Do you know what a stopcock is? Or even where to find it?

If you’re facing a burst pipe or a sudden leak, you’ll need to find it sharpish and turn it off. Otherwise your home could be badly water damaged long before the plumber shows up.

Even if you have no running water, you should know where your stopcock is. (It’s also known as the main shut-off valve or stop tap.)

Generally speaking, most homes have an internal stopcock and an external stopcock. The external stopcock controls the supply of water up to the boundary of your property. But you should rarely have to use it.

Your internal stopcock controls the water supply that then enters your home. And that’s what we’ll be focussing on here.

So now, let’s help you find it.

How to find your internal stopcock

You’ll usually find the internal stopcock close to where the water supply enters your home. It looks a bit like a tap – only without the spout. If you’re going to check anywhere first, try under the kitchen sink. If it’s not there, have a look inside your cupboards, or somewhere close to the water meter.

How to use your stopcock to turn the water off

You should be able to turn the stopcock quite easily by yourself. To close it, just turn it gently clockwise (a quarter turn should be enough). Run a tap afterwards to check that the water supply has been shut off. It might take a minute for the water to drain from the pipes.    

To get your water back on, turn the stopcock anti-clockwise. Go slowly and don’t overdo it. Using too much force, when turning it clockwise or anti-clockwise, could damage it.

What to do if your stopcock isn’t working properly

If the stopcock seizes up or gets jammed in a way, try adding a little lubricant (like WD40) to see if it becomes loose. If it doesn’t, (and you can’t find anyone strong enough to turn it) a plumber should easily be able to fix a stopcock that’s stuck or isn’t working properly.

Other ways you can turn your water off

The stopcock isn’t the only way to shut off your water supply in emergencies.

You could install a Surestop switch. It’s a convenient alternative for controlling the water flow into your home without needing to rely on your stopcock.

Or there’s the external stopcock – which is almost always found outside your property. It’s owned and maintained by your water company, so it should only be used in emergencies if you can’t use the internal stopcock. It could also be shared with your neighbours – so if you do use it, remember you might be shutting off their water too.  

You should find the external stopcock somewhere near the boundary of your property.

How to keep your internal stopcock working properly

Proactive testing and maintenance will help to keep your internal stopcock in tip-top condition.

By gently turning it (twice a year should be enough), you’ll notice any issues early on. If you find there’s any stiffness or resistance, just apply a little lubricant.

Check for any visible leaks around the valve. If you spot any, be sure to get them fixed as soon as you can by calling a professional plumber

About the author

Dan Flanagan

Dan joined Domestic & General as a Digital Copywriter in 2022. He’s already helped to write and shape copy for our customers and our business audience alike. His background lies mainly in PR and Comms, writing press releases and advertising. Dan lives in Brixton, South London equidistant between the gym and the pub, fighting an eternal battle of wills.

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