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Plumbing jobs you may be able to tackle yourself

Noise from radiators and pipes


Creaking is normally caused by the pipes rubbing against floorboards or joists when they expand and contract. If you can locate and reach the area they rub you can either make the space around the pipes a little larger or pack some insulation around the pipes to cushion them. If the rubbing is on a joist you can widen the space but never make it deeper as you’ll weaken the joist.


Most banging is caused by the pipes knocking against something like floorboards or walls. It might be that they are not secured properly and fast moving water is causing them to shake. If this is the case locate the noise and see if you can secure the pipe to avoid it hitting anything as too much movements in pipes could cause them to work loose at the joints and spring leaks.

Alternatively any movement in hot water pipes could be caused by the temperature of the water. Check the temperature on the boiler thermostat; it may be too high resulting in some of the water actually boiling. This creates steam in the system, which will cause air pockets and an erratic flow of water, which could be the cause of the banging. Try turning the thermostat on your boiler down.

Another reason could be a lack of water in the system, perhaps the mains supply has been switched off or the feed-and-expansion cistern may have run dry. This is normally in your loft and is fed water through a ball valve. Check this has not jammed or that any pipes feeding it are not frozen. If you solve the issue you may need to re-pressurise the system following the instructions on your boiler.

As with any problems related to your plumbing if you’re not sure or not comfortable tackling the issue yourself it’s always best to call a plumber.

Radiator problems

Cold top section of a radiator

There may be trapped air in the system (trapped air will rise to the top of the radiator, stopping hot water from rising). You’ll need to bleed the radiator.

Turn off the heating and wait for the radiator to cool. Place a towel underneath the radiator valve, and use a radiator key to loosen the air bleed valve. There will be a hissing sound as the air comes out. As soon as water begins to flow, close the vent again and wipe away any water.

One radiator is cold

Check both the temperature valve and the lockshield (isolation) valve are fully open. You will need to remove the plastic cover and use a spanner to adjust the lockshield (isolation) valve. If this works next time you call out a plumber ask them to balance the system (or alternatively if you feel confident you could do it yourself) as adjusting the flow of water on one radiator may slightly affect the output of other radiators. It’s unlikely that you would notice any affect but balancing makes the heating system more efficient.

How to balance a heating system balancing is basically ensuring that all your radiators have a similar heat output and heat up at the same rate. It’s a fairly simple job and if there are no major problems with your heating then the process will work. The most common reason for balancing is that the radiators nearest the boiler heat more quickly than the ones furthest away. This is because the flow of water is not coming into each radiator at the correct pace in relation to its distance from the boiler.

  • First turn the boiler off (let the system cool right down) and make sure all the temperature control valves are at their maximum and fully open.
  • Then, starting at the radiator closest to the boiler take off the plastic cap off the lockshield valve turn it clockwise until it’s shut, then open it a quarter of a turn.
  • Go to each radiator in turn from closest to furthest (from the boiler) and repeat this process but turning the lockshield valve a little bit more than the previous one. You may end up with the lockshield valve on the furthest radiator fully open.
  • Now turn your heating system back on and see if the radiators are now heating up at similar paces. If not use the same process to make small adjustments.

A single cold radiator could also mean sludge caused by rust may have built up and blocked the inlet and outlet pipes. You’ll need to remove the radiator and either replace it or flush it out.

How to remove a radiator

You don’t need to drain the entire system; a single radiator can be isolated by closing off the valves at each end. Turn off the central heating and allow the radiator to cool before starting work.

Prepare the radiator for removal

  • Before you do anything, check the pressure on your system as you’ll need to re-pressurize it to the same level later.
  • Turn the temperature valve clockwise until it won’t turn any more (make sure it’s fully off and not just on the frost setting).
  • Pull off the plastic cap of the lockshield valve (this valve controls water flow) at the other end, and turn the square shaft clockwise with an adjustable spanner. Count the number of turns so you can reset it at the same flow rate.

