What to do when there’s a leak?

Don’t let leaks wreak havoc in your home

A burst water pipe can feel like the end of the world, especially when you have water flooding through the ceiling and you can’t find the source. Don’t panic. We’ve put together a brief guide outlining what to do if you find yourself ankle-deep in an unwelcome puddle.

How to find your stop valve…

Your stop valve is nearly always in a room where water will be used, and it’s normally on the ground floor.

Quite often the valve will be in the kitchen or bathroom, but don’t forget to check the garage if it’s attached to the house.

If you have an internal water meter, then the valve will be on the pipe going into the meter.

Renovated houses sometimes have stop valves hidden behind cupboards, under floorboards or boxed into strange places. If your home is renovated, make sure you have some tools handy in case you need to get to it in a hurry.

Turning off the water

Chances are, your stop valve is a metal tap that you can turn off by rotating it clockwise until it’s completely closed. Don’t force your stop valve if it’s stiff – just spray a little WD40 on the spindel to free it up.

It’s also a good idea to turn your stop valve a quarter to the right, and then a quarter back again, every six months to stop it seizing up.

Limit the damage
If you can’t turn off the water supply, then the next step is damage control:

Turn off all electricity at the fuse board.

Grab a bucket and place it under the leak to catch the water.

If it’s a minor pipe leak, grab a towel and wrap it around the pipe to soak up the water.

It’s possible to limit the amount of water spraying out by reducing the pressure in the system, turn on the taps in your house to release some of that pressure.

If it’s an isolated leak…
Then turning off your isolation valves will be just as effective. They control the water supply to washing machines, dishwashers, taps, electric showers and toilet cisterns; and if you use one of these to cut off a leak, then you won’t need to go without water in the rest of the house.

Dishwashers and washing machines

Isolation valves for dishwashers and washing machines are usually small, plastic taps, often location behind the machine on the pipework, or on the hose leading to it. Carefully turn the tap 90 degrees anti-clockwise to cut off the water supply – but be careful not to force it, because if you snap it off, turning it back on can be difficult.

Taps and toilets
Are you looking down at an overflowing toilet? Are you staring at water gushing out of your taps? It’s okay, you can turn off the isolation valves and cut the water supply using a flat-head screwdriver, a coin or a knife. Again, turn the valve 90 degrees so that it’s now across the direction of the pipe.

Prevent outdoor taps from freezing
Winter is a troublesome time for outdoor pipework. When the water freezes, the pipes can expand and burst, which leads to leaks. Follow these steps to protect your outdoor pipes:

If your garden tap has an isolation valve on the indoor pipework, turn it off at the beginning of winter.
Turn the tap on to release any water trapped inside.
If you can’t isolate the tap, it’s not a big problem. You can still stop it freezing by lagging the pipe and using a thermal tap jacket, which you can pick up from most DIY stores.