How to fix a burst pipe

A burst pipe is classed as a water emergency – it can cause serious damage to your home's structure and electrical wiring. It's vital to take action as soon as you discover a burst pipe.

Dealing with the burst pipe

If you've got a burst pipe problem, follow these directions to get things back to normal fast:

1. Turn off the water supply

Turn off the main stopcock. You should find this under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe enters your home.

2. Drain the system

Then drain the system by turning on all your cold taps and flushing your toilets.

3. Turn off water heating systems

Switch off the central heating, immersion heater and any other water heating systems. If the central heating uses solid fuel, let this die out. Once water heating has shut down, turn on the hot taps to help drain the system.

4. Turn off the electrics

If water from the burst pipe is leaking near your electrics or electrical appliances, switch off the mains immediately. If the mains switch is wet, don't touch it or you could risk electrocution! Call a qualified electrician immediately.

5. Be safe

If you notice the leak quickly you can catch dripping water in buckets. However, if water has been leaking through for some time and the ceilings are bulging, rooms may not be safe to enter. If the ceiling is bulging and you're confident that there is no danger, punch a small hole in it with a screwdriver to let the water drain.

6. Fix the problem

If you're at all unsure about fixing a burst pipe by yourself, call in a professional plumber to repair the problem. And if you have a home emergency policy that covers you for burst pipes, get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible.

If you're an expert DIY-er you may want to attempt the job yourself. If the burst pipe is leaking from a screw fitting, see if you can tighten it. If the pipe is split or pierced with a nail then it will need to be repaired. Buy a DIY kit which replaces the broken part with a piece of new pipe. Full instructions will be included.

Prevent your pipes from bursting again

You should be able to prevent future burst pipes by taking the following steps to stop your pipes from freezing again.

  • Insulate your loft
  • Insulate your water supply pipes
  • Keep your loft warm on chilly days by opening up the loft door
  • Shut off the water supply pipe to your house and drain the pipes if you go away for a few days
  • Stay on top of plumbing maintenance problems like dripping taps as these can freeze if the temperature drops

See our full article on how to prevent burst pipes in the future for more detailed advice on this topic.

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