After a Plumbing Leak

Obviously, you'll want to begin by turning off the water in the supply line that feeds the leaking pipe or fixture. But what if the point of the leak is hidden, or there's no valve in the branch line? Then you'll have to shut off water to the entire house. In cold climates, the main shutoff valve is usually in the basement or utility room, close by the wall where the service pipe enters. In climates where there's no danger of freezing, the shutoff might be outdoors. On private well systems, look for the valve on the supply line coming out of the pressurized storage tank. If the shutoff valve won't close, call your local city water authority immediately so water can be turned off at the main. If you have a pumped well system, shut off electricity to the pump and call a plumber or well technician. If the water has risen above electrical cords or outlets, it might be carrying electrical current. Stay away from it until you shut off electricity to the circuits affected. If you can't reach the breaker or fuse panel safely, have the power company shut off the electricity to your home. Once you stop the leak, move furniture and begin rescuing rugs and other valuables. If the water damage is serious, get your insurance agent involved right away and consider hiring a service that specializes in flood damage. If the damage is minor, follow these steps: Use a mop or a wet-dry vac to clean up the water. If you opt for a vacuum, use a long hose and nozzle, keeping the machine and its cord away from the water to avoid a shock. Also use an outlet or extension cord that's protected with a ground-fault circuit interrupter. If the water is really deep, you might want to use an electric sump pump or gasoline-powered trash pump. If you use a gas-powered pump, set it outside and run the intake hose in through a window or door to avoid fumes. If sewage or gray water has leaked, stop using any toilets, baths, sinks, or appliances that drain into that line. And avoid any contact with spilled sewage. Wear rubber gloves and boots. When cleanup is done, thoroughly clean and disinfect the area and your tools with a store-bought disinfectant or a homemade solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water. If needed, apply a deodorizer, such as Exod or Outright. Once the water is gone, hang wet throw rugs and other movable items outside over a clothesline or sawhorse so they can air out without mildewing. Open windows and doors to let fresh air into the area that's wet. Run window, ceiling, and floor fans to increase air circulation. If you have a dehumidifier or air conditioner, use it to dry out and cool the area. This helps prevent mold, mildew, and fungus from growing. If water has seeped into wall cavities, remove the wallboard or paneling to a point well above the water line. This allows wet insulation to be removed and the cavities between wall studs to dry. Also remove any resilient flooring that water has penetrated so the wood subfloor can dry. Otherwise, trapped water can warp the subfloor as well as cause mildew. Carpeting and furniture that have been deeply soaked will probably have to be thrown away, especially if they've been contaminated with sewage.
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