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10 emergency home repairs you need to prepare for now.

Updated

The thought of tackling an emergency home repair can be stressful — especially during a pandemic. But before you start researching DIY fixes, know that many home emergencies are considered essential even under social distancing guidelines, depending on where you live.



Keep an eye out for these 10 emergency home repairs, and use the following tips to protect your household and prepare your home for essential work.

1. Pipes bursting.

Pipes can burst in cold weather if the water inside begins to freeze. Or, they could break or leak due to rust and physical damage. If you don’t take steps to fix your broken pipes, the effects on your home could be damaging. Your home may experience flooding, which could ruin your floors, walls, furniture and other belongings. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • Your water pressure has decreased or you have no water at all. 
  • You hear a strange gurgle sound when you turn on the faucet. 
  • You notice signs of moisture on the wall or floor.
  • Your water is discolored or cloudy.

Who to call: a plumber

>>Get help fast: contact the best plumbers in your area. 

2. Leaking roof.

If you delay fixing your leaking roof, your home may be susceptible to mold growth, insulation and interior damage, structural damage or even fire damage. While an obvious sign of a leaking roof is a drip inside your home, other signs are more subtle. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • There’s visible damage to your roof, such as cracks or missing shingles.
  • You see beams of light shining through your attic’s ceiling.
  • Your shingles are buckling or curling.
  • You spot moisture, watermarks or stains on your ceiling or walls.
  • There’s mold or fungi on your exterior walls.

Who to call: a roofing contractor or company. If you think there’s a mold infestation in your home due to your roof leaking, you may want to call a mold remediation professional.

>>Be prepared: here are the top roof repair pros near you.

3. Broken water heater.

While this part of your home usually runs below the radar, you immediately realize how important it is when it stops pumping out hot water. You'll know something is wrong with your water heater when your shower and sink water starts to run cold. But other potential dangers of a broken or leaky water heater include structural damage and mold or mildew growth.

In some cases, a pro may be able to repair your broken water heater. But if it’s old, leaking and has excessive rust, you may need a pro to replace it instead.

Signs you need a pro: 

  • You see rusty, orange-colored or muddy water.
  • You’re out of hot water.
  • Your water has a bad odor.
  • There’s standing water around your water heater.
  • You notice strange noises coming from your water heater.

Who to call: a licensed plumber or water heater specialist. 

>> Hire a pro: these are the best water heater repair pros

4. Overflowing or clogged toilet.

If your toilet won’t unclog or if it’s overflowing for no apparent reason, it can indicate a larger problem with your pipes or drains. When a plunger can’t get the job done, put it down and search for a qualified pro near you. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • You can’t fix the problem yourself.
  • You suspect a leak.
  • The toilet is clogging frequently and water drains slowly.

Who to call: a plumber

>>Fix your broken toilet: contact the top toilet repair pros in your area.

5. Gas leak.

A gas leak can let off a bad smell or cause your plants to suddenly wilt. In a worst-case scenario, a gas leak could even lead to an explosion or illness. If you suspect a gas line is leaking, call a professional and evacuate the home as soon as possible. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • The house smells like sulfur or rotten eggs.
  • You see dirt blowing in the air.
  • You see bubbles in standing water.
  • You hear unusual sounds, such as roaring or hissing.
  • You feel sick (e.g., sudden headaches, dizziness, nausea).

Who to call: your gas or utility company. If the situation is severe, call 911. Once the emergency has been resolved, you may need to call a licensed technician to repair any appliances that are damaged. You may also need a pro to verify your natural gas systems and appliances are safe to use.

>>Find a pro: get estimates from gas appliance pros near you.

repairing broken HVAC

 6. Broken air conditioning.

When the hot summer months hit, the last thing you want is to be sitting in a warm and stuffy home. But if you don’t fix your broken air conditioner or HVAC system, that’s exactly what could happen. Besides making your home uncomfortable, a broken A/C with electrical issues -- or an A/C that’s not properly maintained -- could be a fire risk. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • Your unit is leaking refrigerant 
  • Your unit has stopped working.
  • Your unit is blowing hot air.
  • Your unit is making a strange noise.

Who to call: a HVAC technician or air conditioning repair company

>>Enjoy cool air: find an air conditioning pro near you. 

7. Furnace issues.

A furnace distributes heat throughout a home. If you have a gas furnace, it’s important to regularly clean it and get it checked by a professional to prevent deadly amounts of carbon monoxide from leaking. In most cases, this emergency home repair should always be fixed by a professional. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • There’s a puddle of water around your furnace.
  • Your furnace is making more noise than usual.
  • Some rooms are colder than others.
  • Your energy bills are spiking.

Who to call: a furnace repair specialist or HVAC technician 

>>Hire a furnace repair pro: get free estimates from pros near you. 

8. Electrical problems.

Sure, you can probably change a lightbulb all by yourself. But don’t hesitate to call a professional for more extensive electrical problems. If you don’t address major electrical problems, your home could be at risk of an electrical fire.

Signs you need a pro: 

  • All the lights in your home are flickering or dimming.
  • You noticed your outlets are dead.
  • The breaker won’t reset or there are frequent breaker trips.
  • You smell something burning.
  • You see damaged or frayed wires.
  • You hear a popping or buzzing noise from an outlet.
  • A light switch or outlet is extremely hot.

