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[Top»] Dealing with a plumbing emergency

Burst Pipes

Try not to panic! The first thing to do is to prevent water passing the point of the leak. Start by turning off all stop valves (sometimes called stop cocks, often found under the kitchen sink) and if the escaping water cannot be controlled immediately, open all cold water taps so that the pipework and storage system drains quickly. DON'T TURN ON HOT TAPS. Turn off the central heating system and, if it uses a solid fuel boiler, allow the fire to die out. Switch off any electric immersion heater, then call your plumber.

Frozen Pipes

If a pipe freezes, turn off the mains water supply at the stop valve inside your home (if fitted) - these are often sited under the kitchen sink. If there isn't an internal valve, turn off the water at the external valve which may be under a cover in your garden or path. If the frozen pipe runs from a storage cistern and is not controlled by a valve, check that it hasn't split. If it has, empty the cold water storage cistern either by opening the cold water taps and flushing the WC or by siphoning the water from the cistern with a garden hose, then call your plumber. If the pipe isn't split, thaw it out by applying hot water bottles or by careful use of an electric hair dryer.

Don't try to thaw it too quickly as there may be splits in the pipe which are not immediately noticeable.

• Never use a naked flame to thaw a pipe

• Always start thawing a pipe at the end nearest the tap

If any part of the hot water system is frozen, there could be a risk of explosion if the boiler (or other heat source) is kept alight, so ensure it is turned off, or for solid fuel systems, extinguish the fire.

Be careful because although water may be flowing from taps, other parts of the system may still be frozen.

[Top»] Finding a plumber in an emergency

The concept of decision2day is to provide plumbers that have been rated by people that have used them, real people. If you do not know a plumber then this web page is for you. If you do have a regular plumber who services your plumbing or heating system every year you will be in a better position than those who do not. Why not let them know about www.decision2day.com. A plumbing and heating engineer who sees you as a regular customer will come to your aid as soon as possible. Remember to keep the name and telephone number of your plumber somewhere handy for emergencies so that everyone in your household knows who to call.

If you do not have a regular plumber you can take steps to ensure you employ a competent person.

If you have an emergency such as a burst or frozen pipe, first take the actions described above. Use an IPHE Registered Plumber. They have to have qualifications and experience and adhere to a five point Code of Professional Standards.

Remember that 24 hour emergency plumbers are going to charge more than a plumber with fixed daytime working hours. Ask what the call out fee will be and find out the hourly rate and if it is per plumber. Ask how many plumbers will attend. When you are describing the problem on the phone be as clear as you can.

If the problem involves an appliance that uses gas, you must use a CORGI registered engineer.

If you smell gas Transco operate a free emergency 24 hour telephone number that you can call if you believe you have a gas leak on 0800 111 999.

• If you can smell gas you must:

• Never light a naked flame/smoke/strike a match etc

• Never turn on or off any electrical switches

• Always put out naked flames

• Always open doors and windows

• Keep people away from the affected area

• Turn off the gas meter at the control valve

Transco is the UK gas transportation and emergency service, for more information please visit www.transco.uk.com

[Top»] Code of Professional standards - IPHE registered plumbers

How do you know that the plumber you choose will work to the correct quality standards and mandatory requirements? Members of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering voluntarily commit themselves to be governed by a Code of Professional Standards. Because members are vetted before being accepted into the Institute, the public can be confident that they will be employing someone with the necessary skills and commitment to high standards.

The Institute's Professional Standards Committee oversees adherence to the Code and should a complaint be received about a member, has the ultimate power to remove that person from membership. Professional Standards Inspectors have been appointed to inspect members' work or to investigate complaints if the Committee considers this necessary.

The CIPHE logo identifies a professional who is competent, responsible and dedicated to the ideas represented by the Code. To read the Code of the Institute click here www.iphe.org.uk/iphecode

[Top»] Give your plumbing an annual check

People only tend to think of plumbing or plumbers when something goes wrong. Most people will regularly have their cars serviced, but do you have your central heating and plumbing systems checked each year? Think of the value of your car compared with your home. Many disasters can be avoided if discovered soon enough. The Institute (The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering) advises that you take the time to get your heating and plumbing systems checked over once a year to find any faults before they turn into major problems.

Unfortunately sometimes plumbing emergencies such as burst and frozen pipes do happen, but you can take steps to limit the damage while you are waiting for your plumber to arrive. Keep in mind that if you are a regular customer a plumber is more likely to drop other work for you in times of emergency.

[Top»] IPHE's top plumbing tips

Make sure you know the location of, and have labelled, the stop valve on the incoming water supply main. Locate, identify and label all other stop valves, periodically checking that they are working correctly. Make sure you know the location of any drain valves by which you can empty your water and central heating systems once the source of heat has been extinguished. Ensure that all exposed pipes and storage system are properly insulated, particularly in the roof space or attic. In very cold weather take special care to prevent water pipes becoming frozen. If you have a storage cistern in the roof space it will be sensible to open the hatch to allow some heat from the house to help keep the cistern from freezing. Inspect your cold water storage system (tank) regularly and, if it is metal, make sure it is not corroding. Call in your plumber if there is any sign of a problem. Check the condition of flexible hosepipes to plumbed-in domestic appliances at regular intervals. Dripping taps and ballvalves are a sure sign that your plumbing system requires maintenance. To avoid them becoming major problems call in your plumber without delay. Have central heating boilers and other heating appliances serviced regularly (the IPHE advises yearly servicing). Make a note of your Institute member's address and telephone number and keep it in a prominent place for emergencies.