What to do in an emergency

Leaking Taps - Few taps can easily be repaired these days. Either they have all chrome finish and applying a wrench will destroy the chrome, or they cannot be opened because they are too scaled up due to local hard water. Monobloc taps (single stem tap for hot and cold) often have ceramic cartridges instead of tap washers. These can be expensive to replace, if you can gain access to them. Access to these washers or discs is either by unscrewing the barrel of each hot and cold barrel to gain access to the washer, turning a small hidden allen key or screw in the chrome barrel, or twisting the barrel off to reveal a large nut that holds the washer or disc.

I will try to repair your tap or replace it if it’s not possible. Fitting a water softener will greatly extend the life of the tap washer. Tip: If your tap is leaking bad you may be luck and have a ¼ turn valve under the sink, feeding the tap. Turn this off and get the tap repaired or replaced.

Stop cocks - most stopcocks are under the sink. Seldom used, they are often seized or require a wrench to turn them off. They are also difficult to replace as the pipework can be tight, allowing no access to remove the in-line tap. Add to this, you need to empty most of the water in the loft storage tanks. Make sure you know where your stopcock is and see that it will turn, should an emergency occur

Tip: Turning off the stopcock will immediately turn off the high pressure taps (generally the kitchen sink cold tap and outdoor tank. The remaining water feeds the loft tank and this must be emptied by running the bath and basin taps till the water stops.

Water leak - taps and showers - on the whole, taps and showers are fed from the main stopcock, either directly to the kitchen tap at high pressure, or via the loft tank. If you have a leak, turn off the mains water stopcock and immediately run the cold water basin/bath taps until the water stops running. You have now emptied the loft tank and the source of the water to your leak. Recent homes now have hot water on demand, known as combi boiler systems. These systems do away with the hot water tank in the airing cupboard and heat the water when you turn the tap or shower on. The upside is, that when you turn the stopcock off, all the tap and shower water stops immediately, stopping the water to your leak.

Water leak - heating - turning off the stopcock 1st is essential. You then urgently need to get rid of the water in the system. Firstly, there is a storage tank in the loft that needs to be emptied, and secondly, water in the radiators needs to be removed. Most houses have a drain valve adjacent to a downstairs radiator and you should connect a hose to vent the water out to the garden. If the leak is upstairs, you only need to remove the upstairs water to stop the leaking water. IF you turn both valves on each end of all radiators now affected by your leak, this water will stay in the radiator and reduce the time to get rid of excess heating water to stop your leak.

Loft overflow from pipe by roof gutter - a dripping pipe from roof level barge boards is generally an indication that the loft tank ballcock washer is worn out - it keeps running, until the water overflows through the pipe leading out to the upper barge board. Replacing the washer or ballcock will solve the problem. If you pull the toilet chain and the water stops dripping from the overflow, you have just reduced the tank water level.

High or low pressure water - generally, all the hot and cold taps in the house are fed from the loft tank, except the kitchen tap. (This comes from the mains pressure to provide drinking water, and feed an outside tap under high pressure.) The primary reason all other taps are fed from the loft tank is so low pressure hot AND cold that feeds showers minimise the risk of scalding if someone turns a tap on when you are in the shower. (This has less impact because the water to the hot and cold are gravity fed at equal pressure)