Drain the radiator

  • Place a tray under the manual valve.
  • Use an adjustable spanner to loosen the cap nut. You may need to hold the body of the valve with a second spanner to prevent it turning.
  • Open the valve and drain away the water, retightening when the tray is full and needs emptying. Repeat until all the water is drained.

Remove the old radiator

  • Lift the radiator from the wall brackets and tilt it to one side over a bucket to get rid of any remaining water. Put the radiator down on old towels, as it’s likely to be dirty. You may need someone to help with this as radiators can be heavy.
  • You’ll then need to power flush your radiator or replace it with a new one if required.

Power flushing

if your water isn’t treated it can lead to oxidisation which will give you rust or ‘sludge’ in your system. One way to get rid of this is by power flushing it out. You can tell if a radiator has sludge in it because it’ll be cold at the bottom and hot at the top. To get rid of it you isolate the radiator, drain it, remove it, take it outside and hose it through. Alternatively try one of our central heating cleaners. You won’t need to hose through your radiator using this product as the chemicals will encourage the sludge and debris to come out when the radiator is drained, this will clean out the whole system.

All radiators are cold

It sounds obvious but first check that the thermostat is set and working. If that’s OK your pump may not be working. Test it by following the boiler operating instructions.

Alternatively, turn off the boiler, and feel for vibrations (this will tell you if the pump is on and the impeller is running). If the pump is running, but the outlet pipe is cool, open the bleed valve on the boiler (check your boiler manual to locate this) to release any trapped air. If the pump is not running it could be down to faulty wiring. If you can’t solve the problem with these checks it’s best to call a plumber.

Installing a Thermostatic Radiator Valve (TRV)

TRVs are great because they automatically control the temperature of an individual radiator according to the temperature of the room it’s in. Generally, it’s not recommended to fit a TRV on a radiator in a room with a room thermostat, as the room thermostat needs to have a true reading of the room to control the temperature of the house. For it to do that, the lock shield of the radiator needs to be fully open, which can’t happen if it has a TRV. View Thermostatic Radiator Valve's

Frozen pipes

Protect pipes from freezing

  • Dripping water increases the risk of freezing, so fix any dripping taps as soon as possible.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas like lofts, roofs, garages and outbuildings.
  • Leave kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open. This allows warmer air to circulate and reach pipes under sinks and in adjacent walls.
  • Insulate any toilet cisterns, water tanks or pipes in exposed areas or unheated outbuildings. If they’re not going to be in use, drain them for winter.
  • Leave your heating on a low setting if your home is going to be empty for a while.
  • Leave the loft hatch door open—warmer air will be able to reach the loft to help prevent the cold water tank from freezing.
  • Fit your water tank with an insulation jacket or wrap the top and sides with suitable insulation material. Don’t put loft insulation under the tank—this stops heat from the house reaching the tank. (210203, 210204 & 210205)
  • If you’re going away for a long time, switch off your water supply and drain the system.

Thawing a frozen pipe

Gentle heat is the key. Arm yourself with a hairdryer, and gradually work along the pipe’s length until the water starts to flow. You can also use a hot water bottle or towels soaked in hot water. Never use a blowtorch.

Problems with taps and sinks

Leaking tap

It’s important to fix a leaking tap as the drips can eventually damage the sink or bath.

No water from a tap

Find out the cause by doing the following

  1. Turn on the cold kitchen tap (or any cold tap if you have a direct system). If there’s no water, check to see if the main stop valve is open (this controls water entering your home, and it’s often under the kitchen sink, under the stairs or in a garage). If it’s open, call your water supplier.
  2. If the cold tap is not working, check the cold-water storage cistern (usually in the loft). If it’s empty, check if the ball valve is jammed. It may need dismantling and cleaning, or you may need a new one.
  3. If there is no water flow when you hold open the valve, your rising main is blocked. In winter, the most likely cause is ice.
  4. If the cold-water cistern is full, but there’s no flow from the bathroom taps, there’s an airlock or blockage in the supply pipe from the cold-water or hot-water cistern. To fix this problem, attach a length of hosepipe from a working direct feed tap to the affected tap. Turn both taps on and leave for a few minutes, before turning the airlocked tap off first. The pressure will force the air back out of the pipe.

