10 Signs That You Need to Call a Plumber

Sometimes, pipe and water issues are an easy fix you can do yourself. Other times... not so much. Here's how to know when to call a plumber.

Plumbers are an invaluable resource for the homeowner, even if they don’t realize it often. 10% of houses in the USA have small leaks they aren’t even aware of, and many others will experience emergencies where they have to call a plumber.

Some plumbing issues, of course, are solvable through a little bit of Googling and some tools that are easy to use at home. A clogged toilet, for example, can be plunged and might run smoothly after that, or a blockage in a pipe can be snaked with a little bit of luck.

But how do you know when the problem isn’t something with a readily available DIY fix?

If you’re experiencing plumbing issues, it’s important to look carefully at the problem and decide if this is something you can deal with yourself or if it’s time to pull in the professional and call a plumber.

1. There’s an Odd Smell in the House

Homeowner Smells an Odd Odor in the House

If you’ve noticed an odd smell and you can’t quite find the source, it might be time to get some help.

The smell you’re experiencing might be a sewage-like stench, which could mean your sewer line has burst, and even though you can’t see the mess, you can smell it. That sewage could be dangerously close to backing up into your shower, which is the last thing you want.

Is the stench a little more unfamiliar, and nothing like sewage? It could be gas.

Gas leaks are dangerous, going as far as to kill 17 people every year in the USA. If you smell something that you think could be gas, don’t wait. Call in an expert to fix that line before the problem gets even worse, as this isn’t something you want to deal with yourself.

2. Water is Backing Up in an Unexpected Place

Water Backing Up in Bathtub

If a toilet blocks, chances are you’ll be alerted because when you try to flush, the toilet backs up. It’s the same with many other plumbing appliances — it’s often very easy to tell where the source of the problem is, and therefore easy to locate the clogged drain.

However, this isn’t always the case.

Sometimes you’ll run laundry and encounter water gushing up into your downstairs shower, or you’ll flush the toilet for another to back up.

When this happens, it’s likely to be a clog outside of the pipes in your house, and could be as far as the main sewer line.

Since accessing the main sewer line often involves digging feet below the ground, you’re going to want a plumber to deal with this. They can often run a camera down first and check what the problem is before digging into the ground.

3. There’s Low Water Pressure or Slow Drains

Homeowner Washing Hands with Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure and slow drains aren’t the biggest plumbing issue in the world. In fact, you might even be tempted to ignore them.

Sure, it’s annoying that the bath takes a while to drain out or the water pressure in the sink isn’t great, but it’s no real inconvenience to your life.

Tempting as it is not to deal with the problem, ignoring it is a bad idea. This is a sign that something is beginning to go wrong in the pipes, whether it’s a clog that hasn’t fully formed or a crack that may be about to get bigger.

Call a plumber out while the problem is small to ensure it gets fixed before it becomes a huge inconvenience, and your future self will thank you for the foresight!

4. A Pipe Has Burst

Homeowner Cleaning up from a Busted Pipe and Calling a Plumber

Burst pipes can have many causes:

  • Clogs that contribute to increased water pressure in them
  • Aging pipes
  • External pressure
  • Mistakes when laying the pipes

Even if it’s not winter and you can’t imagine why your pipe has burst, it’s definitely possible that it has, and you should look out for the main signs. These include your water bill being excessively high because so much water is escaping, a smell like rotten eggs being present, and the water pressure fluctuating.

If you do think a pipe might have burst, shut off the water and turn up the heat to prevent anything from getting any worse. Once you’ve taken these precautionary measures, call a plumber to come out and fix the pipe.

Burst pipes are common but they’re not something you’re likely to be able to deal with yourself. Unlike a common clog, they require serious expertise to get things safely fixed again.

5. Frozen Pipes

Cracked Frozen Pipe with Water Frozen

Another common cause of burst pipes — and something that creates many problems in itself, even if it doesn’t burst the pipes — is a frozen pipe.

If you live in a particularly cold place or it’s become unusually chilly, look out for the signs of a frozen pipe. These include:

  • You can see frost on visible pipes, such as the ones under the sink
  • It’s cold enough outside that it seems likely the pipes would freeze
  • The water is coming out at a trickle, if at all

Once a pipe has frozen, it has the potential to burst, which is why it needs to be taken care of as quickly as possible. Calling a plumber can prevent more problems down the line.

A plumber can use a heat gun to thaw the ice and let the water flow through the pipe again. This would be too difficult to do on your own, as you’d find it difficult to tell how much of the pipe was frozen.

The non-visible pipes would also be impossible to reach, so this requires some specialty tools and a professional frozen pipe repair!

