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Recognising plumbing problems and when to call a plumber

Have you ever laid in bed and heard a drip, drip, drip coming from a tap? As a homeowner, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with plumbing issues, and you don’t realise how much you need plumbing until there’s a problem! Being aware of plumbing problems and how to avoid or solve them helps you to know when to call the experts.

1. Clogged drains or toilets

Spotting slow or clogged drains or toilets is relatively easy and happens when something partially or fully blocks the drain. In sinks and showers, the problem is usually down to hair, but could also be something small, such as a shampoo lid or small toy. In toilets, the problem usually comes when something undissovable enters the toilet and gets flushed. As solid items cannot move through the pipe, they get stuck and make it difficult (or impossible) for water to flow past. You’ll notice this when flushing; the water will back up in the toilet bowl and may even overflow.

How to avoid the problem

You can prevent toilet clogs by only flushing waste that is dissolvable. Watch your children closely to ensure that they do not try to flush toys or other items. If something falls in the toilet, remove it rather than trying to flush it.

In showers, try using a hair catcher over drains and try to keep loose hair out of sinks to prevent clogging.

When to call a plumber

If you cannot easily remove the blockage yourself, it’s time to call in the professionals. Also if you have repeated clogs in the same drain, a plumber should check this. Using drain cleaners over time can cause damage to the pipes, but a plumber may be able to fix the problem without causing damage to the pipe.

2. Leaking taps and pipes

Dripping taps and pipes are one of the most common plumbing problems in homes. Whilst a dripping tap is more of a nuisance than a plumbing emergency, a leaking tap that drips once per second adds up to over 5500 litres of water a year. That’s enough to fill a paddling pool every week for the whole summer!

Leaking pipes can cause major damage if you don’t find the problem quicky. The problem is often spotted after a period of time, when there is a puddle under the pipes, or you can hear a dripping noise.

A dripping tap is usually caused by the washer that forms a seal on the tap becoming damaged. When this happens, the washer no longer seals tightly and allows water to drip. Pipes most commonly leak at joints, which may be caused by deterioration, shifting, high water pressure or other damage.

When to call a plumber

If you are not experienced with replacing tap washers, call a plumber for help. When a pipe is leaking, call a plumber if you are not experienced, or if the job is too large.

3. Water Heater Problems

A problem with a water heater is pretty easy to spot. When you expect a lovely warm shower, only to be greeted by freezing cold water, you know something is wrong! Other signs of a water heater problem could be dripping water, puddles, discoloured water or noises coming from the water heater unit.

Water heater problems can be caused by leaks or not having enough water, in addition to mineral deposits, which can reduce the efficiency of the water heater and reduce the amount of water it supplies. Sediment can also cause your water heater to make strange noises, which are caused by sediment building up on the heating elements and moving when they heat up.

When to call a plumber

Unless you can easily fix the issue, i.e. by relighting the pilot light or adjusting the thermostat, you will need to call an experienced plumber. Water heaters can be dangerous and repairs complicated, so it’s best to let an expert fix the problem

4. Low water pressure

This is a common issue in older houses, but can happen in new properties too. Low water pressure can appear slowly over time, or can happen suddenly, depending on the reason for the problem.

There are a few things that can cause low water pressure, including a water main break or a pipe leaking in your own home. In the case of a water main break, your neighbours will also be experiencing low water pressure. One way to chack for a leak in your home is to not use any water for a few hours and check your water meter. If the meter changes, it is likely you have a leak.

Another cause of low water pressure is a build up of sediment or minerals in the pipes, taps or showerheads which causes the flow of water to slow down.

When to call a plumber

If your water pressure decreases suddenly, or you cannot find the problem, we recommend calling a plumber because you probably have a pipe leaking. If the reduction in water pressure happens gradually, you could have an issue with build up or corrosion in the pipes. A plumber will be able to repair or replace the sections that are affected.

5. Running Toilet

There are many types of toilet problem, but a toilet that is constantly running is probably the most annoying! Not only is the sound of running water bothersome, but it also wastes a lot of water.

A toilet that runs constantly is usually caused by the internal components of the toilet not working properly. This can be due to an imbalanced float, loose fill tube, ill fitting flapper valve or a leak. You can check for a leak by putting some food colouring in the tank. Check after around 20 minutes, and if the colour has travelled into the bowl, you have a leak.

When to call a plumber

If you’re not confident checking or fixing components in your toilet, or if the toilet continues to run after you have tried a repair, a plumber will be required to investigate further and rectify the problem.

