What to do if you have a leak

Damage from escaping water can be expensive to repair. Find out what to do if your home suddenly springs a leak and how you can prevent future problems.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 23 November 2021  | 3 mins read

1. Turn off your water via the stopcock

You’ll need to turn your stopcock to shut off your mains water supply. In most homes you’ll find it under the kitchen sink, in a downstairs bathroom, or in a utility room.

If you can’t find your stopcock try asking a neighbour where theirs is, it’s likely yours will be in the same place. If you’re a tenant, ask your landlord.

Stopcocks are usually turned off by being turned in a clockwise direction until tight. Then you should run your taps to get rid of any excess water in the system.

2. Turn off your electricity and move electricals away

If the water is near any electrical sockets or fittings, it’s best to turn off your electricity. You can do this by using the main on/off switch on your fuse box.

Don’t touch any wet electrical fittings, you’ll need an electrician to check they’re safe to use.

Once you’ve turned off your electricity, you should unplug electrical items, turn off appliances at the mains and move anything electrical well away from the area that’s been flooded.

3. Turn off your heating

If you think the leak might be coming from your heating system, it’s a good idea to turn off the water and power supply to it.

There will be a valve on your heating system that you can turn to stop the water. Then turn on a hot tap to drain the system.

If you have a combination boiler, the leak will cause the water pressure to drop and the flow of water to stop. Don’t try to repressurise the system until the leak has been fixed.

4. Take temporary measures to remove excess water

Put a bucket of water under the leak and wrap a cloth or towel around the pipe that’s leaking. Move any furniture away and get water off surfaces with towels and a mop.

You’ll need to dry the space out, so open doors and windows. You could also try using a dehumidifier to get rid of excess moisture, this will help reduce chances of damp and mould.

For major leaks you may need to hire a water pump or speak to a professional who can use specialist drying equipment.

5. Contact your insurers

As soon as possible, you should tell your insurer exactly what’s happened and where the leak, often referred to as ‘escape of water’, has come from.

Some insurers won’t cover the cost of finding and repairing the source of the leak and may only cover the cost of repairing the damage that’s been caused.

If your insurance policy doesn’t cover you for leak repairs, you’ll need to get a plumber.

6. Contact a plumber

Unless it’s an emergency, don’t arrange any work until you’ve spoken to your insurer.

If you have home emergency cover on your policy, you can call the 24-hour helpline to access a plumber who can come out to fix the problem.

If you don’t have this cover, you’ll need to find a plumber to get the leak under control. You can visit watersafe.org.uk to find approved and accredited plumbers in your area.

Once the damage has been assessed, you’ll need to call your insurer to discuss your claim - it’s likely they will want to use their own approved tradespeople to fix any damage.

7. Take photos of the damage and keep records

Take photos and video footage of the leak and any visible damage to your home before any repairs are made.

Save all letters and emails to and from your insurer about the leak. And note down the date and time of any calls, and the person you spoke to, in case this is needed in the future.

Keep all receipts from any emergency repairs and records of maintenance you’ve had done in the past, so you can show them to your insurer if you need to.

8. If the leak is outside your property boundary, report it to the local authorities

Your water supplier is responsible for the pipes that run up to your property boundary. So for any leaks near your property, let them know as soon as possible so they can arrange to fix it.

The pipe that runs between the street and your internal stopcock belongs to you as the homeowner, but sometimes water suppliers will offer free repair here too so it’s worth checking.

9. Protect against future leaks

Prevention is always better than cure, so try doing the following regularly to help avoid leaks appearing in your home:

  • Get your boiler serviced once or twice a year
  • Check your water pressure, if it’s too high it can cause pressure on your pipes
  • Insulate your pipes to help prevent them from freezing and cracking
  • Keep your gutters and downpipes clean and clear
  • Switch off your water before you go away for long periods of time
  • Regularly inspect pipes for loose fittings, leaks and drips
  • Keep seals around baths and showers well maintained and check taps and sinks
  • Know where your water pipes are before you do any DIY or drilling
  • Use your water meter to check for leaks by turning the water off and seeing if the reading changes over one to two hours

10. Consider trace and access cover and accidental damage insurance

Not all causes of leaks are covered by standard home insurance, so it’s worth looking at the exclusions on your policy.

Accidental damage insurance can be added as an optional extra and could prove very useful. For example, if a tap is accidentally left on or a hole is drilled into a pipe.

Trace and access cover helps to cover the cost of investigating and locating the source of the leak. But it’s not always included as standard, so it’s worth checking this when you’re comparing home insurance policies.

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