From bursting frozen pipes to the steady trickle of a leak hidden behind a wall, even small amounts of water can soon spread throughout your home – and sometimes into your neighbours' homes too.
Unfortunately, there's a lot more at risk than just your upholstery. Flood and water damage can turn dangerous, so it's important that you know exactly how to react if the worst happens.
We've partnered with blogger Wendy over at Daisies & Pie
to give you some advice on dealing with water damage. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Stay away from the water
It's not just a case of keeping your shoes dry. If you don't know where the leak is coming from yet, then you don't know whether it's fresh or waste water. And you certainly don't want to come into contact with contaminated water.
Even if you're sure that it's fresh water, it may be running across live electrical wires hidden behind walls, and touching it could put you at serious risk of a shock.
Turn off your electricity and gas
If the flooding seems widespread, or the leak is near an electricity source, turn off the electricity supply immediately. You can do this at the mains fuse box. But if you think the fuse box itself might have been affected by water, or you can see signs of overheating, call a professional before you touch anything.
If the water has spread to any gas appliances, you'll need to turn off the gas supply too. You should find a handle next to your gas meter – turn it through a quarter turn so that it's at 90 degrees to the attached gas pipe.
Turn off your water supply
First, find the stopcock to cut off the water supply. If you're sure the water is leaking from just one particular tap or toilet, you can look for a stopcock under or behind it. By closing this local stopcock, you can cut off the water to just that appliance.
If you can't find a local stopcock – or you're not sure where the leak is coming from – look for the main stopcock for your home.
It's usually under the kitchen sink, but you can also find another one outside. It's usually beneath a metal cover, which could be at the end of your drive, or near the public pavement. The sooner you close it, the less water you'll have soaking into the carpet.
To see exactly how it's done, take a look at our video
on how turn off your stopcock.
Get professional advice
Even in cases where the leak or flood might seem small, your water-damaged appliances may no longer be safe to use.
In severe cases of flooding, there could be some structural damage to your home. So make sure an expert has had a look before you fire up a damaged oven or start walking on damaged staircases and floorboards.
In any case, you can call in a professional
to help you fix the source of the leak, to help make sure there's no further water damage in the future.
Get ready to dry things out
After you've used a mop or towels to get rid of the majority of the water, there are a few things you can do to speed up the drying process.
Remove your wet furniture, carpets and rugs. Open your windows, turn up the heating and make sure you're circulating as much air as possible around the damp area. You could also try using fans, or leaving a dehumidifier on in the affected area.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you could be facing several weeks of drying out before your home is back to normal.
So as always, prevention is the best approach. Keep an eye out for early signs of leaks or damp spots, and insulate your pipes in the winter.
If you're renting, make sure your landlord has your contact details, so you can react to a leak or flood as soon as possible.