What should you consider a “plumbing emergency”? Basically, you need to answer the question, “how long can I live with this problem before I call a plumber?” Here are some things to consider:

What is an emergency?

Even though you might think it at the time, not everything is an emergency requiring a call to a plumber immediately, especially if it is outside business hours.  For example, If you have a leaking pipe, turn off the water and you can wait until morning because the emergency is gone. Also, a clogged kitchen sink is an inconvenience, not an emergency.  It does not matter how many people are over. Scrape food waste into your garbage, pile up the dishes and take care of it tomorrow. Or load them into the dishwasher but don’t run it until the plumber is done.  Or if you really need to wash the dishes, then wash them in the laundry tub.

Also, if stabilizing the situation involves shutting off the water, determine how long you are willing to wait for a professional to fix the problem. For example, if your water heater begins to fail, how long are you willing to go without hot water?

Does the issue threaten to do significant damage to health or property? 

In the example of the failed sump pump, simply turning off the water will not prevent flooding. A flooded basement or main area of your home can require costly repairs. If the moisture lingers, health-threatening mold can begin to grow. (a battery back-up sump pump can prevent this type of emergency).  Overflowing toilets and sewage backup problems, creating smelly messes, may require hiring costly cleanup and repair services. 

What problems can you handle on your own? 

You can address some plumbing problems occurring ‘off hours’ if you are willing to attempt DIY plumbing solutions. Unplugging a clogged toilet, removing a blockage from a garbage disposal, or fixing a leaky pipe under a bathroom sink may fall within your skill set . . . or not. When the plumbing problem, regardless of severity, threatens to rob you of your peace, it’s time to make an emergency call to a licensed professional.

Do you own the proper tools?

You likely own a plunger and some wrenches, but are you able to snake out a blockage occurring deeper into a pipe? How long can your shop vacuum handle flooding in your basement? Do you own tub drain removers, water valve keys, internal pipe or tight spot wrenches? You may be willing to take on the problem, but it’s likely you do not own the proper tools for the job. And using the wrong tools could make the situation worse. 

Considering plumbing problems as “emergencies” depends upon the level of threat the issue poses to your health and property, the level of discomfort you are willing to tolerate, and the tools and know-how the plumbing fix requires. Put a licensed professional on your speed dial for those plumbing emergencies that arrive to threaten your wallet and your peace.