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How to Handle an Emergency Water Leak

Dealing with an emergency water leak is not generally one of the average homeowner’s preferred activities, but sometimes plumbing emergencies happen and require immediate intervention.

The worst part about water leaks? They’re sneaky. A leak isn’t always as obvious as the alarming gush of water from a broken pipe. They can show up as a slowly growing puddle of water on your floor. Perhaps a leak has formed a bubble under the skin of your wall paint, slowly expanding like a water balloon ready to burst. Leaks can start out small and grow gradually bigger, all the while dripping into the foundation of your home, collecting mold and attracting unwanted pests.

The least pleasant leak situations involve issues with the main sewage line. If you’re experiencing urgent problems, such as sewage backups, burst pipes, or flooding, you’re bound to feel a bit of panic and confusion: Where is all this water coming from? How bad is it? How do I stop it? This is not how I planned on spending my morning!

Take a breath and get moving. Signs of a severe water leak require immediate attention. If you find yourself with a water leak, acting quickly and intentionally can help prevent lasting damage to your home.

Act Fast: Turn Your Water Off

If you are able, immediately locate your water meter and turn off the water to your building. This step is crucial to stopping even more flooding from occurring. It is also a good idea to unplug electronics and appliances. If necessary, some may prefer the precaution of turning off the whole circuit breaker. However, should accessing the circuit breaker require you to stand in wet areas, wait for a professional. Water and electricity are a deadly combination that you don’t want to risk.

Clean Up the Mess

Clean up the spillage immediately. Still or standing water can cause serious damage to floors. If left to sit for too long, dampness can cause wooden planks to expand, grow mold, become uneven, develop stains, and buckle. These unsightly symptoms of water damage are also hazardous to the health and safety of those that live in your home, especially if the leak is coming from a broken sewer pipe.

Wear protective gear, such as boots, gloves, and goggles, and grab a mop. To soak up larger amounts of water, you’ll need towels and anything absorbent that you can spare. After you clean the water from the floor, wash and sanitize the parts of the house that the water has touched to prevent contamination. It’s best to use a dehumidifier and fans to dry out a room after it has been flooded. Leave these running overnight and keep the area ventilated, otherwise you risk mold and mildew.

Call a Professional Plumber

Serious water leak emergencies could be a symptom of a problem with the sewer main line. To prevent guesswork and fix the problem before the damage worsens, it’s best to get a professional assessment. Licensed plumbers will have the equipment and expertise to find the root of the problem quickly and perform the required maintenance. Do not try to independently fix a plumbing issue that caused flooding—you may unintentionally cause more damage.

Search for the Source

While you wait for plumbing services, play detective and try to find the source of the water leak. See if you can find where the flood originated from by listening for dripping or hissing sounds. In a pinch, silicone tape can temporarily patch over smaller leaks until a professional arrives. If the source comes in the form of a faulty sink or a clogged toilet, don’t worry—you’ve already turned the water off, so no additional flooding will occur. If you’re stumped about where the leak could be coming from, wait for your plumber. They will be able identify the cause and source of the leakage.

Dealing with Damage

The best piece of advice for dealing with water damage is to prevent it in the first place, but sometimes emergencies are inevitable. Do what is in your power to ensure that you deal with the original spillage in the moment. Deep clean and dry all rugs, furniture, and floor pieces that were soaked. If you have already incurred damage on your drywall, insulation, walls, or flooring, these may need to be removed and replaced. Dispose of damaged items that are no longer safe to use.

Keep Monitoring

Especially in the first few months after flooding or leakages, pay attention. Is your water bill abnormally high? Is there any new wall discoloration developing? Do you hear hisses or drips anywhere in the house? If you find that the answer is yes to any of these questions, you are likely dealing with another leak. Address any new plumbing problems promptly.

Make Maintenance a Habit

Regular plumbing maintenance helps prevent emergency problems like severe water leaks. Even after you receive plumbing services and get any obvious leaks repaired, it’s important to schedule regular plumbing maintenance checks at least every two years. Taking care of your home’s plumbing system decreases the chances of plumbing emergencies, and it also ensures that your systems stay safely up to code.

Making sure that your plumbing system is routinely inspected decreases the chances that leaks will sneak up on you. Plumbers can detect problems before they start. Catching small issues early on might require a little extra preparation on your part, but it will save you from emergencies, damage, and much larger bills down the road.

Contact Us

If you’re experiencing a water leak, we can help. Call us at 650-374-0868 or fill out a contact form by clicking here to get connected with one of our representatives.

At Palo Alto Plumbing, we pride ourselves on providing excellent service. Our two decades of experience serving clients in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities make us the preferred local choice for quality plumbing services. We can handle all of your emergency or run-of-the-mill plumbing problems. Give us a call and let us take the problem off of your hands.

The Dangers of a Sewer Leak

A sewer leak is one of the most dreaded household plumbing malfunctions. Though most modern homes have preventative measures already in place, pipes can degrade or get damaged over time, creating prime conditions for a leak. If you regularly experience household mold, strange odors, slow draining, extra foliage growth with no alternative explanation, or cracks in the foundation of your home, it’s time to call a plumber. You may be dealing with a sewer leak.

