Plumbing Emergency Tips

Ed the Plumber offers tips on the tools needed to make a plumber's emergency kit and what to do during plumbing emergencies.

Plumber's Emergency Kit

  • Use a five gallon bucket as a tool holder. And if a leak springs mid-project, it'll catch the water. A tool caddy can also be attached to the bucket providing a place for everything.
  • Keep a forced cup and a regular plunger handy. Each plunger has its own specific use and provides extra unclogging power.
  • Wrenches are essential in plumbing. A pair of medium sized slip joint pliers and an adjustable wrench should cover most jobs, along with various sized wrenches.
  • A multi-bit screwdriver can reduce the number of tools that need to be carried around on the job.
  • An assortment of Allen keys is very handy and has many uses.
  • Duct tape and leak sealing tape can help out in a plumbing emergency until a permanent fix can be made. Teflon tape will seal up leaks from around threaded connections.
  • A variety of blind caps can help you see your way through repairing a broken valve.
  • Heavy duty paper towels or rags will help clean up water from small leaks.

Emergency Tips

  • Always know where the main water shut-off valve is located in case of a leak.
  • Know how to turn off the water heater. If it's a gas water heater, turn the switch to the "pilot" position.
  • Isolation valves located at each fixture will stop the flow of water to that location. This allows water to continue to service the remainder of the house while the leak is being repaired. It's a good idea to turn on and off each isolation valve in the house at least once a year to keep them in good working condition.
  • Using two wrenches at once turning in opposite directions is called "backing off" and allows the wrench to absorb the stress and not the plumbing.
  • Slip joint pliers can be used to loosen the collar nuts on a drain line.
  • If a supply tube break off is causing a leak, screw in a blind cap to seal off the leak until it can be fixed.
  • Occasionally, the ferrules in a supply tube can get scratched or dented causing water to leak. Use Teflon tape around the ferrule until a permanent repair can be made.
  • Use duct tape or pipe sealing tape to pull together a crack in a pipe, reducing the leak as a temporary solution.
  • A cup plunger can be used for small drains like bath tubs, showers and lavatory sinks. Forced cup plungers have a funnel that can apply extra force down the drain, which is good for sinks or toilets.
  • When unclogging a kitchen sink, use a second plunger to cover the other drain to get the most force to remove the clog.
  • To unclog a toilet, use a forced cup plunger.
  • For bathtub clogs, unscrew the chrome cap — this exposes the entire drain. Once the mechanism is removed, you'll be able to see the clog. Put the plunger on the drain, and then use the second plunger to plug up the tub's overflow. Plunge the drain to remove the clog.
  • Allen wrenches are useful for working on a faucet and garbage disposals.
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