Wednesday, 21 December 2011 5:30 PM
A plumbing disaster can be just about the worst emergency you have in your home but should one occur it is vital that you do not panic, as there are some steps that you can take to prevent the problem getting worse. The very first is to contact some emergency plumbers.
However, you may be wondering just what scenario constitutes an emergency. After all, calling a 24-hour tradesman to come and bleed your radiators or fix a leaking tap will see you paying a large sum for a job you could have tackled yourself, or scheduled a cheap plumber to do.
There are three main disasters that should have you reaching for your phone. These are burst pipes, backed up toilets or sewage leaks and a problem with your boiler. Should any of these events occur, there are a few things you must remember.
Arriving home to find water cascading through the ceiling is never pleasant, but unfortunately a burst pipe is not as rare an occurrence as you may like it to be - particularly during the winter months. When the temperature drops, water in these pipes can return to ice and expand, causing the tube to crack. After this has happened, it may be only a matter of time until the vessel bursts, letting all that freezing water pour into your home.
If this has happened in your property, the very first thing you must do is turn off your water. This can be done by switching off the stop cocks - or stop valves - which are often located beneath the sinks. If this fails to work, turn on all the cold taps in your home to drain the system of water. The sooner you can stop the water supply, the less will be present in the pipe work to cascade into your property.
Ask another household member to contact a plumber, or, if you are on your own, switch off your central heating and the electric immersion heater if you have one, before contacting the tradesman yourself.
While you wait for them to arrive you can assess the damage, but it is important you do not try to fix anything at this stage. This is because your electrics may have got damp when the water came into your home and could present a safety risk. If you think that any of your wiring has got wet, be sure to contact an emergency electrician to come out and take a look at it for you.
To avoid your pipes freezing, it is a good idea to make sure your heating comes on regularly throughout the day - even if you are away.
A backed up toilet or sewer is definitely not a job to be tackled yourself and you should always call a plumber in these cases. One golden rule to remember is never to flush the toilet - this could make the situation even worse by causing filthy water and sewage to burst out of it and pour into your home, which can create a health risk.
If the problem is with a sewer, it is unlikely you will be able to fix it so you should call a professional. Again, remember to switch off your electrics or keep out of the room entirely as stepping into the flood water could be very dangerous if the wiring in the space has got damp.
Occasionally, a plumbing emergency can affect your boiler, which is why you should always switch it off if a pipe has burst. However, problems with a boiler are also something that needs to be addressed by a plumber, who must be a Gas Safe member. This appliance can cause anything from a fire or explosion to a deadly carbon monoxide leak, so never attempt to fix it yourself.
Once you have had whatever your plumbing problem was dealt with, you can consider what to do next. Hopefully you will not have lost too many of your belongings but it may be the case that you will need new carpets. If the water came down your walls, you should also think about hiring plasterers as, if the original plaster has become damp, it could crumble or crack.
By remembering to follow these steps, you may be able to avoid a disaster becoming a catastrophe.