The unpleasant eau de excrement odor aside, a sewer leak can be quite dangerous to your health and your home alike. The consequences of neglecting a leak, aside from being unsanitary, can lead to some serious issues for your home and well-being. Read on below to learn more about some of the most common dangers of a sewer leak.

Poisonous Sewer Gas

When human waste breaks down, it forms a byproduct known as sewer gas. Sewer gas is composed of several chemicals, including ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. This smelly gas is often identified as smelling like rotten eggs – but is it toxic?

The answer is yes and no. In low concentrations, sewer gas is foul but not necessarily harmful. At higher concentrations, or if you are exposed for a long period of time, you may experience symptoms of sewer gas poisoning. Left unchecked, these symptoms can lead to serious health issues for household residents, including pets. This is why, if you suspect a leak, it’s crucial to call a plumber immediately.

Ammonia is a toxic chemical at high levels. Low to moderate exposure can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. High levels of ammonia can cause death in humans.

Hydrogen sulfide is one of the main components of sewer gas. Research shows that hydrogen sulfide is toxic to the organ systems of the body – meaning that exposure can lead to organ damage and death.

While carbon dioxide and methane are not inherently harmful to humans, you do not want these gases hanging around in the air that you breathe. Methane alone is highly flammable. In combination with ammonia (which is also flammable), these gases are a serious fire hazard.

If you suspect sewer gas exposure, contact a medical professional and an emergency plumber immediately.

Contaminated Water

Old or damaged pipes can crack, rust, degrade, and eventually seep into nearby groundwater. This worst-case scenario can contaminate your water supply. What’s worse, if your neighborhood uses aquifers for groundwater, contamination can occur on a much larger scale. An entire neighborhood could suffer poisoning from one cracked line.

The health consequences of drinking water contaminated with sewage cannot be understated. Even healthy individuals may experience disabling gastrointestinal problems, stomach cramping, dehydration, developmental problems, reproductive problems, or death. Such consequences can be avoided by having your plumbing checked approximately every two years. It’s just not worth the risk of skipping essential maintenance.

Home Damage

Sewer leaks can cause the foundation of your home to crack as well. As water or sewage leaks pool in various areas of your home, it can cause the ground to shift. All of this erodes at your home’s foundation from the bottom up, which can cause cracks in the foundation and even buckle your patios or driveways.

Water damage is also a common side effect of a sewer leak. If your septic tank is located close to your home, or if the leak is severe enough, you may experience flooding and water damage to your house. Water alone can cause serious structural damage to a home, but the chemicals and hazardous byproducts from natural waste can make that damage much more severe. Drywall can give out, mold can form, and, ultimately, supports can even become unstable. A bad leak can leave a house almost uninhabitable if left alone for long enough.

Unwanted Critters

If you choose to neglect your leaking sewer, you may as well tape a sign to your window that declares “PESTS WELCOME.” Sewer leaks can attract a host of unwanted vermin. Rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, possums, and chipmunks naturally search for hidden sources of water away from prying eyes. Drippy pipes are naturally enticing. If you provide a convenient water source in the form of a leak, expect to see (or hear) some crawly new friends.

That includes insects! Cockroaches, mosquitoes, ants, spiders, and termites are just a few of the insects that are commonly attracted to standing water and sewer leaks. These sneaky insects often build whole colonies before they’re ever noticed. Maintaining your pipes is an easy way to prevent such animals and insects from invading your home.

Increasing Water Bill

If your water bill has been steadily increasing and your house smells funny, you may be paying for a sewer leak. All of that water not only damages your home, but it can put a serious dent in your wallet too. A moderate water leak can cause you to waste 6,000 gallons of water per month. That’s an incredible waste of water and money.

And remember – all of that leaking water is seeping into the foundation of your home, creating the prime conditions for mold and mildew.

These serious dangers are not something to put off. Neglecting your leaking sewer can cause damage to your home and your health. The best way to avoid these problems is to solve them before they arrive by way of prevention. You should never attempt to fix a serious plumbing problem on your own. It could be a real safety hazard and you may accidentally cause more damage. A licensed plumber will have the proper equipment and expertise to repair your sewer. Additionally, a licensed plumber should regularly inspect your home’s plumbing system at least every two years, and more often if problems arise.

When You Need a Plumber

Here at Palo Alto Plumbing, our licensed plumbers can solve anything between a drippy faucet and a cracked sewer pipe. Our detail-oriented and knowledgeable plumbers can ensure your household’s health and safety by providing quality services. Don’t let a fixable leak destroy your home. Contact us at 650-405-3052 or fill out a contact form on our website to chat with one of our representatives about all of your plumbing needs!

