Plumbing Tips to Avoid a Holiday Emergency

Angi Staff
Written by Angi Staff
Updated September 16, 2015
Plumbing pipes
Lots of things can go wrong with your plumbing on a holiday. Be ready to react. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

A holiday weekend is the worst time to have a plumbing emergency. Learn how to protect your home's plumbing and avoid a holiday disaster.

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Use a plunger as your first line of defense with a clogged toilet. It can also fix clogs in the bathtub or shower, but be sure to fill the base with an inch of water to help the plunger seal before plunging. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

During the winter holiday season, families spend more time in the kitchen as well as hosting relatives and guests in their homes.

This influx often puts more pressure on your plumbing, and as a result, the Thanksgiving weekend can be one of the busiest times of the year for emergency calls to plumbers nationwide.

The last thing you want to endure during the holiday season is a backed-up kitchen sink or a clogged toilet. However, with the extra guests in the home and copious amounts of food preparation, emergencies can happen.

“During the holidays the drains take a lot of beating with the extra guests and cooking we’re doing around the house,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angi.

However, getting a plumber to come out to your house during the holiday weekend might not be as easy as it sounds, and you should be prepared to pay top dollar for emergency service.

“You can count on time and a half if you’re calling a plumber after hours or on the holiday. Your best-bet defense is to have a relationship with a plumber before you need one in an emergency situation because there might be deals for regular customers,” Hicks says.

Angi tips for hiring a professional plumber:

All states with the exception of Kansas, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Wyoming require plumbers to be licensed. Municipalities may also have their own plumbing license requirements. Verify that a plumber's license is current and ask for proof of insurance before you hire.

Plumbers may charge either by the hour or job. For basic plumbing services, plumbers tell us that the average hourly service charge ranges from $70 to $150, depending on the area you live in. For emergency calls, you can expect to pay time and a half.

The best thing you can do is find a plumber or a drain cleaning company before you need one. Research one ahead of time so you know what charges to expect. You can also ask about emergency service and holiday work.

Dealing with clogged drains

The most likely problem you will incur over the holidays is a clogged drain. Drain clogs often require the assistance of a professional to clear the blockage, but there are plenty of steps homeowners can take on their own to remove a clog or prevent one from occurring.

Sink clogs:

Drain clogs in bathroom sinks can occur over time from the buildup of hair bits, soap and fibers from towels that accumulates inside of pipes. Clogs in the kitchen sink are usually the result of excessive amounts of food being flushed down the drain.

Many clogs can be dislodged using a sink plunger, which is smaller and shaped differently than a toilet plunger. Place the plunger over the sink's drain hole, ensuring there's enough water at the bottom to form a seal. Pump the plunger up and down - while keeping a good seal - to help dislodge a clog.

If that doesn't work, try pouring hot or near-boiling water down the drain. The water's heat may break up any organic compounds or soap scum within the clog. A combination of baking soda and hot water can add more clog-busting power to your drain-clearing efforts.

Although it may be tempting to pour in over-the-counter drain-clearing products such as Drano, many plumbers advise against it. Not only are the chemicals toxic if exposed to human skin, they can also damage drain pipes if overused.

Toilet clogs:

Use a plunger as your first line of defense with a clogged toilet. It can also fix clogs in the bathtub or shower, but be sure to fill the base with an inch of water to help the plunger seal before plunging. If a plunger doesn't work, a drain auger – commonly called a “snake” – is a flexible cable that can be pushed in the drain to break up the clog. Augers will not harm your pipes, but they might scratch porcelain or ceramics, so use them carefully. Toilets often endure items being flushed that should instead by thrown away such as paper towels or baby wipes. Those items can quickly block a drain line; especially in homes where tree roots have infiltrated the main sewer line. Clogged sewer lines caused by tree roots are an especially common problem in older neighborhoods.

Hopefully, your Thanksgiving celebration will go off without a hitch. But if a problem does arise and you need the assistance of a plumber, Angi is here to help. Sign in to view trusted consumer reviews on highly rated plumbers and drain cleaners nationwide.

Have you ever had a major plumbing emergency on a holiday? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Nov. 20, 2011. 

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