Making your own plumbing repairs

Taking care of plumbing repairs yourself can save money, but making a mistake could cost you a lot more. If you plan to attempt your own plumbing repairs, keep in mind these points:

  • Be sure that you understand the problem and the fix required. If you are uncomfortable with carrying out the repair, or the size of the problem, call a professional instead.
  • Have all the tools and equipment needed before you start the repair. There’s nothing worse than starting the fix and realising that you need something else. Make sure that all the components you buy are the right size and compatible with your plumbing system.
  • Turn off the mains water supply at the stopcock to prevent any water damage.
  • Dress appropriately! Plumbing work can be messy.
  • Have the number of a plumber handy, should the project become a bigger problem. don’t be afraid to call a professional if things get difficult.

If you have any concerns about plumbing issues within your home, contact us for a free, no obligation quotation.

How to make your plumbing and heating more efficient

Energy efficiency and reducing utility bills is something that many people are thinking about at the moment. You may have already looked at other ways of making your home more energy efficient, but have you considered that making changes in your plumbing and heating systems could also help? Here are a few ways that you can make your plumbing and heating more efficient and potentially save costs:

  1. Install low flow tap aerators. These can reduce the water output whilst still retaining water pressure. This could reduce water consumption by up to 30% annually.
  2. Replace older toilets with a new low flow or dual flush version. Toilets are one of the largest water consumers in a home and the new low-flow models can reduce consumption by up to 60%.
  3. Replace shower heads with newer energy efficient versions, that will maintain water pressure whilst reducing water usage.
  4. Ensure your pipes are protected and insulated. We can advise on the best ways to do this.
  5. Consider changing your boiler for a newer high efficiency/condensing model. If your boiler is over 10 years old, installing a new boiler will quickly pay for itself in the savings on energy bills.
  6. Fit thermostatic valves to radiators, to keep all rooms at the required temperature. If some rooms are not used for long periods of time, turn off or turn down the radiators.
  7. Turn your thermostat by 1oC. This can save you money whilst still keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.
  8. Maintain your boiler with an annual service, which can also help to prevent breakdowns and repairs.
  9. Consider upgrading your dishwasher and washing machine. Energy efficient models are not only more efficient, but many will also provide better cleaning results.
  10. Have a home inspection for plumbing issues. This can help to identify hidden leaks, which will save you money if repaired.

Need some more advice? We are independent and can advise on the right plumbing and heating systems to suit your budget and heating and hot water needs. If you are also considering a renewable heating system, we can advise on the options available. Please get in touch with us for a no obligation conversation.

Summer is here! Time to clean your heating system!

No one wants to start the winter with a heating system that does not work, so now is the best time to arrange a central heating power flush. If you have noticed any of the tell-tale signs below, it’s quite likely that the system is becoming clogged up with scale, rust and sludge.

Signs that your central heating needs a power flush:

  • Cold spots on radiators
  • Hot pipes but cold radiators
  • Radiators that require regular bleeding
  • Dirty water (or no water) when radiators are bled
  • Noisy boiler or radiators
  • Radiator leaks
  • Frequent breakdowns
  • Boiler constantly needs restarting
  • Central heating takes a long time to warm up
  • Some radiators struggle to heat up

Don’t wait for your central heating to break down!

It is recommended that a power flush is carried out every 5 to 6 years, but if you are noticing any of the issues listed above, it is a good idea to ask a qualified heating engineer to investigate the problem. It is always better to take preventative measures during the summer months, than to wait until winter when you need your heating to be reliable at short notice. A central heating flush can also help to improve energy efficiency, potentially giving you lower energy bills.

If the engineer finds any problems during the power flush, it also means that you won’t have the stress of being in the winter without heating if further repairs are required.

The power flush process

Whilst a central heating power flush sounds like quite an intrusive job, it is actually relatively simple and inobtrusive. To begin with, the engineer will fire up the boiler and check where the cold spots are. All radiator valves are then opened or removed, and protective sheets will be placed over carpets and furniture as required.

A powerful flushing machine is connected to the heating system and three steps of the cleaning process will begin:

  1. The engineer will use water to flush the entire system in both directions until it runs clean. They will then tackle troublesome areas separately. This may require the use of a hard-wearing pad attached to a hammer action drill (agitator) that helps to dislodge stubborn sludge. If the problem is particularly bad, the engineer may use a blend of powerful chemicals to clear the system.
  2. Once the system has been cleared, a chemical neutralizer is washed through the system. Your engineer will also check the pH level to make sure that the system is not too acidic. Too much acid in the system can cause further internal corrosion.
  3. The final stage is a dose of inhibitor fluid flushed through the system. This will prevent corrosion and help to reduce the amount of sludge that builds up again over time.

