How To Deal With A Plumbing Emergency

tap leak


On a rare occasion, a plumbing and heating system develops a leak, knowing what to do and acting
quickly can prevent or reduce serious damage to property or in some cases even save a life.

This guide will help you plan for such emergencies.

Major water leaks and floods

If you should experience a major water leak or flood you need to turn off the water supply to your property using the stop tap. Every property has two such taps, the first is the main tap usually located within a property and the second is the water company boundary stop tap.

Main stop tap

Usually located in the kitchen although it can be located anywhere on the ground floor, or entry floor to a flat or maisonette. This tap controls the supply of water to the whole home and when turned off will stop all water. This tap can be boxed in or hidden behind cupboards sometimes making them hard to find.

Boundary stop tap

Usually located at the boundary of a property by the water company, this tap cuts off the entire supply to the property including outside pipes. Some older taps can turn the water off in up to four properties at once, so inform neighbours before turning this tap off.

Isolation Valves

If you experience a smaller leak within your property (e.g. in your sanitary ware or kitchen appliances) these can be controlled using isolation valves. These are small inline valves installed next to the appliance or ware, and can quickly stop a problem without stopping the entire water supply. To operate you can either turn the lever or use a screwdriver to turn the valve to stop the water supply.

Hot water systems

If you experience a leak in your hot water system you need to stop water entering your system. If you have a hot water cylinder you must find the gate valve (usually in your airing cupboard), turn this off and turn on any hot taps to empty the cylinder of all water. If you have a combi boiler the valve will be located under the boiler and will be a lever operated isolation valve.

How do I prepare for a water emergency?

Look for the valves and taps and see which ones turn of which appliance. Knowing the ways to turn off the supply to appliances in your home can be vital. It is important that you know the location and way to stop water to the following:

• The whole house (main stop tap)
• Toilet(s)
• Basin(s)
• Washing machine
• Dishwasher
• Cold water storage tank or tanks in the loft (if fitted)
• Hot water system
• The whole property (boundary stop tap)

If you cannot find the main stop tap or the boundary stop tap you should investigate and find out where they are as they are important in an emergency.

What to do if you think there is a water leak …. you need to:

• Turn off the water to the whole house at the mains stop tap.

• Open the cold taps to drain the water from the pipes to stop the water leaking further.

• If the leak is from an appliance find the isolation valve and turn it off (which might allow you to
turn the rest of the water to house back on again).

• If water is collecting in a ceiling, and dripping through, puncture the ceiling with a small
screwdriver or hand drill (DO NOT USE A POWER DRILL) and catch the water in a bucket. This
will stop the spread of water and reduce the risk of a ceiling collapsing, creating more damage
to the property.

• Call an APHC registered plumber.

How to deal with gas leaks

Of everything piped into your home, none is more dangerous than natural gas. It is explosive and highly flammable. Gas is piped from mains in the street to your home on a similar way to mains water, the only difference is that natural gas uses different pipe materials to get to your home. This pipe can be made from mild steel, low carbon steel or newer yellow polyethene plastic.

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