Articles: Learn, Maintain & Repair

Emergency Home Repairs

Emergency Home Repairs can occur at any time. When emergencies happen it is best to know what to do while help is on the way. Jim gives tips for these common emergency home repair scenarios: broken pipe, leaking roof, failed furnace, broken window and the inevitable overflowing toilet.

While household emergencies are usually unpredictable, you can say one thing about them: Emergency home repairs will probably happen at the worst possible time. Undoubtedly, a furnace will go out on the coldest night of the year. A toilet will overflow just before the relatives are coming over. A falling tree branch will shatter a living room window in the middle of the night.

Often times, such home repair emergencies require the help of professionals. There are steps, however, that the typical do-it-yourselfer or homeowner can take while waiting for help to arrive.

BROKEN PIPES

Scenario: Your 10-year-old comes up from the basement with an embarrassed look and a wet shirt. While playing with their bicycle, they backed into a water pipe, rupturing the line. And, Water pipes can also burst when temperatures drop below freezing.

Recourse: Find the closest water shutoff valve and close it by turning the handle clockwise. If you can’t find a local shutoff valve, shut off the main valve, which should be located near a basement wall where the city water line enters the house.

Thus, once the water has stopped spurting, you can try patching the pipe (epoxy kits are available at home improvement stores) or call a plumber to replace the broken section and fix this emergency home repair.

ROOF LEAKS

Scenario: During a rainstorm, a steady trickle of water begins dripping on your bed. Roof leaks are not uncommon, especially during heavy rains. And, the flashing around a chimney is also a common place for leaks that can create an emergency repair situation.

Water can travel through the attic and down to a living area by dripping through the ceiling.

Recourse: The first thing to do is grab a bucket to collect the water. Then call a roofing company. A roof cannot be repaired on a rainy day and extreme cold may also delay repair.

Lastly, you can also try to do is trace the source of the leak up in the attic. If you find the leak, bring up a bucket to prevent the water from traveling any further. Never rest the bucket on the backside of a plaster or drywall ceiling. The weight of the water may send the bucket crashing through. Instead, support the bucket over the joists with a sheet of thick plywood.

FURNACE/BOILER FAILURE

Scenario: You awake in the middle of the night to find the room is freezing. You check the thermostat, which is set at 68 but is registering 50 degrees. There’s no warm air coming out of the air vents, or the radiators are cold. Prognosis – your furnace (if you have forced air heat) or your boiler (if you have hot water or steam heat) has gone out.

And, the first thing you want to do is go down to the basement and check the fuse or circuit breaker on the electrical line to the furnace. If the fuse is blown, replace it with the proper amperage fuse. If the breaker has tripped, simply flip it back over.

Then if that is not the source of the problem, check the furnace’s or boiler’s electrical switch to make sure it’s in the “on” position. Next check the thermostat by turning it up to 75 or 80 degrees. If you still don’t get a response, you’ve got a bigger problem that will require professional help. Go back to the basement and shut off the furnace’s or boiler’s electrical switch and close the gas line valve.

SHATTERED WINDOW

Scenario: During a violent storm, Mother Nature decides to send a large branch through the front window of your home.

Thus, if the repair of the window can’t be completed for a day or so, you can fabricate a temporary barrier out of a sheet of plywood, or if security is not a concern, out of plastic. Start by carefully removing the broken glass. Plastic is actually the better choice in that it provides a good thermal barrier. There’s a number of plastic sealing kits available at home improvement stores that can be attached over a window in a few minutes.

And you should know that the plywood needs to be cut slightly larger than the window opening. Then attach the wood to the window from the exterior, driving nails through the plywood and into the window frame.

OVERFLOWING TOILETS AND SINKS

Scenario: Your child comes running downstairs, screaming in horror. In the bathroom, water is running over the rim of the toilet and spilling into the floor. You have an emergency home repair to undertake and fast. Prognosis – the toilet is clogged and the outlet valve is stuck open.

So, to stop the flow of water, lift the lid off the toilet tank and find the outlet valve, a round opening on the bottom of the tank. Above it should be a tank ball. Push the ball down into the opening.

Main Water Shutoff Valve — Emergency Home Repair

And, to avoid some of the emergency repairs you might encounter, you might want to undertake some home maintenance tips now.

Now, if the ball won’t budge, lift the float arm, a softball-sized cylinder on a wire arm, to shut off the flow. Use a ruler across the top of the tank to keep the arm up in place. If that fails, close the shutoff behind the tank.

So, then try to remove the clog by using a plunger or auger. If the clog is stubborn, you’ll need to call a professional.

© by Jim Sulski