Quick Plumbing Fixes to Do Before the Pros Arrive

A woman crouching by a sink talking on the phone about a plumbing issue.

For any homeowner, plumbing issues are often the things nightmares are made of—and for good reason. Unfortunately, plumbing issues are often not the easiest thing for someone to fix themselves, and crawling under a house full of raw sewage is never pleasant. But if a plumbing problem is not a DIY project you want to tackle, there are some quick plumbing fixes you can do before the pros arrive that will help make the damage more nominal to both your home and wallet.

Stop a Leak

A shut-off valve for water.

One of the biggest issues you'll likely run into when it comes to a plumbing emergency is leaking water. If you can identify where it's leaking from, such as your kitchen sink or toilet, there should be a shut-off valve beneath it that you can simply turn off. This is true also of some appliances like your water heater, washer, or dishwasher. (Before turning off the water to your water heater, be sure to shut the power off to it first so that you don't burn it up.)

If you cannot locate the leak or have a burst pipe, you should shut the water off at the main shut-off valve, which means shutting it off where it's coming into the home. Contact your water company if you're not sure where the shut-off valve is, however, most shut-off valves are located next to the water meter. In most cases, you'll need a wrench with a long extension on it to shut the water off. Another good thing you can do before the plumber arrives is to turn the faucets on after turning off the water, so that you run any excess water out of the pipes.

Clear Blockages and Clogs

For a toilet blockage, you can try loosening it up yourself with a plunger or an auger so that you can begin relieving some of the pressure. For a sink clog, you'd be surprised how often baking soda and boiling water work. Even if these techniques only allow some water to go back down the drain, they will buy you time until the plumber arrives and allow you to hopefully be able to continue to use your toilet, shower, or sink in the meantime.

Another quick plumbing fix for clogs and blockages is to try to remove the clog through the trap or cleanout plug. In fact, sometimes just removing the cleanout plug will help alleviate some of the issue, at least temporarily. You can also better use a snake to clean out your drainage issue by going through the trap—and may avoid having to call the plumber after all.

Thaw Frozen Pipes

A frozen pipe with water dripping off of it.

Is the super cold weather outside causing little to no water flow from your faucets? Stop using them immediately and turn the water off at the main. You should then alert your plumber that you have a potentially burst pipe or, at the very least, some frozen pipes ready to burst. While you wait for them to come to your rescue, which may be days, you can begin to repair this plumbing nightmare yourself by starting to thaw the pipes.

To do this, begin by getting your home as warm as possible. Open up cabinets and closet doors so that the heat can get directly to the walls and areas needed. Once the plumber arrives, they can assist you in thawing the pipes further and making sure none of them have yet sprung a leak.

Get Rid of Water and Clean Up

Another thing you can do before the plumber's arrival is to prepare the area so they have easy access and you prevent further problems for your home. After you've secured the problem by turning the water off, begin bucketing the water out and drying it up as much as possible. Otherwise, the water will create more problems for you later in the way of mildew, mold, and rot. Also, get rid of any damaged rugs, furniture, or other property that is no longer going to be usable.

After you've done all you can to fix plumbing problems yourself, or at least secure them until the pros arrive, don't forget to clean yourself up. All of that backed up water, especially sewage, contains bacteria like E. coli that could make you very ill. Use a good hand sanitizer or hot soapy water for your hands, and once the plumber has done their job, don't forget to tackle any surfaces the water may have contaminated by using diluted bleach water to sanitize it.