Easy fixes for water emergencies

June 30, 2015

A little forward planning pays huge dividends in the case of a major water leak. Get familiar with the location of the stopcock and water tank access point so you can find it in an emergency.

Easy fixes for water emergencies

My floor’s under water

Move fast to minimize flood distruction

Turn off the electricity supply to your house at the fuse box or consumer unit (breaker box) before trying to find the source of the leak.

  • Close the main stopcock, shut the stop taps from the hot and cold storage tanks and open the taps on your bath, sink and basin to quickly drain all the water from the system.
  • Collect the water in buckets until you can stop the flow, and scoop water off the floor with a dustpan or mop. Put down old towels and sheets to absorb any standing water and to prevent damage to flooring materials. Lift carpets and floor coverings if possible and spread them out to dry.

The stopcock won’t turn

Ease the stopcock or head for the external tap

If the stopcock has seized open, you will need to act quickly to minimize damage to your floors.

  • If the leak is manageable, try spraying a little WD-40 or easing oil onto the spindle of the stopcock. Leave it to soak in for a few minutes, then gently ease the tap back and forth. This may be enough to free the stopcock.
  • Don't use a wrench to force the stopcock open — it could snap, leaving you in a worse situation.
  • Shut off the water before it even enters your home using the external stopcock. In many properties, this tap is below ground level and is accessed through a small hatch outside your home. The stopcock can be closed using a long-handled "key," which can be bought from any hardware shop. If you don't have a key, reach down to close the tap by hand; wear thick rubber gloves to do so.

Water is dripping from above

Save your bulging ceiling from collapse

If your ceiling is bowed by the weight of water above, push a screwdriver into the ceiling to let the water drain out. Have a bucket or two handy to catch the water.


Before restoring electrical power after a flood, make sure the area is completely dry. Water can run along conduits to light fittings and sockets some distance from the source of the spill, so call an electrician if you are in any doubt.

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