Your plumbing system can suffer from a wide range of faults, but they fall into four main categories.
Taps and valves
Taps and valves control the flow of water into and through the home. They may drip, causing stains and overflows, or may jam open or closed, or be hard to operate. Taps might need maintenance or replacement, depending on the severity of the problem.
Supply pipes distribute water to wherever it is needed. They may leak, due to perforations developing in the pipe or faulty seals at pipe connectors. They may also gradually become blocked by scale, caused by hard water. Both faults are easily remedied, although leaks demand swift damage limitation.
Storage tanks hold cold and hot water. They may develop leaks or, in the case of the hot tank, may become inefficient due to a build-up of limescale. Replacement is the only long-term solution.
Waste pipes convey used water from appliances, toilets and WCs to the household drains, via U-shaped traps designed to keep drain smells out of the house. They can become blocked, causing overflows, but most blockages can be cleared easily.
PLUMBING EMERGENCY ACTION
- If a fault causes water to escape, aim to stop the flow as quickly as possible.
- Make sure you know in advance where the system’s main on/off and flow controls are located.
- Empty leaking water storage tanks and supply pipes by turning off the main stop tap and opening cold taps, or by attaching a garden hose to a drain valve and opening the valve with pliers or a spanner. Lead the hose outside the house.
- Clear blocked waste pipes and traps by dismantling, plunging or rodding.
The boiler heats the system (and may also provide domestic hot water and heat to central heated radiators). It contains a number of parts that will need regular maintenance and eventual replacement and this is a job for a professional. Annual servicing will keep the boiler in good order.
The radiators transmit heat to individual rooms. They sometimes develop pinhole leaks due to corrosion and may trap air, gas or sludge (by-products of corrosion), all of which can cause uneven heating or banging noises when in use. The use of a corrosion inhibitor or leak sealer will help to prevent or cure these problems.
The pump circulates heated water around the system. It may become jammed or noisy in operation, or may simply fail altogether. Regular operation and cleaning help to prevent problems, but replacement is usually straightforward.
The heating system
A central heating system consists of five main components, each of which can malfunction or fail. expansion tank) tops up any water loss from the heating system through leaks or evaporation. The tank itself may also develop a leak and need replacing. The ball valve that refills it may jam through lack of use, causing an overflow or allowing air to be drawn into the radiators and pump. A ball valve can be repaired or replaced.
Controls operating the heating system include a programmer, thermostats and motorized valves. Faulty wiring may lead to malfunction, and mechanical failure may be remedied through servicing or replacement of the faulty control.