Emergency plumbing refers to situations requiring immediate attention to prevent further damage or potential safety hazards. Ignoring these issues can lead to significant property damage, costly repairs, and even health risks.

Some common plumbing emergencies include burst pipes, flooding, sewage backups, gas leaks, and water heater malfunctions. These situations often require immediate action from a qualified plumber to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of your home and family.

What Is Considered a Plumbing Emergency?

A plumbing emergency is a situation involving your plumbing system that requires immediate attention to prevent further damage, potential safety hazards, or significant disruption to your daily life.

While a burst pipe or backed-up sewer are clear emergencies, other situations can be less obvious. A leaking toilet, for example, might not seem urgent at first, but it can quickly escalate into a significant water damage issue. Similarly, even if not confirmed, a suspected gas leak warrants immediate professional attention due to the potential for fire or health risks.

Ultimately, the determination of a plumbing emergency rests with a qualified plumber. They assess each situation based on factors like the potential for damage, safety risks, and the situation’s urgency.

Here’s a breakdown of factors that typically qualify as plumbing emergencies:

  • Immediate Health and Safety Hazards: Situations that pose a direct threat to human health, such as gas leaks, sewage backups, or contaminated water.
  • Significant Property Damage: Issues like burst pipes, major leaks, or flooding that can cause extensive damage to your home or property.
  • Disruption to Essential Services: Problems that impede access to water, heating, or sanitation systems, causing major inconvenience or disruption to your daily life.
  • Potential for Further Damage: Any plumbing issue that can worsen quickly, such as a leaking faucet that could lead to flooding or a clogged drain that could back up into your home.

However, plumbing issues related to convenience, comfort, or business operations might not be considered emergencies. These situations often can wait for scheduled appointments.

Common Plumbing Emergencies

Here are some of the most common plumbing emergencies you might encounter and why they require immediate attention:

Leaky or Burst Pipes

Leaky or burst pipes are a serious plumbing emergency, as they can lead to significant water damage, structural issues, and potential mold growth.

  • Causes: Leaking pipes can be caused by a variety of factors, including age, corrosion, freezing temperatures, high water pressure, and faulty installation.
  • Risks: Unattended leaks can lead to water damage, mold growth, structural damage, and even electrical hazards.
  • Action: Immediately turn off the water supply to the affected area, contact a plumber, and take steps to mitigate damage, such as drying the area and removing any affected materials.

Damaged or Leaking Gas Line

Gas leaks are extremely dangerous and require immediate action.

  • Causes: Gas line damage can be caused by accidents, corrosion, aging pipes, and improper installation.
  • Risks: Gas leaks can cause explosions, fires, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Action: Evacuate your home immediately and call emergency services (fire department or gas company) to report the leak. Do not attempt to repair the leak yourself.

Clogged Sewer Lines

Clogged sewer lines can cause sewage backups, leading to unpleasant odours, health hazards, and property damage.

  • Causes: Sewer line clogs are often caused by debris, grease, tree roots, or improper disposal of waste materials.
  • Risks: Sewage backups can contaminate your home, pose health risks, and damage your plumbing system.
  • Action: Call a plumber immediately for sewer line cleaning or repair. In the meantime, avoid using any plumbing fixtures connected to the sewer line.


Flooding in your home, whether from a burst pipe, leaking appliance, or heavy rainfall, is a serious plumbing emergency.

  • Causes: Flooding can be caused by various factors, including heavy rainfall, burst pipes, overflowing appliances, or sewer backups.
  • Risks: Flooding can cause extensive water damage, structural damage, mould growth, and health hazards.
  • Action: Immediately evacuate the flooded area, contact emergency services if necessary, and call a plumber for assistance.

Overflowing Toilets

Overflowing toilets can cause unpleasant messes, water damage, and health hazards.

  • Causes: Overflowing toilets can be caused by clogged drains, faulty flappers, or malfunctioning fill valves.
  • Risks: Overflowing toilets can cause water damage, spread bacteria, and contaminate your home.
  • Action: If the toilet is overflowing, try to stop the flow of water by pressing the handle down. If that doesn’t work, call a plumber.

Blocked Drains

Blocked drains can cause slow drainage, unpleasant odours, and even backups.

