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What you should do if there’s a leak in your home

Updated on: 23 October 2020

Plumber holding pipe

When a pipe bursts it can be pretty chaotic until you know where the water’s coming from. To help stop the leak quickly, and minimise damage, here are some simple steps to follow. 

Find the stopcock 

First, turn off your stopcock to cut the main flow of water. Make sure you have some tools handy just in case it’s tricky to turn.

Where it is will be different depending on whether you live in a house or flat. Here are some of the places you might find it:

  • Under the kitchen sink

  • In the bathroom

  • Under the stairs

  • By the gas meter

  • In a utility room

  • In a cellar

  • In the garage if it’s attached to the house

  • In any cupboards, including communal corridors (in flats)

  • If your home’s renovated, it might be behind cupboards, under floorboards or boxed into other strange places. 

Turn off the water

Usually your stopcock is a metal tap that you can turn off by turning it clockwise until it’s completely closed. Don’t force it if it’s stiff – just use a spanner to gently loosen it.

Tip: Turn your stopcock slightly to the right, and then a back again every six months to stop it seizing up.

What to do if you can’t turn off the water

  • Switch off the electricity until your home’s safe.
  • Get a bucket and put it under the leak.
  • If it’s a minor pipe leak, grab a towel and wrap it around the pipe.

How you can minimise damage

  • Turn on all taps to release some of the pressure, this will stop water from spraying out. 
  • Open windows and doors to start drying out the room or space.
  • Protect your belongings by putting towels down to soak up any water and move any electrics or furniture out of the room if you can.

If you have an isolated leak in one place 

Look for an isolation valve, sometimes called a shut off valve. 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.

They’re normally fitted to: sinks, baths, washing machines, dishwashers, inside and outside taps, electric showers, toilet cisterns and water tanks.

To cut off the water supply, ideally use a flat-head screwdriver to gently turn the tap 90 degrees anti-clockwise – but be careful not to snap it off as turning it back on can be tricky.

Winter tip: When the weather turns cold, stop outside taps from freezing and bursting by turning off the isolation valve on the indoor pipe. Then, run the tap to release any water trapped inside. You can also insulate the pipe using a thermal tap jacket, which you can pick up from most DIY stores.

We’re here to help

Even though leaks and burst pipes can feel like a disaster, Churchill Buildings Insurance can give you cover when you need it most.

Keep in mind that if a pipe leaks, we’ll cover the damage the leak causes, just not the pipe itself.

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