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You swear you can hear the sound of running water down in the basement. You wonder if you’ve left a tap on in the bathroom sink or if you forgot that you put in a new load of laundry, while you walk down the stairs. You get to the bottom and you realize that there is a pool of water slowly spilling out onto the carpet.

As a homeowner, you will probably witness a plumbing emergency like an overflowing toilet, a burst pipe or a flooding basement. The best thing to do is to act as soon as possible. Sitting there and letting the water damage accumulate will only cost you in the long-run. Follow these tips so that you can fight through the panic and deal with the plumbing crisis immediately:

Turn Off The Electricity

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If you’re not careful, you could step onto a flooded basement floor and get electrocuted. When water starts pooling around areas with electrical wiring and outlets, you need to shut off the power to preserve your safety, along with the safety of everyone else in the house.

If there is a clear path, you can turn off the power by going to the main service panel in the basement or garage. To switch off power in the whole house, flip the main breaker. Remember to bring a flashlight or a phone so that you can see once the power has been shut off.

Don’t go to the main service panel if the area isn’t clear. Even if a little bit of water is covering the floor, it’s not worth risking electrocution. Call the power company and ask them to shut off your power remotely.

According to FloodList, other important rules of electrical safety to practice during a flood or plumbing emergency:

  • Don’t use electrical appliances that are wet
  • Don’t touch electrical wires, switches or fuses that are wet
  • If the power company turns off the electricity and it is safe to move to the service panel, you should turn the main breaker off in case the company turns the electricity on again


Shut Off The Water Supply

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The best way to get a handle on most plumbing emergencies is to cut off their supply of water. Otherwise, gallons can spill out into the house while you wait for the plumber to arrive. It’s ideal for situations like pipe breaks, leaks and overflowing fixtures.

The main supply valve will be at the lowest level of the house. It will be on the foundation wall where the drinking water pipe enters the structure. It will be near the water meter. Once you find the water supply valve, turn it off.

Then, go around to fixtures around the house and turn on their cold-water taps — this will allow for the pipes to drain the remaining water quickly, hopefully away from the source of the leak or spill. Soon enough, nothing will come out of the taps. The move will not eliminate water damage, but it will immediately limit the extent of it.

Fixtures and appliances will have additional water supply valves that connect them to the rest of the home’s plumbing. You can spot them near toilets, sinks and washing machines. These are mainly used to make it easier to conduct repairs or put in replacements without spilling water everywhere. They also come in handy when the appliance is causing a leak or overflow, and you need to stop it fast.

For instance, if you want to stop an overflowing toilet from ruining your bathroom floor, you should turn off the toilet’s water supply valve right away. Just look behind the toilet and follow the metal hose leading to the wall. The valve should be at the very bottom of the hose.

If you can’t find the supply valve, you should take the lid off of the toilet tank and then gently lift the rubber float ball up — this should stop the water from running. While holding the float, you can look for the valve. Or you can have someone else empty dirty water from the toilet bowl into a bucket and plunge the toilet clog until it clears. Then you can release the float.

If you have turned off the supply and the contents of the toilet are still spilling out of the bowl, you don’t have a regular toilet paper clog on your hands. You’re dealing with sewage backup. If that’s the case, the best thing you can do is call an emergency plumber to figure out why sewage is coming through your toilet drain. With the help of video camera inspections, drain cleaning experts can spot the problem causing the back-up.

Call The Plumber

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An emergency plumber will help deal with the situation and make any necessary repairs. They will recommend different plumbing upgrades that can prevent the disaster from repeating itself.

If your basement flooded after your sump pump failed, you should get a brand-new pump installed and get a backup generator in case the power shuts off. If your washing machine’s hose blew out, you should check to see if your water pressure is too high and replace a reinforced rubber hose with a steel-braided one. If sewage back-up happened during a storm, you should get a backwater valve installed into the sewer lateral.

If it’s not clear why you had a plumbing disaster, they can diagnose the problem. For example, if you don’t know why your drains are regurgitating sewage, they could figure out that you have a main sewer line clog blocking your household waste and sending it back through your home’s lowest level drains. It’s possible that the clog is made from a cluster of items that shouldn’t have been flushed down the toilet, like wet wipes, menstrual products or paper towel. Or it could be from the wrong items being tossed down the kitchen sink, like cooking grease.

A video camera investigation will determine what’s causing the clog. If it’s from simple household items, the plumber will clear them out — drain cleaning can solve these problems and prevent any messy drains in the future.

But, the investigation could reveal that products like wet wipes and tampons are not the ultimate causes of the clog. A common reason for sewer line clogs is root intrusion.

Nearby trees sustain themselves with groundwater, so they are naturally drawn to the underground pipe system filled with rushing water. If a pipe has a small fissure or disjoint, the roots will grow towards the nutrient source and creep through the opening. Eventually, they will grow into the pipe and clog up the passageway. You could have the equivalent of a small tree branch sitting inside of your sewer line.

If roots are the reason for a clogged drain in Toronto or in the GTA, we can be of assistance. We will make sure to neatly extract the tangle of roots from your sewer line and then replace the defective pipe with a durable upgrade.

Our replacement pipes are meant to be resistant to leaks and cracks, so you won’t have to worry about root intrusion happening again. All replacement pipes come with a 25-year warranty. To find out more about how we do these big fixes, you should browse through our collection of blogs about drain repair and replacement.

Protect Your Health

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You need to protect yourself from sewage back-up because it is a serious health hazard. It is full of bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make you incredibly ill. You don’t want to be hospitalized after underestimating the risks that come with the plumbing emergency.

Whether sewage came up through your toilet, shower, sink or floor drains, you need to block the contaminated area from the rest of the house. The measure is especially important for houses with small children and pets, who will not know the health risks that can come from the mess. If the flooding was severe, consider having a relative or friend take your children and/or pets to a safer location until the mess is dealt with. It’s much easier than chasing after a dog that wants to roll around on the ruined basement carpet.

If you have to go into the contaminated area, wear protective clothing:

  • Rubber boots
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Full-length pants
  • A safety mask/respirator mask

Even if your basement is flooded from rainwater or another plumbing emergency, you should still be careful when coming into contact with the flood-water. It could still be contaminated with things that can affect your health and safety. For example, it could carry chemicals from household cleaners that were under the bathroom sink. Or it could carry the contents of the cat litterbox. You don’t want your bare legs touching this water.

If worse comes to worst, you want to be prepared to act. You don’t want to stand there and watch as a broken pipe or backing-up floor drain wrecks your house. Knowing these simple tips, you can jump into the situation and limit the damage before the professionals arrive.