How to Keep Your Cool in a Plumbing Emergency

Leak in my Apartment

(Photo credit: DonnaGrayson)

A plumbing emergency is most people’s nightmare – especially because water can cause so much damage to your home and furnishings. Plumbing emergencies can range from an overflowing tank or broken toilet to a leaky or burst pipe.  Here are some tips to help you stay cool in a crisis – and some things you can do to make life easier for yourself if an emergency does occur.

The first thing you need to do is cut off the flow of water.

Stopcocks – it is vitally important that you know where your stopcocks (sometimes called stop-valves) are (and preferably which taps they shut off). There is no worse feeling than the panic you can experience trying to locate your stop cocks whilst your house is flooding.

So you know where your stopcocks are – the first thing to do is turn them off.  You can do this one by one to see if you can isolate the leak. There will be a main shut off valve, but here may also be some smaller ones for individual water supplies or appliances.

Call a professional plumber.

It is important to do this as soon as is safe as it may take a while for them to arrive. If someone is with you one person can deal with the leak while the other makes the call. Keep a plumber’s number handy in case of an emergency. In Norwich and the surrounding area we recommend HGS Plumbing and Heating.

Turn off your boiler or water heater.

If you have a gas boiler then shut it off or turn off the gas supply otherwise pressure and hot water could build up and damage the boiler.

Turn on outside taps.

If you have any outside taps turn them on to help drain the pipes.

Stop up any leaks.

Do your best to stop up any leaks. Strong tape such as Teflon tape can be a good temporary measure for loose joints and split pipes. You can also pack towels and cloths around the leak to soak up some of the excess water. For bigger leaks use buckets, bowls or trays, but remember to empty them when they become full.

Remember electricity and water is a dangerous combination!

If water has got into any electrical fixtures and fittings don’t use them- it could be fatal – call an electrician right away and don’t use them again until you have been told it is safe to do so.

And finally Keep Calm!

What to do if your boiler breaks down


English: The expansion tank in a central heati...

English: The expansion tank in a central heating system.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Ironically the most common time for a central heating boiler to break down is when we need it most – the first time we switch it on after the summer, in a really cold snap etc. Finding yourself without heating and/or hot water can be very distressing, especially in freezing weather. It is very important if your boiler does break that you do not attempt to fix it yourself. Not only could this be dangerous, but it could invalidate your household insurance and any guarantees the boiler may have. For these reasons it is important to call in an expert, but before you do this you can take notes on what the problem is and there are some steps you can take before you call an engineer.

Things to check when your boiler stops working:

Power supply – is there any electricity?

If there is no electricity in the house it could be that you are having a power cut, in which case your boiler should start working again once power is restored. If the power doesn’t come back on call your local supply company (i.e. for Norfolk or Norwich) – you should find this in your telephone directory.

Is there any gas?

If there is no gas reaching the boiler check the gas stop cock is switched on. This is usually located in a cupboard just outside your house or might be indoors. If it is on and there is no gas then call a heating engineer. If you smell gas then you might have a leak – switch off the gas at the stop cock, open the windows and call the national grid. Do not light any matches or switch on any lights as this could cause an explosion.

Check your pilot light

If your pilot light is out your boiler won’t work so check it is igniting. If it won’t ignite call an engineer.

Check programme, thermostat and timer

Before you panic check that your heating is actually set to come on. Sometimes it gets accidently changed or it might need the clock on updating – for instance when the clocks have gone backwards or forwards. Check that the thermostat hasn’t accidently been changed – you can check this by turning it up higher than normal – the heating should then come on. If you have a remote control for operating your heating it is worth checking that it doesn’t have flat batteries!

If none of this works then you really do have a problem and the next step is to ring a heating engineer. For Norwich and surrounding areas, we recommend you call HGS!