Plumbing problems are inevitable. Sooner or later, something will age out, rust, or burst. When that happens, you need to know what to do and how much you can DIY.


First of all, find and shut off the main valve. It’s usually next to the water heater, under a sink, or near the washer. If you can’t find it, go out by your metre and turn the water off there. You need a special key tool for that.

Don’t try to showcase your DIY skills in this situation. Plumbing work in Australia is regulated by specific codesand you might get in legal trouble for trying to wing it. Better call a local professional.

Stop the inflow and sanitise the immediate damage. Then call a plumber to address the underlying problem (burst pipe etc). If only hot water is leaking, shut off the valve on top of your heater. Your home will still have a water supply, albeit cold.


The pilot light on your water heater indicates whether the heating is working. First, find a metal box with knobs near the bottom of the heater. Set the temperature control to the “pilot” position. Next, look for the access panel and look inside.

There’s a button that feeds gas into the pilot light (usually red). Use a long lighter to reach in safely. Light the pilot light, then hold down the gas button for 35-40 seconds. Let go and, if the light stays on, change the temperature control knob back to “On”.

If it goes out again, call a plumber specialising in water heater repair. You’re almost certainly dealing with a faulty thermocouple (safety device).


When a home sewer becomes clogged, toilets might refuse to flush, water can flood out from under them, or sewage might come out of the shower.

For residential sewer troubleshooting, it’s best to look for experts who are familiar with the area. For example, if you live in Greater Western Sydney, you would look for a reputable plumber in Hills District. Until you can get professional help, reroute the waste outside. Find your cleanout and remove the cap. This reduces pressure on the line and the sewage goes into your yard instead of into your home.


Gas leaks occur near stoves, furnaces, and water heaters. Move the appliance and turn the (usually red) valve or handle a quarter-turn to stop the gas flow. Leave the space and let it air out completely before you start diagnostics and repair.

If you still smell gas, shut off the main gas line. You can also call the gas company or a plumber to do it for you. In that case, also request immediate repair service. Gas leaks are fire and suffocation hazards and must be fixed immediately.


These are highly lethal and even more urgent than gas leaks. Speed is key: CO acts insidiously and affected persons could just fall asleep and not wake up. Common symptoms of CO poisoning include drowsiness, headaches, and nausea.

Outfit your home with a CO detector. If it goes off, shut down every gas appliance, evacuate everyone, and call emergency plumbers.

Water leaks, malfunctioning heaters, and blocked sewers are all common household plumbing emergencies. You can troubleshoot the immediate damage and patiently wait for professional help. Gas leaks and CO leaks are hazards that require urgent action. Know which appliances run on gas, where the valve is, and educate all members of the household on emergency and evacuation plans.

Guest Contributor: Diana Smith

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