I’d like to talk to property managers about plumbing emergencies. An emergency is a problem that comes up unexpectedly, usually in the middle of the night or when a tenant’s house is full of guests or relatives, as opposed to during routine plumbing repairs. Here are some of the most common emergencies we respond to for property managers and what you might want to do until we can get there.
1. Sewer Lines Backed Up: One of the most common plumbing emergencies we get is a backed-up sewer line in the house. Someone flushes a toilet and the waste and water don’t flow away. The water comes up to the top and maybe it overflows. Or maybe sewage comes up into a shower or a bathtub, which is not pleasant. That is a plumbing emergency. Most people don’t want to wait a day or two to use their bathroom. If you call us anytime, day or night, we would get out there and do what we have to do to clear that sewer line and get it draining for you.
2. Broken Water Lines: Another plumbing emergency is broken water lines. If you have water spraying all over in your house or bubbling up in your yard, that’s obviously an emergency. You can call us and we will come out there and take care of it.
If you have a bad water leak underneath a sink, there should be a shutoff valve underneath that you can use to turn off the water and stop the leak.
Every house should also have a main water shutoff valve. Your properties should definitely have one, but you should also definitely know where it is and whether or not it works. Sometimes old gate valves that were installed 40 years ago no longer work. If this happens, the water has to be shut off on the street, which requires a plumber.
Some people have a key to turn that off and on, but you’re not supposed to do this yourself. You’re supposed to call the city to have this done, but you might not want to wait an hour or two for them to come out and turn it off. If you call Rocketman Plumbing, we will get out there any time, during nights, weekends or holidays, and we would get that shut off for you and take care of the problem.
3. Smell of Gas: Another emergency is when someone smells gas in their house. This is a very serious problem. If you or your tenant can smell it, shut off all gas valves, open the doors and call a plumbing company first to go out and see what the problem is. I recommend calling a plumber before you call the gas company. If you can’t get hold of a plumber, then call the gas company.
The reason you’d want to call a plumber before you call the gas company is that if the gas company comes out and they smell gas and you have a gas leak, they’re going to turn off your gas and they’re going to take your meter away. It will take days and you may receive a very large bill before you get your gas meter back. But I’m still not saying don’t call them, I’m just saying call a plumber first. And if a plumber can get out there immediately, it’ll save you a lot of money.
4. Furnace Stops Working: Another emergency, especially in the middle of the winter when it’s cold, is when the furnace quits working. It’s certainly annoying. The problem with calling a plumber out in the middle of the night to repair a furnace is that there’s a good chance he has the parts that he needs to make the repair, but there’s also a good chance that he needs to go to a store, or a supply house, to pick up parts to fix your furnace. If we go out there in the middle of the night, you’re going to get charged for it, whether or not we can fix it that night or not.
Do-It-Yourself Fixes for Furnaces
If your furnace quits working, for example, it just does nothing and you don’t know what to do, there are several very simple things you can do before you call a plumber.
The first thing to do is to find out if electricity is going to that furnace. Usually, the furnace plugs into an outlet in the room where the furnace is located. The first thing I would do is get any kind of small electrical appliance, unplug the furnace, plug in your electrical appliance and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, that means that there’s no power going to the furnace. Go to your breaker box and see if any breakers are tripped. If you find one has tripped, push it all the way down, then push it back up and go check it again. There’s a good chance your furnace just kicks on when you do that. I’m not saying there couldn’t be a problem related to why that breaker got tripped, that’s definitely a clue that there is a problem. But you can get your furnace up and running again for the moment.
If your furnace is getting electricity but still isn’t working, there are other steps you can take. On almost all forced-air furnaces, there are two doors. One door gets you to the burner assembly and the gas valve. Either below or above that, depending on whether you have a forced-air furnace that blows air up or down, there’s a door to the blower. On that door, there is a safety switch. I’ve gone to plenty of jobs where that door has blown open just enough that the safety switch has opened, which means the blower won’t work and the whole unit shuts down.
So try this yourself: Take that door off and push the button on the side of the door and see if your furnace comes on. If it does, let it go and put the door back on. Make sure it’s in correctly and you have solved the problem. Those are two things I would suggest doing before you call a plumber to come out and fix one.
It’s always good to have a couple of electric space heaters in case a furnace does go out. If you do, my suggestion would be to wait until the next day to schedule an appointment during regular hours when supply houses are open. If you don’t have any space heaters, it’s freezing and you want it fixed, please call Rocketman Plumbing and we will come out and do everything we can to get that furnace up and running that night.
Now, there are other problems that certainly look like emergencies. For example, someone is doing laundry in the middle of the night and all of a sudden the laundry backs up and makes a mess. Right away, that person should turn off the washing machine so water stops going down the drain line. But if the toilets still work, then it’s not your main sewer line that’s backed up. It’s the smaller line that goes from your washing machine and/or kitchen to the main line. It’s backed up before it gets into the main line.
You might not want to pay overtime charges to take care of this. Just tell your tenant to stop doing laundry and the emergency will go away. Then you could call us and we could come out the next day and take care of it at a lower rate than if we went out there at nine or ten o’clock at night. But if you want us, we’ll surely be there.
Some water leaks can also be shut off, which means we can come out on a regular schedule and handle the problem. Like I said, as long as you have shutoff valves that work, and if you shut them off, that takes care of the emergency. You can save yourself some money and schedule the repair for regular business hours instead of in the middle of a holiday weekend.