Common Causes for a Home Water Leak

Water leaks – the bane of any homeowners existence. It’s not only irritating – the drip drip sound is enough to drive anyone crazy – it’s also wasteful. A leaking faucet can waste gallons of water per day. In fact, a water leak that presents as a leaking faucet can waste up to 350 gallons of water per year. No matter where you live, this is bad news. You might feel the impulse to ignore a water leak. After all, a tiny leak is easy to ignore. However, water leaks do not go away on their own. If left unchecked, they can lead to further damage. There are many types of leaks and some are hard to identify. Read on to learn more about leaks and their causes.

Supply Line Leaks

Supply line leaks are not the same as faucet leaks. In the case of a supply line leak, the actual water supply line that supplies water to your home is compromised. The supply pipe is usually outside of the house, often buried underground. The supply line is connected to the water meter. If you notice that there is water in the water meter, this could be a sign that you have a supply line leak. Another sign of a supply line leak is if there’s water in the ground above where the line is buried. In this case, the leak is likely severe. If you have a supply line leak, do not attempt to fix this yourself. Call in a professional.

If your water pressure is too high, this can put wear and tear on your pipes. Wear and tear can lead to leaks in the supply line, which can get worse if left neglected. A professional can identify the location of the leak and reinforce the area that’s weak. They can also strengthen or replace other areas of pipe that look like they are close to leaking in order to prevent supply line leaks in the future.

Toilet Leaks

Toilet leaks are some of the most common kinds of leaks in the home. They are also among the hardest to identify because they are generally silent. They don’t create the noise that leaks from a faucet can create. Because the leak is going directly into another body of water, these leaks can be hard to see and hear. The best way to identify a leak in your toilet is to listen for a sound coming from the valve in the toilet. If the valve makes a sound while the toilet is not being used, this is an indication of a possible leak.

One way to discern whether there’s a leak in your toilet is to deposit dye tabs into the water in the tank. If the colored water begins to show up in the bowl of the toilet within 15 minutes or so, you likely have a leak on your hands. A professional is the best person to fix this problem. They will be able to replace or adjust valves and lines in your toilet so that the leak ceases to be an issue. Loose or worn out parts of the toilet’s plumbing system are usually to blame for the leak. If valves are diminished or damaged, they are likely the cause of the leak in your system. While this is a repair that is easy for a professional plumber to make, it’s not something that you should try at home. If you do, you may find that you do more damage than good. And you may need to pay for more costly repairs in the long run.

Clogged Drains

A clogged drain does not just present a problem on the outside. It presents a problem on the inside, as well. A clogged drain in the sink makes it difficult for water to flow through the pipes. This can lead to internal blockages that put stress on your plumbing system, eventually leading to breaks or cracks in the pipes if left unchecked. If you notice that water is draining more slowly than usual, have your plumber check for clogged pipes. Doing this can help prevent or identify leaks in the plumbing system.

Loose Joints

If the joints that connect your piping are weak or loose, they can cause a water leak to occur in your home. When you have your pipes inspected, make sure that your plumber looks to see if the joints are in good condition. If they aren’t, they may need to be replaced or repaired. One indication of possible weak joints is a banging noise when water is in use. If you are accustomed to hearing this noise, it might be time for an inspection.

Rust

If your pipes are made of metal, they should be checked periodically for rust or corrosion. Over time, metal can be worn down and can develop areas of weakness or breakage. If pipes are rusted, there is an increased risk of a water leak.

Temperature

As with all things, pipes are affected by extreme temperatures. If temperature fluctuates wildly from hot to cold, this can cause undue wear and tear on your plumbing. This can lead to a water leak. Keep this in mind if you are experiencing severe weather conditions. It might be a good idea to have your plumbing inspected after a particularly extreme spell of weather just to make sure that everything is in good working order.

Damage

The damage that can be caused by a water leak goes far beyond inconvenience. Mold growth, structural damage, and electrical danger are all potential results of a water leak that goes unchecked. It’s important to know about the causes of leaks in order to prevent them.

Contact Us

If you notice or suspect a water leak, contact us. At Palo Alto Plumbing, we have the knowledge and expertise to do the job right the first time – every time. Contact us today by calling 650-374-0868. We look forward to hearing from you.

Common Plumbing Myths That Can Cost You More Money

Plumbing is one of the least glamorous aspects of home ownership, and every time a plumbing issue arises you can expect it to be a troublesome and inconvenient time for everyone in the household. Sometimes circumstances can worsen to the point that repair costs become more expensive because of misconceptions about the plumbing system. Below are some common ones that can cost you money: 

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What Causes Yellow & Orange Balls in Your Plumbing?

If you notice yellow or orange beads in your toilet, sink, bathtub or anywhere in your plumbing system, don’t worry too much. These are generally non-toxic and can be flushed out of your plumbing system. Ignoring these beads, however, can be harmful to your plumbing, as they may clog up smaller passages in fixtures and appliances.

Plumbing Noises & What They Mean

A typical home plumbing system that’s functioning properly doesn’t make loud noises, so it’s worth investigating if yours begins to do so. In this blog, plumbing and air conditioning repair service company Palo Alto discusses what common plumbing noises may indicate.