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  • Writer's picturegdbull


While you wait for an emergency plumber to arrive, you can massively reduce the amount of damage to your property if you can switch off the water and stop the leak as quickly as possible. Let's start with the most simple thing you can do first and work our way through the process.

Leaking toilet, tap or other plumbing appliance:

If it's an appliance such as a toilet or tap leaking, it may have an isolation / service valve fitted. This means you can turn the water off without having to shut off the water to the whole house. These valves are either lever or screw head operated and are positioned on the pipe leading up to the appliance, as seen in the examples below.

There are two ways to switch off your water:

Plan A - Internal stop tap. This is commonly located under the kitchen sink, however it may also be found under the stairs, near the front door or in the downstairs toilet if you have one. If you can't find it, try asking your neighbor if they know where their stop tap is located, as yours may be in the same place. Once you have found it, turn the tap clockwise to switch off your water. If your stop tap has seized or you can't find it, it's time for Plan B.

Plan B - Outside stop tap / water meter. This is commonly located directly opposite your property on the pavement. Usually the cover to this is circular or square in shape. Pry open this cover with a flat headed screwdriver or something similar, like a sturdy butter knife for example, turn it clockwise and the water should be off. Usually there is a small cog in the center of the meter that spins when water is running, so if that stops you know you have successfully turned off the water. If your cover plate is a small square metal one, the actual tap may be quite deep down and you will need a stop tap key to operate it, which you can buy at Screwfix or other DIY stores

If you still can't shut off your water and for some reason you can't get hold of a plumber, contact your water provider and let them know you have a water leak and you can't find the water meter to shut the water off to the property, and they will send an engineer out to locate / repair the meter.

If you've turned the water off but the leak hasn't slowed down:

The first thing we need to do is determine what type of system you have. If you're not sure, the question that needs to be answered is: Do you have an airing cupboard with a hot water cylinder in it?

If no, you more than likely have a combi boiler and your stop tap isn't fully turned off, so go back to Plan A / Plan B

If yes, and it's a hot water leak, check around the cylinder for a red gate valve on the pipework that goes into the bottom of the cylinder, and turn that clockwise. There may also be one on the pipework coming out the top of the cylinder, and if so you should turn that clockwise too. This should stop water entering and exiting the cylinder. If you either can't find one, it's seized or its a cold water leak then continue reading.

If you still have a leak:

The type of system you have requires water storage cisterns that are usually located up in the loft. These can hold up to 50 gallons of water and we now need to empty it! Don't worry, you don't need to go up into the loft with a bucket and make 100 trips up and down pouring water down the toilet; just open up your bath taps, after 5-10 mins they should stop running and the tank will be empty. If you don't have a bath, put your shower on cold and let it run, but keep an eye on it just incase it starts to overflow. Once water has finished draining, the leak should have stopped.

Links to a few useful videos:


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