Who to call: an electrician

>>Don’t delay: find a qualified electrician in your area. 

new window

9. Broken windows.

Windows are the eyes of the house, but a little stormy weather or a game of catch gone wrong can cause severe damage. You may be able to tackle a small repair yourself, but call a professional for larger emergency home repairs. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • The glass is severely broken or cracked.
  • Water has penetrated the window frame. 
  • You notice rot or decay on the frame.
  • You see condensation between the glass.

Who to call: a window repair service

>>Find a pro today: reach out to the best window repair pros near you. 

10. Cracks in foundation.

Cracks in your concrete don’t always indicate a severe problem. However, you should call a pro if the cracks are rapidly widening. If left untreated over time, you might need to replace the entire foundation, which could be more costly.

Signs you need a pro:

  • The cracks are large.
  • The cracks are growing quickly.

Who to call: a home foundation repair company

>>Don’t wait too long: hire a foundation repair pro in your area. 

Other home emergencies to watch out for.

In addition to these common home repairs, there are a few more home emergencies that might require a professional’s help and qualify as essential services.

applying outdoor pesticide

Termites, mice and other pests.

Mice, rats, termites, cockroaches, bed bugs or other pests can cause structural damage to your home or pose a risk to your health. Not to mention, these pests can make your home unlivable and uncomfortable.

Signs you need a pro: 

  • Rodents are multiplying quickly.
  • You notice damage to your walls, wires and other areas in the home.
  • You’ve tried to control and eliminate the pests on your own with no success.

Who to call: pest control services

>>Get rid of pests: call an exterminator near you.

Mold growth.

Mold may grow in areas in your home where there’s a lot of moisture build-up. Aside from looking (and smelling) unpleasant, significant mold growth could cause health or structural issues. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • Your family members feel sick (e.g., stuffy nose, wheezing, itchy eyes).
  • There’s a musty smell.
  • You see visible signs of mold, which can have a black or green-ish color.

Who to call: a mold removal company

>>Get rid of mold: contact a mold remediation company near you.

Computer, internet and other tech issues.

If you’re working from home — or if you have children who need to stay connected to complete their lessons online — you need to be able to access your internet, computer and other devices. 

Signs you need a pro: 

  • Your router won’t turn on.
  • You can’t troubleshoot your computer, phone or internet issues on your own.
  • Your neighbors aren’t having similar issues.
  • All your cables are plugged in properly.

Who to call: technical support service, cable company, computer repair service or WiFi installer

>> Get connected: here are the best technical support services near you.

How to prepare for home emergencies.

When a home emergency occurs, you need to resolve it ASAP. The longer it takes to research and find a qualified professional, the longer you’ll have to wait for the problem to be fixed.

To speed up the process and avoid delays, take these steps now:

Step 1: make a list of qualified professionals in your area. 

Go online, and search for pros in your area who can address all of the emergency home repairs. Compare pros side-by-side, and identify the ones with the highest ratings and best reviews. 

Read the reviews thoroughly to get a sense of the pros’ quality of work. For some repairs, you’ll also want to look at customers’ photos to judge the quality yourself. 

Once you’ve identified a few pros for each home repair, make a list and get an idea of how much each pro charges for their services.

Step 2: create an emergency fund for home repairs.

If your finances are stable -- and if you don’t have other financial priorities or obligations -- prioritize building an emergency savings fund. Every month or with every paycheck, set aside a little bit of money that you can devote to emergencies such as home repairs.

Step 3: call your insurance agent to understand what will be covered in a crisis.

Read over your homeowners’ insurance policy to find out if you’re covered if you experience flooding, roof damage, fire damage and other issues in your home. If you don’t fully understand what’s covered in your policy, call your agent for more details.

Step 4: keep up with regular maintenance and inspections.

And finally, walk through your home and take note of any areas or appliances that haven’t been inspected, maintained or cleaned recently. Then, prioritize the ones that need your immediate attention and call a pro if necessary. 

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How to prepare your home for repair services during COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to do what you can to keep yourself, your household and essential workers as safe as possible when repairs are being preformed.

Step 1: ask about precautions.

Before you hire a pro to enter your home to perform the emergency repair, ask what precautions they have in place to protect themselves and your household. And be honest with the pro about any potential sickness in your home or if you’ve been exposed to an illness.

Step 2: sanitize and have soap available.

Next, sanitize the work area before they arrive with household cleaners. Have soap, hand sanitizer and other cleaners available during the appointment so everyone can clean their hands frequently. 

Step 3: confirm digital or online payments.

When discussing the cost of the service, ask if the pro will accept online payments or digital payments such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay or Zelle instead of using cash, a check or a credit card in-person. 

Step 4: maintain your distance.

Remember to avoid and limit physical contact as much as possible. For example, wave instead of shaking hands and stay 6 feet away from each other. If possible, you may want to section off the part of your home where the pro will be working and put up barriers that prevent children, pets and other members in your household from entering.

Visit Thumbtack's COVID-19 Info, Resources and FAQ page for more information.

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