No one wants to find out that a pipe is leaking or that something's gone wrong with a faucet, sending water out of spots that it shouldn't be flowing out of. Usually you can turn off the shutoff valve to the fixture so no water is running out. But what if the valve is broken or the leak is in a place where you'd have to shut off the water to your whole home to stop it? Technically any leak is an emergency, but if you've discovered a leak on a weekend or after regular business hours, calling a plumber can cost more because of overtime charges that apply outside the usual daytime hours. It helps to know when a leak you can't stop is something you need to call about immediately, or if it can wait until the next day.
Are Water Restrictions in Place?
First, if your area is in a severe drought, a leak that you can't stop can be an emergency, even if it's a slow drip out of a faucet. If the shutoff valve isn't working, that drip is going to use up precious water. That could count as an emergency if the drip is evident enough and sending out enough water to actually create a noticeable puddle in the sink when you close the drain.
Is the Leaking Water Hot?
If the leak is from the hot water half of the faucet, that too could count as enough for an emergency call, even if there are no water conservation concerns. Having hot water constantly dripping creates humidity in the air, which can contribute to mold and mildew problems. The heat of the water can also make rubber parts like gaskets deteriorate a little faster, but the humidity is the main concern.
Does the Leak Threaten to Escape a Confined Space or Cause Water Damage?
This is the big one. Let's say you have a leak in a pipe that is landing in a large bucket, one large enough that it won't fill up and flood anything within several hours. Or, say you have a leak coming from the side of the bathroom sink faucet, but the water drips down into the sink. If neither of these are threatening to cause overflow or start sending water onto the counter and floor, then it's a judgment call. No one wants to have a leak like those, and if you can call a plumber, do so. But if your budget just does not allow for a call, then those might be able to wait -- but you'll need to monitor them closely and call if they start to get worse.
If the leaks do threaten to overflow onto counters and carpets or overflow out of the bucket, call immediately. Do not wait for these leaks to get worse, even if they are contained for the time being. It can take time for an emergency plumber to come out, and you don't want that waiting time to lead to water damage.
An emergency plumber can fix the problem once they get there, allowing you to enjoy the rest of your weekend or evening. For those who are on budgets, leaks can be a real problem, but there are times when you just have to call an emergency plumber contractor.