Don’t lull yourself into believing that you’ll never need a plumber. Even if you are skilled at home repairs, you may need to call on a professional from time to time for plumbing emergencies. In addition to relying on your local plumber for occasional emergencies, the following situations are best left to professionals:
Low water pressure throughout the house: Several factors can cause this problem: obstructions (rust or debris) in the water lines, which can start at the meter and run all the way to the faucet aerators; low water pressure from the city supply or a well; or even poor supply-line design. A good plumber knows how to analyze the problem.
No hot water: It’s obvious what happened, but unless the hot water tank is leaking, it may take a while to find out why. If the tank is electric, it could be a bad heating element, a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse, a faulty thermostat, or a bad overload switch. On gas heaters, thermocouple burners and igniters can fail.
Sewer line stoppage: If you’ve tried all the tricks you know to get your sewer line to drain properly, yet backups continue, you probably have a bad plug in the line that runs out to the main sewer. (Tree roots are often the cause.) Rather than rent one of the big sewer rodding machines that you may break — or that may damage your sewer — call a plumber or drain-cleaning service. If they get in trouble, they’ll make the repairs.
Frozen pipes: If a pipe freezes, close the main water shutoff valve and open a faucet nearby before attempting to thaw the pipe. Check carefully to see whether the pipe has already burst or cracked. If it’s bad news, you may need a plumber. If not, hair dryers and heat guns are the safest ways to thaw a pipe. If you must use a propane torch, do so with great care — old, dry wood (which usually surrounds pipes) catches fire easily. Even if the pipe isn’t burst or cracked, you still may want to call a plumber — some plumbers simply replace a section of frozen pipe rather than thaw it.