How To Cope With Plumbing Emergencies
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This article tells you how to deal with common plumbing emergencies. Plumbing problems, such as burst pipes, can cause a lot of damage to your home and properties around you. If you can, turn the water off. Once you have fixed the problem, you should make sure everything is dry before you start to put back any floor boards, furniture or floor coverings.

Water supply?

Ideally, if you live in a flat, you will have one stop tap outside the front door and one just inside it. You may be used to calling the stop tap a stop cock or control valve. Try to find it.

You may find you have a separate stop tap for the kitchen tap that comes from the mains and the tank supply. In older properties you might not be able to find the stop tap.

Check that you can turn the stop tap on and off. Do this 3–4 times each year to make sure it is not stuck.

Show everyone in your house where the stop tap is and how to use it and put a label on it saying what it is. You may also have separate stop valves for pipes leading to washing machines or other appliances.

There should also be valves in the pipes leading from the cold water tank.

Outside the house, there should also be stop taps under the path or out in the street. These are often known as “tobies” and are under metal plates in the ground.

Check that you can lift the cover off the toby. The tap underneath may need a special water key to turn it. If you do not have one you can buy one from a builder’s merchant.

If you live in a tenement or block of flats, there may be a series of tobies in the street. Try to find out which one belongs to which property and show your neighbours. If there is a burst pipe in another flat, you may be able to limit damage for everyone by turning the water off in the street.

If you cannot find stop taps or tobies, you should consider getting them fitted in an easy to access location. A plumber will be able to advise you how to go about this. Your plumbing and gas supplies must be earthed for safety. An electrician should be able to check your earthing is adequate.

What do i do if my pipes burst?

Turn off the water as close to the tank as possible - or at the mains stop cock if necessary. Turn off all immersion heaters and hot water heaters if you have cut their water supply. Drain leaking pipes and tanks by turning on the bath and sink taps.

Find the leak and consider temporary repairs until you can get a plumber to look at it.

Dry the area well, lift floor boards and floor coverings and take out any insulation between the floor and ceiling below. Dry out any electrics before using them again.

It is a good idea to leave everything opens for as long as you can. If things are drying out too slowly you could rent a dehumidifier. Do not be tempted to leave things damp as this can encourage dry or wet rot.

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How do i insulate my pipes and tanks?

Any supply pipe that goes through an unheated area such as the roof or an outhouse should be insulated. You can buy easy to use lagging products from DIY stores. Tanks in the loft should also be insulated. The insulation must go right over the lid of the tank. (A lid on a tank is a byelaw requirement as it prevents the water becoming contaminated.)

However, the roof insulation should not go under the tank - there should be a small gap to allow some of the heat out to stop the tank from freezing.


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