water shut-off is located so they can terminate the
water at that point. Normally this is located outside the home in
the front or rear where there is a hose bib connection. If a
homeowner cannot find it because it is not exposed and accessible,
we suggest calling the local water department (you find that phone
number on the water bill statement).
In the case where the water
leak is at a specific plumbing fixture, the best approach is to shut
off the water immediately at that location. All plumbing fixtures,
including toilets, sinks and basins, have shut-off valves located
under the fixture against the wall. If a bathtub or shower is
leaking, it is necessary to shut the water off at the main water
shut-off and call your professional plumber.
A leaking water heater can be
shut off at the top right pipe leading into the water heater. For
safety reasons, the gas must also be shut off at the water heater;
that valve is usually found on the gas piping at the lower left side
of the water heater.
Q: What if I smell gas and
suspect a leak?
If you have an idea where the smell is coming from, such as a water
heater, stove, oven, gas dryer or furnace, you can turn the gas off
at the appliance. These valves are located within three feet of the
appliance on the gas piping system.
Gas valves, called gas cocks,
have a straight blade-type handle and are on when the handle is
parallel with the pipe and off when the handle is perpendicular to
the pipe. Therefore, only a 1/4 turn is required to turn gas cocks
If you have no idea where the
gas leak is coming from, it is always best to turn the complete
system off and call the gas company. The main gas shut-off valve is
located on the inlet side of the gas meter. In most cases, this
valve is on the vertical pipe left of the meter. It is necessary to
use a crescent or pipe wrench to turn this valve off, again, making
the handle perpendicular to the pipe with a quarter turn. You may
want to hang a crescent wrench next to the main valve to avoid
searching for the tool in an emergency. If you have any questions
about the location of the gas main, call your gas company.
Q: What should I do about
an overflowing toilet?
First, turn off the water
at the valve under the toilet. If it's a case of too much paper or
other matter causing a stoppage, a plunger should work. If the
toilet is not operating because the sewer is stopped up, a homeowner
can help prevent overflowing by opening their sewer clean-out
(located outside the building) to relieve the pressure on the
system. Then call your plumber or a drain-cleaning company.
Q: What if I don't have a
It's important to
understand that the sewer line is the main drain which receives the
waste from all plumbing fixtures in the house. When this pipe is
stopped up, every plumbing fixture will be affected. Water seeks the
lowest level and any water permitted to enter the plumbing system at
a higher level, such as a kitchen sink, will back up at a lower
fixture, such as a toilet or shower. So when this happens, do not
allow any more water to run into the system from anywhere in the
house until you have had a plumber clean the sewer line.
Q: What if my garbage
disposal doesn't work?
If the disposal makes no noise when you turn it on, press the reset
button located on the bottom of the unit.
If it makes a buzzing noise
but doesn't operate, turn the unit off. Look inside and see if there
is a spoon or other object inside. Usually, a small object such as a
pull tab from an aluminum can, apricot pit or coin is jamming the
blades and needs to be dislodged. Before putting your hand or
anything else into the disposal, unplug it. A broom handle usually
works very well as a prying tool to free the blades from their
locked position. Try inserting the handle at an angle, catching a
raised portion of the cutter blade, and using leverage to turn it
clockwise or counter-clockwise. If that doesn't work, call a
Q: What if my faucet is
running too slowly?
If both hot and cold water are affected, probably the aerator is
congested with rust and corrosion. The aerator is located on the end
of the faucet spout to introduce air into the water as it come out
of the faucet to prevent splashing. On newer faucets, it also
restricts the water flow to conserve water.
Try unscrewing the aerator by
hand or with a wrench. Disassemble all the parts, being especially
careful to lay the parts out in the order they are removed. Clean
the rust or corrosion from each part and reassemble in exact order.
If that doesn't work, the problem is in the faucet or the plumbing
piping system and you need to call your professional plumber.
Q: What precautions should
be taken in case of an earthquake?
As a result of the 1989
San Francisco earthquake, the Uniform Plumbing Code (in California)
requires that all water heaters be earthquake strapped. This will
reduce the likelihood of a water heater breaking away during an
earthquake, breaking water and gas pipes which could lead to serious
property damage and loss of life, according to State of California
guidelines with an approved earthquake installation kit.