Emergency home repairs you should never ignore.


A slow drip coming from your faucet. A small hole in the wall. A weird, musty smell coming from the bathroom. Throughout the years, your home will show signs of needing repairs and seasonal maintenance. The question is: How do you know if that musty smell is harmless or a sign that something is seriously wrong?

Be sure to keep an eye out for the signs of an emergency home repair and take steps to protect your home. Keep reading to see which repairs you should always be prepared to tackle and how to recognize the signs it might be an emergency.

1. Bursting or leaky pipes.

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

Here are a few signs your leaky pipes might need an emergency repair:

  • Water pressure has decreased or there is no water at all 
  • A strange gurgling sound when the faucet is turned on 
  • Noticeable signs of moisture on the wall or floor
  • Water is discolored or cloudy

Related: Plumbing maintenance tips.

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2. Leaking roof.

If you wait too long to fix a leak in your roof, your home may be susceptible to mold growth, insulation damage, interior damage or even structural damage. While an obvious sign of a leaking roof is a drip inside your home, there are other signs that could indicate a roof problem:

  • Visible roof damage, such as cracks or missing shingles
  • Beams of light are shining through your attic’s ceiling
  • Shingles are buckling or curling
  • Moisture, watermarks or stains spotted on ceiling or walls
  • Mold or fungi found on exterior walls

3. Broken water heater.

You'll know something is wrong with your water heater when your shower and sink water runs cold for too long or altogether. However, water heaters can develop other dangerous issues such as breaks and leaks. These are usually signs of structural damage or mold and mildew growth.

In some cases, you may be able to repair your broken water heater. That being said, if the heater is old, leaking or has excessive rust, you may need to replace it. Here are a few signs you might have an emergency repair on your hands:

  • Rusty, orange-colored or muddy water
  • Hot water runs out
  • Water has a bad odor
  • Standing water accumulates around the water heater
  • Strange noises coming from the water heater

4. Overflowing or clogged toilet.

If your toilet won’t unclog or if it’s overflowing for no apparent reason, then that may be an indicator of a larger problem with your pipes or drains. When a plunger can’t get the job done, put it down and consider getting a professional's opinion. It may be a more serious issue if:

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

Related: Toilet repair troubleshooting tips.

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5. Gas leak.

A gas leak can give off a bad smell or cause your plants to suddenly wilt. The worst-case scenario is that this could lead to an explosion or illness. If you suspect a gas line is leaking, please call your gas company, along with your local fire department, and be sure to evacuate your home as soon as possible. For more guidance, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website.

Here are a few signs it might be an emergency:

  • House smells like sulfur or rotten eggs
  • Dirt blowing in the air
  • Bubbles in standing water
  • Unusual sounds, such as roaring or hissing
  • You feel sick (e.g., sudden headaches, dizziness, nausea)

 6. Broken air conditioning unit.

When the hot summer months hit, the last thing you want to do is sit in a warm, stuffy home. If you don’t fix your broken air conditioner or HVAC system, then that’s exactly what could happen. Apart from making your home uncomfortable, a broken A/C with electrical issues (or an A/C that’s not properly maintained) could be a fire hazard. 

Here are a few signs you might have an emergency repair:

  • Unit is leaking refrigerant 
  • Unit has stopped working
  • Unit is blowing hot air
  • Unit is making a strange noise

Related: Here's your HVAC troubleshooting checklist.

7. Furnace issues.

A furnace distributes heat throughout a home. If you have a gas or oil furnace, it’s important to regularly clean it and get it checked by a professional to prevent deadly amounts of carbon monoxide from leaking.

Here are a few signs you might need emergency furnace repair services:

  • A puddle of water is around your furnace.
  • Furnace is making more noise than usual.
  • Some rooms are colder than others.
  • Your energy bills are spiking.

For more advice, visit the CDC website.

8. Electrical problems.

A dead lightbulb is no cause for concern. However, please be sure to call an electrician when there are signs of extensive electrical problems. If you don't address major electrical issues, your home could be at risk of an electrical fire.

Here are a few signs you shouldn’t ignore:

  • All the lights in the home are flickering or dimming.
  • Electrical outlets are dead.
  • The breaker won’t reset or there are frequent breaker trips.
  • There is a smell of something burning.
  • You see damaged or frayed wires.
  • There's a popping or buzzing noise that can be heard from an outlet.
  • A light switch or outlet is extremely hot.

Related: Watch out for these 10 home safety and health hazards.

9. Broken windows.

Windows keep water, heat and cold out while letting light in. However, in the event that there's a little stormy weather or a game of catch, things can go wrong. This may cause damage or send your energy bills soaring. Get your windows repaired if:

  • The glass is severely broken or cracked.
  • Water has penetrated the window frame.
  • There's noticeable rot or decay on the frame.
  • Condensation can be found between the glass.
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10. Cracks in foundation.

Cracks in concrete may not always indicate a severe problem. However, there might be an issue if you notice the cracks are large and spreading quickly. If left untreated over time, you might need to replace the entire foundation, which could be costly.

11. Termites, mice and other pests.

Mice, rats, termites, cockroaches, bed bugs and other pests can cause structural damage to your home and may pose health risks. These pests can also make your home unlivable and uncomfortable.

You may need emergency pest control services if:

  • There's noticeable damage to walls, wires and other areas in the home.
  • Decks, fences and other wooden structures are damaged.
  • You see mice/rat droppings and shedded termite wings.
  • You see unusual and unexplained bug bites or bumps on your skin.
  • You see rodents and pests in or around the home.

12. Mold growth.

Mold may grow in areas in your home in locations where there's a lot of moisture. Aside from looking and smelling unpleasant, significant mold growth can cause health issues or structural damage. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Family members feel sick (e.g., stuffy nose, wheezing, itchy eyes).
  • There's a musty smell.
  • Visible signs of mold, which can have a black or green-ish color.

13. 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 online lessons — you may need access to your internet, computer and other devices. But if you notice these signs, you might need a few repairs:

  • Router will not turn on
  • Computer, phone or internet issues cannot be troubleshooted on your own
  • Neighbors aren’t having similar issues
  • All cables are plugged in properly
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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. Click through to see which steps you should take now.

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

Search for professionals in your area who can address all potential emergency home repairs that you can't DIY. Compare pros and identify those with the highest ratings and best reviews. 

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

Once you’ve found a few pros for each home repair, make a list and get their contact information. This will allow you to know who to call immediately if your home is in trouble.

Step 2: Create an emergency fund for home repairs.

Provided your finances are stable and you don’t have other pressing financial priorities or obligations, then consider prioritizing the creation of an emergency savings fund. 

Every month or with every paycheck, set aside a little bit of money that can be devoted 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 in the event of flooding, roof damage, fire damage and other issues in your home. If you don’t fully understand what is covered in your policy, please call your agent to get more details.

Step 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and inspections.

The best way to avoid costly repairs and breakdowns in the future is to stay on top of home maintenance. Clean your gutters, sweep your chimney, schedule routine HVAC service — these are just a few of the important maintenance tasks you should do throughout the year.

Remember to take note of any areas or appliances in your home that haven’t been inspected, maintained or cleaned recently. If you see any areas that need repairs, prioritize the ones that need immediate attention and make a plan to resolve them.

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