What to Do if You Have a Holiday Plumbing Emergency

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Let's say it's Thanksgiving and you've just finished up a glorious family dinner. Half your family is watching the game in the living room while the other half is catching up in the kitchen when you look up and see a water stain spreading across your ceiling.

You know the water heater is up there, in the attic. That water stain is evidence of impending disaster, but... but... it's Thanksgiving! Do you need to act on it now, or is it okay to wait until another day? What are you to do?

Don't worry; we've got you covered. The following holiday plumbing emergency primer will help you determine what needs immediate attention, what can wait until a later date, and what you can do in the meantime to abate a plumbing disaster.

Plumbing Emergency #1: You see a water stain.

You're serving pie to your guests when your father-in-law points to the ceiling and says, "Hey, is that a new water stain?"

This could be something you put off for a few days, or this could be a serious situation.

Ask yourself: what could possibly be causing the water stain? In most cases, it's one of the following:

  • A cracked or leaking water heater up in the attic (or on the top floor), which is very serious and needs to be addressed immediately
  • A leaking pipe (possibly a burst pipe if you've just gone through a cold spell), which also needs to be addressed immediately
  • Overflow moisture from your furnace and/or AC unit, if that is in the attic or on the top floor (and you should at least get a pan under the leak, if nothing else)
  • A small leak from a crack in the tub, shower or  toilet base, all of which should be looked at but can be addressed at a later date (soon, but not necessarily an emergency, especially if you can just get people to stop using that bathtub or shower)

What you need to do: Identify the cause of the water stain, and then determine if the leak can be controlled in the meantime. In the case of a leaking water heater or a burst pipe, you need to call an emergency plumber right away. In the case of a leaking toilet, shut off the water to that toilet and drain the toilet. Ask people not to use it until you can get it fixed. In the case of loose or cracked caulk in a shower or tub, ask people just not to use it until you can fix it.

Plumbing Emergency #2: Your sewer line backs up.

Your lower level toilet is backed up and you've got disgusting water or sewage sitting in the dishwasher and/or kitchen sink drain.

This is more than a toilet clog; this means your sewer main line is backed up. Chances are you have a cracked sewer main line and tree roots have forced their way into the pipe somewhere under your lawn and the line is clogged.

This is something you can't tackle with an auger or snake. You need a professional emergency plumber to come out, determine exactly where the blockage is, and to dig up that main line and clear it out now.

Whatever you do, don't dump chemical drain cleaners down the toilet or sink drain. Just bite the bullet and call a plumber. Don't let anybody run water or use the toilet in the house; use a neighbor's instead. You don't want anything else trying to go out through that main sewer line until you get it fixed.

Plumbing Emergency #3: You've got a simple drain or toilet clog.

Maybe your sister poured turkey grease and potato peelings down the garbage disposal or your three-year-old nephew flushed half a roll of toilet paper down the toilet.

In most cases, you can clear this up by yourself. Try the following:

  • Pour boiling water and a generous amount of degreasing dish detergent into the sink drain or the clogged toilet. Give it time to melt through and loosen up the grease in the clog.
  • Try plunging the sink drain or toilet with a plunger.
  • If plumbing does not work, use a snake to gently try to break up the clog. Do not just jam it into the drain or toilet and make the clog worse by compacting it. Try to dislodge and break up the clog.
  • If this doesn't work, try the hot water/dish detergent one last time and call a plumber. If you have more than one sink or toilet in the house, you can delay calling a plumber until after your celebration. Whatever you do, don't pour chemical drain cleaners down the drain or toilet. They rarely work, and they make it dangerous for you or plumbers to work on the clogged drain.

Plumbing Emergency #4: There's no hot water.

Your aunt suddenly yells out from the guest bathroom that there is no more hot water.

First, check to make sure the water heater pilot is lit. If it's out, relight the pilot.

If the pilot is lit, check to see if you have too many people using hot water at one time. Is the washer running a load of whites on hot while the dishwasher is washing dishes and both your aunt and your nephew are using showers at the same time? Then you just need to ask someone to wait until your tank water heater catches up (usually about a half hour).

If the problem really is that water heater isn't working, you are going to have to decide if you can go without hot water or if you need the water heater repaired right away. Chances are you're going to want to get it fixed sooner than later, so you'll want to look for a plumber.

Got an Emergency? Searching for Emergency Plumbers Charlotte NC?

Don't let a plumbing emergency ruin your holiday!

If you need a Charlotte emergency plumber, we proudly offer affordable emergency plumbing services 24/7, 365 days a year. You might assume that emergency plumbing services cost more than service on a weekday, but we charge the same price night or day, weekend or weekday, and even on holidays. We never charge extra. Why? We have chosen to staff our company 24/7 so that we are ready to meet your plumbing needs at the same cost any time you need plumbing service.

We serve a 30-mile radius of Charlotte, so we're here for you if you need a plumber in Concord or a plumber in Rock Hill. Just give us a call at 704-269-1066 or click here to use our online contact form. We've been serving the Charlotte area since 1997 and are committed to customer satisfaction. We'll happily help you get your plumbing working again, quickly and painlessly.

Charlotte plumber open holidays

Image credit: http://www.brookhollowcards.com/product/1317406/frozen-pipes-hvac-holiday-card.aspx

Article Summary

Quick question & answer: Is there anything I can do when there’s no hot water?

When there’s no hot water, first check to see if the water heater pilot is lit. If not, relight it. If it is lit, check to see if too many people are using hot water at once. If the water heater itself is broken, alert a plumber to help assist with the situation. 

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3 comments on “What to Do if You Have a Holiday Plumbing Emergency

  1. Rita Sanders on

    I never thought of using boiling water to get rid of the grease but that's such a good idea! We've been dumping all our grease and oil down the sink for a while and it's finally caught up with us. I might have to call in a professional because it's clogged badly.

  2. Shaylee Packer on

    As you mentioned, if multiple things are clogged and not draining, this could be an issue with the main sewer line. What is the main reason for not dumping any chemical drain cleaners down the drain? Is it just because when things are this bad, they probably wont help a whole lot? I will have to keep this in mind the next time we have a plumbing emergency.

  3. Tori Raddison on

    It's helpful that you said a leaking pipe should be addressed immediately because I have one under my kitchen sink. I think that if it's leaking, a bigger problem could soon be on the way. We definitely don't want it to burst and cause more water damage than it already has. I'll contact a plumber right away.

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