Information, tips and hints about plumbing - things you can do to help yourself prevent an emergency or at least minimize the damage until the professional comes along.

Commonly occurring plumbing related problems, and answers from the experts.

1. My Water Heater Seems To Have Stopped Working

As this may well be a problem with the pump it's important that the first thing you do is turn the power off, or you may well burn it out. As there are high voltages associated with this part of the heating system it is NOT recommended that you do any DIY investigating unless you really know what you are doing.

2. Burst Pipes

The first thing to do with burst pipes is turn off the mains stopcock. This will stop any more water coming into the house, and reduce the pressure of the leak. However, if the loft storage tank is full then there could still be quite a lot more water to flow out, so opening all other taps will probably help in reducing the amount coming from the leak. Get buckets etc to catch any remaining water coming out, and then deal with any flood water and damage. If there is any significant damage to furnishings, it's worth taking pictures for insurance purposes!

Cutting out the burst section and fitting a new section of pipe yourself is not really feasible for anyone other than the very competent DIY enthusiast who understands plumbing joints etc. So this will be a job for the plumber.

Hopefully the pipe will be visible, or simply behind a kitchen unit or in the loft where it is still reasonably accessible. In which case the plumber will be able to cut in a new length of pipe quickly and efficiently - they've done it thousands of times before! Clear everything away before they arrive and make as much room as possible for them to operate in.

3. Dripping Taps

This is almost invariably due to a faulty tap washer. You can simply fix a new tap, or replace the washer. Both jobs are within the remit of the competent DIY enthusiast with the right tools, but there can be complications, so if in any doubt get the professionals in. If you're buying new taps it's worth trying to see what diameter base and inlet pipe the original has, to make swapping them as easy as possible.

Hints and advice on getting the best out of your plumbing, and avoiding trouble before it hits you!


Make sure all your pipework in the loft is properly lagged to alleviate the possibility of pipes freezing Check that your storage tank is lagged and has a proper plastic snap-fit lid. Check that your loft insulation doesn't actually extend beneath the storage tank. This allows warmth from below to take the chill off the tank. If your boiler is in an exposed position, i.e. garage or outbuilding, make sure a frost stat is attached. If not, get this rectified! Take extra care with pipes in cold weather. Open the loft door to warm the roof area. Have your boiler regularly serviced. If you own or are in a rented property, all gas appliances must be serviced annually and the tenant should have sight of an up-to-date Corgi Landlord Certificate. Make sure there is a stopcock on the header tank in the roof. Only allow CORGI qualified plumbers to service your gas appliance. Do not allow any unqualified person to touch your gas appliances. They could, if reported, receive a huge fine.

4. Know Your Stopcocks

There should be a stopcock on the mains feed into your house. This is often under the kitchen sink. Make sure it works!

You and anyone else living in your house should know where this stopcock is and how to turn it off!

Somewhere outside your house there will also be a mains stopcock. This will almost certainly be below a small trap-hatch somewhere on the street or road outside. However, if a new drive surface or road has been laid, the hatch may become concealed. Make sure you know where it is, how to get to it and that you can operate it.

You should also know where the hot and cold down service valves are. They are usually in the airing cupboard or loft. Make sure they work.

If you are unsure of the whereabouts of any of these valves or stopcocks, ask your plumber next time he visits. He'll be more than happy to advise.

Things you can do to prepare for the arrival of your plumber, to speed up his visit and allow him to solve your problems quicker!

5. Your Mains Stopcock!

There should be a stopcock on the mains feed into your house. This is often under the kitchen sink. It's very likely your plumber will need access to this, so you should know where it is, and remove anything in its way.

6. Your Heating System

If the problem is with your heating system, be sure you know where the drain down cock is (it will usually be on the a radiator on the ground floor, or on the boiler.) If a heating pipe gets punctured or starts to leak for any reason you may need to drain down the system. (Plumbers are not always available at a moment's notice!). Be sure you know how to use the cock. You may need a length of hose to pipe the water out of the house. (It will be more than a bucket-full!).

Have plenty of newspaper or rags to hand

This page is provided to help you understand some of the types of plumbing problems that are encountered or asked about. Do not take as read that the particular advice is best for you as the information is only provided as a general guidance as only fully qualified plumbers can provide proper help for your particular requirements by talking through your needs with you. 

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