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Common UK Household Emergencies

Unfortunately, we’re all likely to experience a household emergency of one kind or another at some point, with all the associated stress and financial costs it brings. Unless you’re a tradesperson or a DIY whizz, the vast majority of people start asking themselves, “What should I do?” or “Do I need to contact someone to sort it out?”

Burst pipes

© Monkey Business Images /

There are a number of common UK household emergencies that tend to happen more frequently than others. By being prepared and knowing what to do, you can help reduce the hassle and get an action plan ready. Read on for some tips on how to cope when the going gets tough…


Kitchen fire

A fire in the kitchen is one of the most common household emergencies. In fact, on average, 44% of fires in the home start in the kitchen. The majority are caused by people trying to multitask when they’re cooking, forgetting they have left the oven, grill or hob on when they go in another room to do something else.

Unfortunately, kitchen fires can take hold exceptionally quickly, as any grease from cooking will ignite fast. A common cause is a pan left unattended on a lit hob. If the fire has taken hold, get out fast and call the fire brigade. However, if you’ve caught it in the early stages, try to suffocate the flames, such as with a large pan lid, to put them out.

Never throw water on a grease fire, as it can make the blaze worse. Once you manage to snuff the flames out, carefully remove the lid, bearing in mind it will be hot. It’s not only your food that will be ruined – sadly, your kitchen may need redecorating if any surfaces, or the walls, are fire or smoke-damaged.


Burst pipes

A water leak caused by a burst pipe can devastate your home. Pipes can burst if they freeze in cold weather, or just through age if they start to deteriorate. A water leak anywhere in the home can cause damage, whether it ruins the wallpaper or carpet, or in the worst-case scenario comes through the ceiling.

If you have a bad leak, you need to turn the main valve off immediately to stop potentially expensive water damage. If you can’t inspect the pipes yourself to find out where the problem is, call a plumber to do the job properly. You should think about pipe insulation if the burst has been caused by freezing water.

Although you may feel it’s an expense you can ill afford, it’s better than having to replace furniture and carpets or having to redecorate due to water damage – and considering more than 25% of UK homes don’t have contents insurance, this can prove expensive.


Boiler failure

When you rely on your boiler for heating and hot water, it can be disastrous if it breaks down. If you have a gas boiler, the first thing to do is check whether the pilot light has gone out. If it has, this may be just a blip that won’t happen again, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reignite it and check it has stayed on.

However, if you can’t reignite the light, or it keeps going out, it’s likely you have a boiler fault that will require a professional to test it. This is not something an unqualified person should attempt, as it can be dangerous. The problem could be anything from damaged wiring to a burnt-out switch or sensors.

Unfortunately, if a professional gas engineer condemns your boiler, you may need a new one.


Overflowing toilet

If the water in your toilet bowl fills up to the top when you flush the chain, there’s a blockage somewhere in the system. It may be something simple, like too much toilet paper having been put down, causing a blockage in the U-bend, or maybe the kids have stuffed a toy in there.

Either way, this is usually quite simple to fix yourself, simply by putting on some rubber gloves and carefully using an implement to poke out the offending item. However, if the toilet is permanently filling up from a faulty cistern, you must stop the flow by turning off the main valve at the back of the toilet.

If water has already overflowed, mop it up before it can cause any damage. If you’re good at DIY, you may be able to check for issues yourself, looking at the fill pipe and the float to see whether they’ve developed a fault that’s keeping the toilet running. If this is beyond your skills, you will need to call out a plumber to fix the problem.


Mouse or rat infestation

You may find evidence of mice or rats living in your house, such as finding sealed food half-eaten in cupboards or spotting droppings around the kitchen or in other places. Apart from the inconvenience of finding food eaten, or maybe clothing in drawers or cupboards chewed to make nests, it is also unhygienic. In serious cases, if rodents get into the wall cavities, they can chew pipes or wiring, causing extensive damage.

If there doesn’t appear to be a major infestation, you can probably deal with it yourself. Look for any crevices, inside or outside your home, where rodents might be sneaking in and fill them with sealant or wire netting. Then, set traps to catch anything that might already be inside your home. Unfortunately, if it’s a bad infestation, you will have to call in professional pest control experts, before the rodents start causing severe damage.

If you’re one of the millions of Brits who doesn’t have insurance cover, you may be looking at paying out a large sum to resolve any problems caused by household emergencies. In addition, if insured, you always need to check that you have the relevant cover, as your claim may be dismissed if you haven’t read the small print properly.

According to the Association of British Insurers, only 79% of home insurance claims are paid out – leaving the remaining 21% of householders footing the bill themselves after mistakenly thinking they are covered.

If you find yourself in this situation and need money fast, Logbook Loans can help by providing you with a short-term cash loan. When you have an emergency that needs resolving ASAP, applying for a Logbook Loan can be quicker than going to your bank or other financial institution.