Dealing with a crisis
There are lots of situations where a problem can look catastrophic and the immediate reaction will be to pick up the phone for an emergency call-out, whatever the cost. But with a bit of rational thought and a calm approach you may be able to deal with it yourself, or at least limit the damage until help arrives.
Turn off the water at the mains stopcock; this could be in a number of places, usually by your boiler or in a cellar. Make sure you know where the stopcock is in your property! The time you will save not having to search in an emergency could be the difference between a damp bit of plasterboard and a collapsed ceiling.
Once the stopcock is turned off, turn on a tap to drain the system. The tap may run as normal for a few seconds but this does not mean your water is still on, the flow should diminish after a few seconds, and finally stop completely.
It may be necessary to turn off the electricity if the leak is near any electrical wiring, if you are unsure it is probably better to be safe than sorry. At least until you can verify the danger, don’t go checking the wiring while the electricity is still live.
If the leak was caused by a puncture, don’t attempt to remove the penetrating object as it may well be acting as a partial plug.
The emergency call out fee for a plumber can be £20-£90 and often that doesn’t include any parts or work time whatsoever, however it can sometimes include 15-60 minutes work if you are lucky. The time you may buy yourself by using the tips above may be enough to allow you to be picky with your tradesmen and get a few prices before you agree for somebody to come out.
Blocked Sink or Drain
A blockage is often something that can be cured quite easily and cheaply if you try the following tips. It is well worth trying to fix the problem yourself as it could quite feasibly only take a couple of minutes and save you the emergency call out charge of £80-£170, not to mention any additional costs for work and parts.
The first thing to try if the waste pipe from a basin or sink is blocked is using a plunger. If this does not work you will need to open the trap in the pipe and poke wire down to try to clear the blockage. Make sure you place a bucket beneath the opening!
You can also try a proprietary drain cleaner but be sure to read the directions carefully and take note of the safety guidelines as the solutions are strong and corrosive.
A problem with a cistern is often something that can be cured quite easily and cheaply if you try the following tips. It is well worth trying to fix the problem yourself as it could quite feasibly only take an hour or so and save you the emergency call out charge of £20-90, not to mention any additional costs for work and parts.
It is usually pretty easy to remove the top of a cistern so before you panic and call for help, take it off and have a look for yourself.
Check to see whether the ball cock is jammed or if something has snapped in one of the mechanisms. Turn off the water or isolate the cistern from the water supply for a better look, your cistern will need flushing a couple of times to empty it but if you’ve cut off the supply it will not start to fill up again.
If a mechanism is snapped you may be able to fix it with some strong string or wire temporarily, if not, remove the mechanism and take it to your local plumber’s merchants or DIY store so you can buy a suitable replacement. They are usually no more than a few pounds.
Calling out a locksmith is an unnecessarily expensive way of changing your locks. Taking your locks to the locksmith saves a call out fee and is therefore, when possible, a worthwhile way of doing it.
If you are changing two locks, change one at a time, fitting the new lock on the first one before you take the second to the locksmith.
Gas faults are potentially fatal! Natural gas does not smell, the smell is added as a safety precaution.
If there is a smell of gas in your household try to circulate as much air through as you can by opening all doors and windows straight away.
Extinguish any naked flames, do not smoke or light a match, turn off any gas appliances and do not use any electrical switches, including light switches.