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What to do if water is leaking through your ceiling

Water leaking through a customer celling. HomeServe we're on our way

It’s a scary sight – you come downstairs one morning and your living room is looking more like a swimming pool. Or maybe water starts dripping into your dinner while you’re eating it!

If water is leaking from your ceiling, the first thing you need to do is stay calm! It’s very tempting to panic but while you’re doing that the water could still be leaking through your ceiling and causing more damage.
We’ll take you through what to do if your ceiling is leaking water in just a few simple steps.


Table of contents

  1. Dealing with a leaking ceiling
  2. Frequently asked questions
  3. Prevent costly repairs with our Plumbing and Drainage Cover

Dealing with a leaking ceiling

Here are some top tips for taking action when it starts raining inside your house:

1. First of all, do what you can to contain the water leak. If the water’s still coming through, find something to catch it in, so it doesn’t cause any more damage than it already has.

2. Next, find your mains water service valve and turn it off. It will be downstairs, usually in the kitchen but sometimes next to a downstairs toilet or under the stairs. The valve looks like a small tap – turn it clockwise and it will shut off all the water into the house.

3. Do what you can to protect the items under the water leak. Any kind of plastic sheeting will help cover furniture – tarpaulin, shower curtains, even umbrellas! If the ceiling water leak is anywhere near electrical appliances, be very careful about using them as water may have seeped inside or, worse, into the plug sockets.

4. Even if you’re not sure whether any of your electrical sockets have been affected, it’s probably safest to turn off the mains power to those sockets. Find the circuit supplying the electricity in the affected rooms and turn them off before you unplug or move any appliances.

5. Find the culprit. If you can work out which system is causing the water leak you’ll be in a much better position when it comes to fixing it (or calling someone in).

6. Decide whether you’re going to claim on your insurance. If you want to make a claim for both getting the leak fixed and paying for the damage it’s caused, you need to call your insurance company now.

They may tell you not to do anything else relating to your water leak until they’ve assessed the claim. Take lots of pictures and videos if you can and then follow the steps the insurance company sets out.

If you don’t want to go through your insurance company…

7. If you’re able to trace the leak back to a specific pipe, you might be able to fix it yourself – check out our handy common water leaks guide for useful tips. Otherwise….

8. …Call for help! Even if the water leak appears quite small, there may be more damage you can’t see. If the leak is big it’s probably still a good idea to call in a professional, so they can assess the wider damage.

9. Call the right person, if possible. If the water is leaking directly underneath where the boiler is situated, there’s a good possibility that’s the cause of the leak. Or, if it’s raining outside while it’s raining inside, you could be looking at a roofing issue. Knowing what’s causing the water leak can help you contact the right tradesperson, but if it’s not that clear-cut a plumber is always a good bet!

Once the leak is fixed…

10. Get mopping. If you aren’t making an insurance claim you can make a start on the clean up operation while the issue is still being repaired. Either way, squeegee mops are good for soaking up surface water and a wet/dry vacuum can be invaluable. Sometimes carpets and other items of furniture can be too water damaged to salvage. If this happens to you it’s a good idea to get every affected item out of your home, so that it can start drying out quickly.

11. The more air you can get circulating, the faster the inside of your home will dry. Open as many doors and windows as possible – even turn on fans if it’s safe to do so. Of course, if it’s tipping down with rain or freezing cold this won’t be so easy, but it’s still very important to ventilate the affected rooms as much as you can. If it’s cold outside and the heating’s on, without open windows you could see damp starting to develop.

For peace of mind on all matters water-related in your home, why not take out our plumbing and drainage cover for nationwide access to our trusted engineers?

Frequently asked questions

Is a leak in the ceiling an emergency?

If the leak is affecting your electricity supply and you can’t safely turn it off (for example, if the mains circuit breaker has water leaking onto it) you need to call either DNO (Distribution Network Operators) or a qualified electrician so they can come out and make your home safe.

For all other circumstances involving a leaking ceiling, whilst it might be an urgent situation for you, it won’t be classed as an emergency. Your priorities are to contain the leak as much as you can and stop it from causing more damage by turning off the mains water.

How do you stop a leaking ceiling from the inside?

It depends on what’s causing the leak. If the water leak is directly below the bathroom, it’s likely that the leak is coming from the bath, shower, basin or toilet. Check in the room itself for signs of water where it shouldn’t be (water spreading out from underneath the bath or around the basin pedestal) before you turn off the water at the mains.

If you want to make a claim via your home insurance, call them for advice on what to do next – they may want you to take photos or leave everything as it is until an assessor can come out.

If you can’t identify where the leak is coming from, turn off the water at the mains and then either call your insurance company or a plumber.

What is the fastest way to fix a leaking ceiling?

If the leak isn’t too severe and you want to do it yourself, take a look at our guide for advice on how to fix a number of common leaks.

If you intend to make a claim with your insurance company, don’t try and fix anything! Follow the first five steps above and then call your insurer.

Prevent costly repairs with our Plumbing and Drainage Cover

Don’t let plumbing and drainage issues drain your finances. Safeguard your home’s plumbing and drainage systems with our plumbing and drainage cover instead and protect your home against costly plumbing emergencies.

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