Plumbing emergencies come with a whole host of secondary effects that are never particularly pleasant. Paying to repair a frozen pipe or leaky joint is never fun, but dealing with the water damage, or even mold growth, that can result from a leak is far more frustrating. If you're facing a plumbing emergency in your home, then these three steps are essential to minimize collateral damage.

1. Contain the Water

If the leak is relatively slow (or you have a large container handy), you should first attempt to contain as much water as you can. Use a large bucket or bowl to catch leaking water before proceeding to the next step if you can do so quickly. Wasting time looking for a container instead of shutting off the water can ultimately lead to more water on your floor.

Having a helper perform this step while you look for a way to shut the water off can often be a good idea. Be sure to leave your container in place since water may continue to drip even after you've closed the valve.

2. Locate the Nearest Shutoff

Most plumbing fixtures should have a nearby shutoff that you can use to stop the torrent of water without turning off water to your entire home. If you're dealing with a toilet problem, check the floor behind the toilet for a valve. For leaky sinks, look for a shutoff valve somewhere in the cabinet or vanity underneath the sink. Similar shutoffs should be available near appliances such as washing machines.

If there isn't a nearby shutoff or if the valve sticks (a common occurrence), then you'll need to find the main water shutoff valve for your house. Once you've stopped water from pouring from the source, you can attempt to track down a closer valve. For example, showers without access panels may still have a valve accessible from below.

3. Begin Cleanup Immediately

The faster you can get water off of your floor, the less long-term damage you are likely to face. Always evaluate the situation carefully before you begin your cleanup, however. You can safely clean up water from leaks at sinks or drain pipes from tubs or showers, but you should leave sewage (or "black" water) clean up to professionals. You should also inform your plumber if waste is present on the floor.

Above all else, it's essential to remain calm and carefully evaluate any plumbing emergency. By looking at the situation clearly, you can take the steps necessary to minimize damage while you wait for professional help to arrive. For more information about calling an emergency plumber for a sudden crisis, contact a local plumbing company.