What to Do in a Plumbing Emergency

What to Do in a Plumbing Emergency

As we approach the holiday season, Asheville residents and business owners will be traveling all over to visit friends and family. Many will lock the doors on their homes, storefronts, and warehouses for several days in a row, and unfortunately, some may return to find a plumbing emergency. 

A plumbing emergency occurs when a catastrophic failure of your pipes or plumbing systems results in a steady water leak. This kind of seemingly unstoppable drip, or sometimes even torrent of water flowing into your home or business can cause significant damage. 

We have developed this guide to help make sure you are prepared to respond quickly in the case of a plumbing emergency. If you have any doubt, make sure you contact your plumbing professionals at Barlow Plumbing Service, Inc. 

1. Examples of Water Emergencies

There are several potential water emergencies home and business owners can face. They may not necessarily occur while you are away from your home or office for an extended time. Some general examples include:

  • Frozen and burst pipes 
  • Clogged toilet that continues running
  • Exceptionally clogged sinks
  • Water backing up into floor drains systems 
  • Intense sewage odors 
  • Any steadily leaking pipe 
  • Leaks around the base of toilets
  • Leaking water heater

Any of these plumbing emergencies can wreak havoc on your property. It is vital you act fast and contact professional plumbers as soon as possible. For this guide, we will work through one example for residential property owners and one for commercial; however, the principles we discuss will apply to most emergencies. 


You and your family lock the doors, close all the windows, and secure your home as best as possible before you leave for holiday vacation. How could you have known an early cold snap would cause a deep freeze in Asheville? 

You return to find a pipe has burst and your basement is filling with water. This is a plumbing emergency.


Your business is closed for one day each year, but you have returned from a much-needed break only to find your water heater is spraying water into your storage room. Now what?

2. Turn Off Water Supply

Whether commercial or residential, the first step is to stop the supply of water.


To stop the supply of water to your home, and the leak, locate your water meter. It is probably on the wall or in a basement closet closest to the street. 

If the handle will turn, shut the valve by turning it clockwise until it stops. Water may continue to flow for up to fifteen minutes. You can test to make sure it is shut off by running water from the lowest faucet in your home. 

If this does not stop the water from flowing from the leak, you may need to lake the water supply at the edge of your property, usually near the street, and close the valve there. 


In a commercial building or storefront, the main water shutoff is usually close to where the supply water pipes enter your building. Turn the valve clockwise till it stops. Once water is no longer actively leaking, or if you have any problems shutting the valve, you should contact your landlord if you are leasing your building. 

If you have any trouble shutting off your water, contact your water supplier. 

3. Turn Off Water Heater

If your plumbing emergency is at all related to the water heater, you definitely should shut it down. It may be a good idea in any plumbing emergency to go ahead and turn off your water heater. 


For residential water heaters, if it is gas, you need simply to turn the gas valve to a 90-degree angle. It will typically have a red handle. If it is an electric water heater, turn it off at the circuit breaker. 


The process will be similar with a commercial water heater, either turning the gas valve or shutting it down at the circuit breaker. If your leak is near the water heater, you must remain careful and vigilant not to touch the unit and not to come in contact with exposed wires. If you are not comfortable, contact your property owner, plumber, and if necessary, the electric company as soon as possible. 

Always practice safety near your water heater. Do not touch the tank or any heating components until they have had time to cool.

4. Turn Off Anything Electric Near Leaks

For both residential and commercial, if water from your plumbing emergency is near any wiring or electrical systems, turn the electricity to those areas off at the circuit breaker.


If your leak is in your basement, you may want to stop all electricity in that area and avoid walking in the flooded areas. Contact your plumber before attempting to walk through a flooded basement. If water is leaking from your attic or an upstairs bathroom, it could be in the walls near the leak, so be sure to turn off electricity to those areas as well. 


Shutting off electricity to areas potentially impacted by your malfunctioning water heater may be inconvenient for business, but in any emergency plumbing situation, practice safety first for you and your employees. 

5. Contact Professional Plumbers

Once you have, to the best of your abilities, secured your property, contact professional plumbers if you have not already.


If you are not a professional plumber yourself, attempting to repair the leak could go wrong in several ways, including:

  • Accidentally causing more damage and making the problem worse
  • Becoming injured by something unforeseen
  • Believing the problem is repaired only to realize much later it is not
  • Taking up more of your time than its worth


Like the potential pitfalls for DIY residential plumbing repairs, we know that any downtime in your business can be costly; however, attempting to repair plumbing in your building could end up costing you more money in the long run and lead to additional lengthy closures. Attempting DIY repairs may put you in a compromised position with your lease. 

6. Document Everything

Whether it’s your home or office, as soon as the situation is stabilized, start taking photographs and collecting paperwork.


Your homeowner's insurance company will want copies of everything. Make sure you take pictures and keep all receipts and paperwork throughout the process. Barlow Plumbing Service, Inc. will make sure you have everything you need from us as well. Before an emergency occurs, reread your policy and make sure you are covered for plumbing emergencies. 


Whether you are leasing or own your building, you will need to keep detailed documentation on your water emergency every step of the way. 

7. Minimize Damage

Once it is safe, if possible, minimize damage. 


Water damage is costly and can cause ongoing issues. If your basement is flooded, do not enter any water till you are sure it is safe. However, as soon as possible, begin evacuating as much water as possible. 

Attempt to dry any ponding water and identify as best you can where the water might have spread. You may need to bring in large fans and dehumidifiers, especially in a basement with poor air circulation. 


Lingering water damage can create issues down the road in your office, storefront, or warehouse. Humidity and moisture may be harmful to your products and other items. Professional plumbers can help you determine where the water from your leak may have spread and how to go about making sure it is thoroughly repaired. 

8. Make Necessary Repairs

Whether your plumbing emergency occurs in your home or business, whatever caused the leak must be repaired properly. If you are in Asheville, contact Barlow Plumbing Service, Inc. for professional plumbers who can fix your plumbing problems with the experience and expertise to repair it properly, and in the preferred case, provide maintenance to avoid those problems altogether. We are here to help.