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Advice in the event of an Emergency

Turning off your water in an emergency

If you have a leak needing fixing, call me.


But, here's some suggestions you might want to consider before I get there. It is relatively simple to turn off your water supply.


Safety first, though. Water and electricity is a bad mixture. If the leak is bad, and might get into lights, sockets or other electrical items, you should turn off your mains electricity as well as your water.


To turn off the water, you just need to turn off the indoor main stop valve, or stopcock. This is often, but not always, located under the kitchen sink. It’s worthwhile knowing where it is in your property. If you don’t know, your neighbour may be able to help you if the house is similar to yours. If it is stiff to turn, try applying a little penetrating oil. But don’t force it too hard, or you could end up with two leaks! When it is turned off, drain away the remaining water by turning on the bath and sink taps until the flow of water has stopped.


If your cold taps are fed from a cistern (water tank), typically located in the loft space, these often hold around 50 gallons (or 240 litres, if you prefer) or more, so it may take a while to drain. (Hot water is stored in the hot water cylinder, usually located in the airing cupboard.) There may be either a gate valve or mini stopcock available to turn off the water flow out from the cold cistern, if you can get into the loft. (Unless it’s the cistern that’s leaking, in which case just use the taps to drain it out as quickly as possible after turning of the main stopcock.)



An alternative to turning off all the water is just to stop water flowing into specific items. The cold water cistern, and many toilet cisterns, usually have a “ball valve” or “float valve” and you can tie up the valve arm by placing a piece of wood across the cistern and tying the arm of the ball valve to it. Either way, the flow of water should be stopped.


Some items today are fitted with a “service valve” or “isolation valve”. This allows water to be turned off just to individual items, making it much easier to service or repair them. Check the supply pipe to the item – water into a toilet cistern, pipes leading to the taps, etc. They should be close to the item in question, if they are present. Simply turn the slotted screw 90 degrees with a screwdriver and it’s done. In the picture here, it's in the "closed" position, with the slot across the valve. It’s worth having them fitted if you don’t have them yet. (Why not choose a new set of taps too and give the room a new look?)


If for some reason you wish to turn off the water at the outdoor stopcock, you will first need to find it, usually near the boundary of your property. Lift the hinged cover. You may find a polystyrene or similar cover under it. Remove that, and you should see the stopcock. There may be a water meter too. Reach down and turn the stopcock, or you can buy a stopcock key to make it easier to reach the stopcock. When you have reached it, turn it to cut off the water.


If you cannot locate the external stopcock, you can get in touch with your water company. They may make a charge to locate this for you.



This advice is given as general guidance only. No liability can be accepted for incidents arising from this advice. If you are not sure, call a professional plumber. If you're local, please try me first!