Depending on the size of your property, number of radiators and size of central heating system, a power flush can take anywhere from a few hours to all day. Another benefit of carrying this out during the summer months is that you can be outside while the process is taking place!

Power flushing is not always the solution

A central heating flush can do many things, but ultimately it cannot fix any broken parts within your boiler or heating system. Because power flushing forces water through the system at high pressure, it can actually increase the pressure on areas that are weak and in the worst case, cause leaks. A qualified central heating engineer should be able to evaluate whether power flushing is the best option for your system, or whether other remedial work is required.

Let the professionals do the work

If you are experiencing any central heating system problems or believe that your system may need a central heating flush, it is best to call a professional instead of trying to fix the issue yourself. We will assess your heating system and ensure that a central heating flush is the best course of action to improve the efficiency of your heating system.

If you would like to discuss a central heating flush, please call us today on 01502 719726 or request an appointment online.

The importance of knowing where your water stop tap is

If there was an emergency, or you needed to carry out some household maintenance, would you know how to stop the water supply coming into your home? Your inside stop valve, also known as the stop tap or stop cock, is the easiest way to turn your water supply on or off.

Water leaks can cause significant damage, in fact most pipe-related insurance claims cost an average of £8,800 per claim. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), home insurance providers pay out £1.8million every day in ‘water escape’ claims.

What is a Stop Tap?

The stop tap is located on a water pipe and is easy to use. There are two types of stop tap – internal and external. The internal one is situated within your home; therefore it is your responsibility to maintain, fix and replace the tap as required.

How to find your internal stop tap

The stop tap within your home is usually located somewhere close to where the water pipe enters the house. The most common place for the stop tap is underneath the kitchen sink, but it could also be:

  • In an airing cupboard
  • Under the stairs
  • Under floorboards
  • Near the front door
  • In the bathroom, utility room, garage or cellar

If you live in a flat, there may be a communal stop tap if your water supply is shared with your neighbours. This is usually close to where the water pipe enters the building. There may also be an additional stop tap where the water supply enters your own flat.

The external stop tap

The external stop tap controls the mains water supply to your property and is the responsibility of the water company. It can be used for turning of the water supply during a leak, or if you are unable to find or use your internal stop tap.

You may need a key to operate an external stop tap. It is usually located in one of the following places:

  • Just inside your property boundary (under a metal or plastic cover)
  • Footpath
  • Verge
  • Inside your meter chamber

Some properties do not have an external stop tap, but if that is the case, a qualified plumber can carry out essential work by either clamping or freezing your pipes.

If you share your water supply with other properties, please ensure that you advise your neighbours if you are turning off the water supply for any reason.

How to operate the stop tap

Stop taps are very easy to use. Turn the stop tap CLOCKWISE (or to the right) to turn the water OFF and ANTI-CLOCKWISE (or to the left) to turn it ON.

Some stop taps only require a quarter of a turn, so be careful not to overtighten. It is worth checking the stop every few months to make sure that it is working correctly and free of any leaks.


I have a holiday home – should I turn off the water when it’s not being used?

If you are leaving your holiday home unoccupied for any length of time it can be a good idea to turn the water supply off via the stop tap. In one day, 9600 litres (or 48 bathtubs) can leak from a burst pipe. This amount can be significantly reduced if the water supply is turned off.

Most modern heating systems can still operate with the mains water turned off, but if you are unsure, contact us for advice. The main cause of frozen/burst pipes during the winter is inadequate heating, therefore you should try to keep the heating on at a low level to maintain a level of heat that will prevent the pipes from freezing.

Should I turn the water off while I’m on holiday?

The safest way to prevent a severe leak while you’re away is to turn off the water supply at the stopcock. This might not stop a leak of water that’s already in the pipes, but it will limit the risk of a major flood.

According the Automobile Association (the AA), only 18% of holidaymakers turn off the stop tap when going away, despite water leaks being the most common domestic problem.

You can also turn off any appliances that use water, such as the washing machine or dishwasher. Turning your heating off while on holiday will reduce costs, but you can run the risk of a burst pipe in cold weather. If you’d like more advice, get in touch with us.

New Website

Welcome to our new website. Over the coming weeks and months we will be adding various information about the services we offer and general FAQ’s and advice on heating and plumbing.