If there was an emergency, or you needed to carry out some household maintenance, would you know how to stop the water supply coming into your home? Your inside stop valve, also known as the stop tap or stop cock, is the easiest way to turn your water supply on or off.
Water leaks can cause significant damage, in fact most pipe-related insurance claims cost an average of £8,800 per claim. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), home insurance providers pay out £1.8million every day in ‘water escape’ claims.
What is a Stop Tap?
The stop tap is located on a water pipe and is easy to use. There are two types of stop tap – internal and external. The internal one is situated within your home; therefore it is your responsibility to maintain, fix and replace the tap as required.
How to find your internal stop tap
The stop tap within your home is usually located somewhere close to where the water pipe enters the house. The most common place for the stop tap is underneath the kitchen sink, but it could also be:
- In an airing cupboard
- Under the stairs
- Under floorboards
- Near the front door
- In the bathroom, utility room, garage or cellar
If you live in a flat, there may be a communal stop tap if your water supply is shared with your neighbours. This is usually close to where the water pipe enters the building. There may also be an additional stop tap where the water supply enters your own flat.
The external stop tap
The external stop tap controls the mains water supply to your property and is the responsibility of the water company. It can be used for turning of the water supply during a leak, or if you are unable to find or use your internal stop tap.
You may need a key to operate an external stop tap. It is usually located in one of the following places:
- Just inside your property boundary (under a metal or plastic cover)
- Inside your meter chamber
Some properties do not have an external stop tap, but if that is the case, a qualified plumber can carry out essential work by either clamping or freezing your pipes.
If you share your water supply with other properties, please ensure that you advise your neighbours if you are turning off the water supply for any reason.
How to operate the stop tap
Stop taps are very easy to use. Turn the stop tap CLOCKWISE (or to the right) to turn the water OFF and ANTI-CLOCKWISE (or to the left) to turn it ON.
Some stop taps only require a quarter of a turn, so be careful not to overtighten. It is worth checking the stop every few months to make sure that it is working correctly and free of any leaks.
I have a holiday home – should I turn off the water when it’s not being used?
If you are leaving your holiday home unoccupied for any length of time it can be a good idea to turn the water supply off via the stop tap. In one day, 9600 litres (or 48 bathtubs) can leak from a burst pipe. This amount can be significantly reduced if the water supply is turned off.
Most modern heating systems can still operate with the mains water turned off, but if you are unsure, contact us for advice. The main cause of frozen/burst pipes during the winter is inadequate heating, therefore you should try to keep the heating on at a low level to maintain a level of heat that will prevent the pipes from freezing.
Should I turn the water off while I’m on holiday?
The safest way to prevent a severe leak while you’re away is to turn off the water supply at the stopcock. This might not stop a leak of water that’s already in the pipes, but it will limit the risk of a major flood.
According the Automobile Association (the AA), only 18% of holidaymakers turn off the stop tap when going away, despite water leaks being the most common domestic problem.
You can also turn off any appliances that use water, such as the washing machine or dishwasher. Turning your heating off while on holiday will reduce costs, but you can run the risk of a burst pipe in cold weather. If you’d like more advice, get in touch with us.