Fix a sputtering tap, or one that isn’t flowing

Is a tap spluttering or not flowing after you’ve drained and refilled your system? This is usually because of trapped air. Cure this by fixing a garden hosepipe to the kitchen cold tap (or any tap if you have a direct system), and the other end to the affected tap. Turn both taps on and leave for a few minutes. The mains pressure should force the air out of the system, but you may have to repeat it a few times.

Clearing a blocked sink

Grease build-up and food particles can cause water to drain slowly from your sink or not at all. If it isn’t draining at all, there’s a complete blockage, so follow these steps:

  1. Partially fill the sink with water, wedge a damp cloth into the overflow (prevents pressure loss) and place a plunger over the plughole. Pump up and down a few times, then release and see if the water drains. Repeat a few more times if necessary.
  2. If Step 1 didn’t work, use a chemical drain-cleaning product (425099). Follow the instructions carefolly as these chemicals are toxic.
  3. If the sink is still blocked, you’ll need to remove the waste trap. Put a bucket underneath to catch spills, and unscrew the trap. Empty the contents into the bucket, and replace the trap. Wickes tip: Avoid over-tightening, so it’s not difficult to unscrew in the future and you don’t damage the seal.
  4. If there was nothing blocking the waste pipe, use a drain probe to clear the waste pipe.


How to turn off the water in your home

You need to find the internal stop-valve (also known as the stop-tap or stopcock). This controls all water flow into your home, and it’s usually found under the kitchen sink. But it can also be in a utility cupboard, the garage or under the stairs.

Check the valve works every now and again

As they’re not used very much, they can seize up which can cause problems in an emergency. Turning the valve clockwise will close it, stopping the water flow. Turning it back will re-start the flow. Always turn it slowly, and avoid over-tightening it.

Finding your external stop-valve

It’s often located near the boundary of your property under a small CD-sized cover. If you have a water meter, it’s often in the same place as that. Not all properties have their own stop-valve—older homes and flats often have communal ones.

Don’t forget: The external stop-tap belongs to your local water supplier and you may need permission to operate it, even in an emergency. Not all water suppliers will give permission to use the external stop-tap, and if you operate it and cause damage, you may be liable for repairs.

Avoid plumbing costs by keeping seals in good condition

Look out for gaps, mould and degradation on bath and shower seals. Leaks not spotted in these areas can cause significant damage that can affect other rooms, and lead to a large plumbing bill.

Replace sealant every three years (or earlier if you spot any issues) to avoid these issues.

If you suspect a leak

A higher than expected water bill may suggest a leak. Check for leaks by doing the following:

  1. Turn off all the taps and make sure that there is no water being used in the house.
  2. Write down the meter reading.
  3. Wait a few hours, making sure no water is used, and take another reading. If it’s higher, there may be a leak in your home.
  4. If you don’t have a meter it’s best to call a plumber if you’re worried about the leak.

You find a leak

Act quickly. Turn off the electricity at the main power switch, and the water supply at the main stop valve. Put containers down to catch the water if possible, and then either call a plumber, or fix the problem yourself if you feel completely confident in doing so.

Water pouring from ceiling

If you’ve sprung a ceiling leak, act quickly. Turn off the electricity at the main power switch, and the water supply at the main stop valve. Put containers down to catch the water, and turn on all the taps and flush the toilets to drain the pipes and cold water cistern. Now investigate the problem, and decide if you need to call a plumber or whether you can fix the issue yourself.

Other plumbing projects

Replace a washing machine hose

Ideally you should do this every five years to avoid leaks.

  1. Unplug the washing machine, turn off the water supply and disconnect the hose from the valves and the machine.
  2. Attach the new hose to the valves and then the washer.
  3. Turn the water and power supply back on.

A blocked toilet

  1. A bucket of warm water poured from a height can often unblock minor clogs.
  2. If Step 1 didn’t work, place a WC plunger over the pan outlet and pump up and down. (501306)
  3. If it’s still blocked, try a toilet auger. Make sure you wear gloves and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Unsure if you should Do it yourself or hire a professional?