6. You Have No Water At All

Kitchen Sink with No Water

No one wants to wake up and find that they have no water at all, but this is a sign that there’s a pretty extreme issue with the pipes. Clogs and slow drains are one thing, but if there’s no water coming through at all, something might be very wrong.

It’s important to keep up with your local news and community. If the problem is at the mains, your county has very likely announced it, and in this case, there’s no point in calling a plumber. They’ll ideally provide you with an estimated time for repair and keep you in the loop.

If it’s just your house, however, it’s a problem with your pipes specifically.

There could be several reasons no water is coming through at all. One of the pipes might have frozen or burst, or there might be a clog so big and bad that it can no longer just be snaked.

If there’s no water coming from anywhere in the house, it’s likely to be a problem with the main sewer line — that infamous pipe that only a plumber can get to and fix for you.

7. You’ve Been Flushing Things You Shouldn’t

Maybe you’ve noticed some issues with the plumbing, or some warning signs, in combination with a realization: you’ve been flushing things you shouldn’t.

Wet wipes, kitty litter, and tampons are big problems. 85% of people are flushing tampons down the toilet out of shame when it comes to their menstrual products but this can be terrible for the plumbing.

Not only can tampons cause huge clogs that are very difficult to get rid of, but they’re extremely bad for septic tanks. They don’t biodegrade, so even the tampons that are advertised as ‘flushable’ usually aren’t.

With more than 60 million people using a septic tank, this is a problem.

Tampons, however, aren’t the only thing advertised as flushable when they can still cause plumbing issues. Clumping kitty litter also often makes the same statement, but it can stick to the walls of the pipes and cause a clog before it has a chance to break down.

To be super safe, you should only be flushing waste that comes from your body and toilet paper! However, if you’ve realized your toilets are starting to slow drain and you’ve been struck by the guilty realization you’ve been flushing the occasional wet wipe or tampon down there, call a plumber to get the clog cleared.

Don’t be embarrassed — it’s a common issue plumbers have to deal with, and now you’ll know in the future not to do it again. Lesson learned!

8. There’s No Hot Water

Plumber Fixing Water Heater

Worst case scenario, a lack of hot water in the house can be another sign of a gas leak, which is why it’s extremely important to get it checked out! At best, the lack of hot water is a massive inconvenience, since hot water is needed for most of our day-to-day-lives in the USA.

It’s a luxury, but one we’re well used to.

Most likely, the lack of hot water is down to a faulty heating element somewhere, and this is something that definitely requires a professional to fix. Plumbers have been trained on these elements and can get your hot water back up and running in no time.

When you notice a lack of hot water in the house, you shouldn’t waste any time just in case it’s a symptom of something more serious.

If you find yourself running out of hot water before the end of a hot shower, you could look at investing in a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters provide a never ending supply of hot water.

9. There Are Tree Roots Growing Through Pipes

Tree Growing Through a Pipe

Tree roots going through the pipes are an unfortunate but common problem. If the pipes have been around for a while, they might be beginning to crack, which means roots can make their way through and cause easy clogging or leaks.

So how do you know?

Ultimately, you can’t — only a plumber can tell by putting a camera down there and having a look. However, you can definitely have an accurate suspicion.

If you’ve had clog after clog broken through and there’s still something not quite right, take a look around your yard. Are there trees? Many of them? Is the plumbing old?

Tree roots growing through the pipes can be a fairly expensive fix, depending on how far along the pipe the problem goes, but there’s no other choice other than to get them replaced — and once you do, your clog and leak problems should be fixed forever.

10. When You’ve Tried to DIY and Had No Luck

Homeowners Failed DIY and Will Call a Plumber

You can try to do it yourself when it comes to many plumbing issues. Clogs in the toilet can be broken up by plungers, and you can even buy a snake to run through the pipes when there’s a blockage.

Some people are handier than others in this area, and it’s definitely worth a try if you have a plunger or a snake.

If the problem goes beyond those, it’s time to call a plumber. You should never put chemical cleaner down the drain to clear a clog, as this can make any pipe damage worse as well as forcing the clog to disintegrate.

If you’ve tried the basic solutions and had no luck, call in a plumber before you end up doing more damage. That’s what they’re here for.

When in Doubt, Call a Plumber

Homeowner Called a Plumber and is Greeting Him at the Front Door

In the end, you might not be sure if you need a plumber. Perhaps the sink isn’t slow-draining and you’re just tired and imagining it, or maybe that clog in the toilet was taken out entirely by your plunger and it’s fine now.

A good rule of thumb is to call a plumber if you have any doubts at all. Whether you’re not sure if you’ve fixed the problem or made it worse, are certain something dire is wrong, or aren’t sure if there’s a problem at all, a plumber can accurately diagnose the issue and find a fix for you.

If you need electrical, HVAC, or plumbing services, request an appointment with us today for a trusted professional to come and take a look.

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