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Turning off your water              

There will be times when you need to turn off your water either in an emergency when you have a leak, or for doing repairs like changing a tap washer. Either way it's important that you know how to do this. There are various points at which you can do it.


Simplified diagram showing shut off points for water        
You should have a main stop cock somewhere in your house which you'll need to find. The main stop cock will often be found together with other utilities like gas and electricity very close to where they enter your house. When you find it try turning it off. You'll probably find it's quite stiff as it's rarely used. Try spraying a little WD40 on the shaft.    

Types of stop cock



Tip if you find it hard to turn remove the tap handle by unscrewing the retaining screw and pulling it off (or gently tap it with a hammer if won't pull off easily) then you'll have a square shaft which you can turn with an adjustable spanner.


Alternatively you could find a main stop cock in the street outside your house.
This is actually the property of the your water board. But it can be used to turn of the supply to your house in an emergency. (NB if you live in a house converted into flats you may share this stop cock with the other flats, so turning off your supply here will turn off theirs too.)

The older types need a large metal key to turn them off which is quite long as the stop cock can be quite deep (available at good DIY shops). The newer (round) ones have plastic fittings and you should find a plastic key inside after you lift the lid. Use an old screwdriver to get the lid up. You may find a load of soily dust inside which will have to be dug out first to get to the stopcock itself

Right. Two slightly different styles of old street stopcock covers.

Below is a universal stopcock key. Available at good DIY stores £10-15

A more modern street stopcock. These have a plastic stopcock quite near the surface. If you're lucky there should be a small stop-cock key inside

As well as mains stop cocks you will probably have stop cocks around the house to enable you to isolate individual taps. You'll probably find one under your sink to switch off the mains cold water supply. It will probably look like one of those pictured above.

Sometimes you'll find very handy in-line shut off valves prior to taps, toilets, washing machines etc. This is great as it allows you to isolate individual items. These will have a little knob you can turn through 90degrees to shut off the supply, or, as pictured right they are shut off with a screwdriver. When the slot is in line with the pipe the valve is open. When it's a right angles the valve is shut.

Gravity fed water systems
If you've got a gravity feed heating/ water supply system which involves a tank usually in the loft(or somewhere up high) and a hot water cylinder you'll find that even with the incoming mains off the tank in the loft will still supply water to the hot taps and sometimes water to the cold in the bathroom and toilet. The tank in the loft will often have a stop cock so you can stop the tank emptying. If you're fortunate you may find individual shut off valves on the hot taps, toilet etc. The kitchen cold water will come off the mains.(see section on how your heating/hot water system works)

NB If you can't find a shut off valve you could let the feed tank drain completely with the mains shut off. The only problem with this is that you may end up with air locks in the pipe work when you come to turn it back on which can be tricky to get rid of.

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