  • Causes: Drains can become blocked by hair, grease, soap, food scraps, and other debris.
  • Risks: Blocked drains can create unsanitary conditions, cause flooding, and damage your plumbing system.
  • Action: Use a plunger or drain snake to try to clear the blockage. If that doesn’t work, contact a plumber.

Hot Water System Issues

Problems with your hot water system can cause major inconveniences, especially in colder climates.

  • Causes: Hot water system issues can be caused by faulty thermostats, leaks, corrosion, or sediment buildup.
  • Risks: Hot water system issues can lead to lack of hot water, damage to your system, and increased energy bills.
  • Action: If your hot water system is malfunctioning, contact a plumber immediately for repairs.
Leaking water emergency

What do Emergency Plumbers Charge?

Emergency plumbing services in Sydney typically come with a premium charge compared to regular plumbing service charges. The cost can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Time of Day: Emergency plumbing calls after hours, on weekends, or on public holidays will usually attract higher rates.
  • Location: Plumbers in more remote areas of Sydney might charge higher call-out fees.
  • Complexity of the Issue: Simple issues like a leaky tap might be less expensive than a major plumbing repair like a burst pipe or a sewer line blockage.
  • Specific Plumber: Each plumber sets their own rates, so it’s essential to get quotes from multiple professionals before making a decision. Here at North East Plumbing we pride ourselves on having some of the most affordable rates for plumbing services in Sydney.

Current Average Charges

  • Call-out Fee: Sydney emergency plumbers typically charge a call-out fee of $100 to $250, depending on the time of day and location.
  • Hourly Rate: Hourly rates for emergency plumbing services can range from $150 to $300 per hour, depending on the plumber’s experience and the complexity of the work.
  • Parts and Materials: Additional costs for parts and materials will be added to the total bill.
Emergency plumbing team

Act Fast: Your Action Plan During a Plumbing Emergency

When a plumbing emergency strikes, every moment counts. Acting swiftly and sensibly can help mitigate damage, reduce costs, and restore your peace of mind. Follow this step-by-step guide to efficiently manage a plumbing crisis while ensuring your property’s safety and integrity.

Step 1: Shut Off the Water Supply

Stop the water flow by locating and closing the main shut-off valve immediately. In apartments, you might find individual shut-off valves for toilets and sinks. Familiarise yourself with these locations beforehand to act quickly in an emergency.

Step 2: Assess the Situation Calmly

Take a moment to assess the situation. Is it a localised issue like an overflowing toilet or a widespread problem like a burst pipe? Identifying the scope helps prioritise your next steps and the information you’ll provide to the emergency plumber.

Step 3: Contain and Minimise Damage

While preventing damage entirely may not be possible, you can minimise its extent. Use buckets, towels, or mops to contain water and prevent it from spreading. If safe, move valuables and furniture away from the affected area to avoid further damage.

Step 4: Call an Emergency Plumber

Contact a reliable emergency plumber immediately. Keep their number handy, or quickly find one using the tips from section 4 of this guide. When on the call, describe the issue precisely and follow any interim advice they may provide.

Step 5: Turn Off Electrical Appliances

If the leak or flood presents a possible electrical hazard, such as water near electrical outlets or devices, shut off the power at your circuit breaker as an additional safety measure, only if it’s safe to do so.

Step 6: Open Drains and Spigots

Outside the home, open any spigots to allow water to exit through these points instead of where the problem occurs indoors. Avoid using chemicals to clear blockages, this may worsen the situation before the plumber arrives.

Step 7: Document the Damage

While waiting for the plumber, take pictures and notes detailing the damage. This information will be invaluable for insurance claims and for the plumber to understand the extent of the emergency upon arrival.

Step 8: Exercise Caution and Wait

Stand clear of any possible health hazards, including sewage, broken pipes, and weakened structures. Provide access but avoid unnecessary interference with the affected plumbing until professional help arrives.

  • Remember safety first: Avoid contact with sewage or standing water that may harbour bacteria or viruses.
  • Communicate effectively: When help arrives, explain what happened, what you have observed, and any actions you have already taken.
  • Stay informed: After repairs, ask the plumber for tips on avoiding future emergencies and understand what can and cannot be claimed through insurance.

In summary, when faced with a plumbing emergency, your priorities are to ensure safety, prevent further damage, and call for professional help. With the right approach, you can navigate these chaotic situations effectively and come out on the other end with your sanity intact. Emergency plumbing services are there to support you, day or night, so don’t hesitate to make the call.