From stopcocks to boilers, water pressure to fuse boxes, 62% of the nation admit they know very little about how their homes actually function...
- The average amount of damage caused by a water leak in the home is a huge £4,000*
- Insurers pay out £1.8 million* for leaking and burst pipes every day with one in four building and contents insurance claims are down to “an escape of water”
- 62% of the nation admits they know very little about how our homes function and where key utilities are located
What is a stopcock? A stopcock is a control tap that can turn your home water supply on and off, and is the only way to quickly stop a leak from causing more havoc. However, over 41%* of the nation admit to not knowing where their water stopcock lives.
If you’ve ever settled down to sleep and suddenly noticed a dripping sound, or maybe gone to have a shower to find a giant puddle of water left on the bathroom floor, this could be a sign of a burst pipe or leak.
As these scenarios are common occurrences, it's quite easy for leaks to be mistaken for something less sinister - in fact, the Association of British Insurers claim that at least one in four building and contents insurance claims are down to “an escape of water”.
You should check your water usage and bills regularly to see if there are any sudden increases that could be caused by water escaping. By signing up to an online account, you can easily access your bills and compare them month by month. Even with utilities on the increase, if you’re spotting a drastic rise in cost, it could be a hidden leak.
Keep an eye on your water pressure. Whilst no one enjoys a low-pressure shower or spending an hour running a bath after a long day, this could be a sign of a leak in your pipes. So, if we’re describing an evening that feels all too familiar, it’s worth giving your taps and shower heads a clean to remove any limescale first to eliminate that as the cause. And if that’s not successful, it could be time to get your pipes checked.
Finally, look out for mould and damp smells, as well as puddles on the floor which can all indicate an underground water leak.
So, if you have spotted a leak - what’s next? Well, this is where your stopcock comes in.
You need to locate the stopcock to turn off your water supply completely… but where on earth does it live?
Where is your stopcock?
What you’re looking for is a tap situated between two lengths of pipe. The first place to look is under the kitchen sink as this is where stopcocks are located in most homes. However, if you live in an older house you may need to keep hunting, try looking:
- In the back of a bathroom cupboard
- Under the stairs
- In the Hallway
- Near the garage
- In the airing cupboard
- Around the boiler
- Around the front door, behind a panel (not the most obvious of hiding places)
How to operate a stopcock:
The internal stopcock is what controls the water for your home, so it should be the first port of call when you spot a leak. Once you’ve found it, turn the stopcock in a clockwise direction to stop the supply to your home. Don’t be surprised if it takes the water a few turns of the stopcock and a few minutes for the water to completely stop, this is normal.
If you need to get your water supply running again, simply turn the stopcock anticlockwise and wait a few minutes for the water to return.
You may even be able to find two stopcocks - one external and one internal. The main thing to remember is that these control different water supplies and external stopcocks are almost exclusively operated by plumbers. External stopcocks belong to the local water supplier and so even if it’s an emergency, you’ll need to seek their permission to operate it.
In most cases the external stopcock is located under a cover on the road or pavement outside your house, or at the end of your road if you live in an older house. So, thankfully, it’s not that easy to accidentally turn the wrong stopcock off.
Top Tip: It’s worth turning your internal stopcock off when you go on holiday to prevent disasters happening whilst you're away.
What if turning off the stopcock didn’t work?
You’ve turned the Stopcock off but water is still running... don’t panic, it may just be because the stopcock isn’t fully switched off. As we said above, it may take a few turns of the handle, so make sure a) it’s definitely the stopcock you’re turning and b) you’ve turned until you can’t turn it anymore.
Still not working? Try loosening the stopcock and then apply extra force when turning it off.
If water is still running, it could mean that your house's stopcock is faulty. It’s not uncommon for a stopcock to become worn out and stop working completely but if this is the case, make sure to call a plumber so they can replace your old stopcock with a brand new shiny one!
Top Tip: Over time, stopcocks can break, making it hard to turn off your water supply if you spot a leak or burst pipe. Worryingly, few people regularly test their stopcocks to check they are working. To check your stopcocks, run water through a tap then turn the stopcock off to see if the water stops.
It’s worth checking every six months to give you peace of mind that it can be turned off in an emergency and potentially make the difference between ruined wallpaper and major structural damage. If you’re forgetful, why not set a calendar reminder on your phone to make sure that you’re checking regularly.
The fuse box
What is a fuse box? A fuse box is the central switchboard for all the electricity in your house. Power that comes from your utility provider goes to the fuse box, and then is distributed around your home, powering your appliances.
Maybe you’re more familiar with the term fuse box than stopcock, but still, 31%* of the nation recently said they were unsure where their fuse box is located, and even if they did manage to locate it, they’d have no idea what to do to reset the trip switch.
Problems arise when the fuse box ‘trips’, causing electricity to cut out throughout your property. This can be caused by many factors including a faulty appliance, light bulbs blowing and too many appliances being used at once. The fuse box ‘tripping’ is a safety mechanism to cut off a sudden surge in electricity that could otherwise be dangerous.
What this does mean is that unless you know exactly where to locate your fuse box and which switch to flick to ensure a return of power in the home, you’ll likely be left in the dark.
Where is your fuse box? Fuse boxes tend to be found in closets, communal hallways and basements and are located within a metal box on the wall.
How do I restore power? Once you’ve located the fuse box, you simply need to ensure that all the switches within are set to the ‘on’ position.
Top tip: If you attempt to flick a switch to ‘on’ and it immediately trips again, this could be a sign that there is a faulty appliance still connected to the mains electricity within your home. Often the electrical device you last used is the culprit so ensure that this is switched off and disconnected from the mains before resetting the switch.
What is a boiler? The purpose of the boiler is to heat water for distribution throughout the house, like via our taps and showers.
Where is the boiler? You may think the boiler is a home utility we’re all familiar with, but a shocking 26%* of us admit to not knowing where our boiler is located. Boilers are often located close to the rooms in which they’re most needed - such as the kitchen or the bathroom. It may also be located in your utility room, if you have one, and is encased within a large white metal box.
Problems can arise when the water pressure in your taps and shower is low, meaning the water will come out much more slowly and inefficiently. 32%* of the nation say they’ve never actually checked their boiler pressure, but it’s essential to do so, as low pressure could be an indication of an issue with your home plumbing system. Testing your water pressure via the boiler every so often allows you to pick up signs of a problem before they cause more damage.
How do I check and adjust my water pressure? You should first locate the filling loop on the boiler. The filling loop is the silver flexi pipe with a tap on it, and this will allow you to repressurise your boiler if needed. To increase the pressure, turn the tap by 45 degrees. A good pressure level should read around 1 Bar on the pressure gauge - this will show within the ‘green zone’.
Being able to successfully re-pressurise your boiler, and check the pressure more generally will help to reduce the risk of more significant damage later down the line.
Making a claim
However, you may find yourself unlucky enough to be out just when your new-found knowledge is needed. If you’ve returned to find your home damaged, you need to make a claim on your home insurance.
You should report the claim to your insurance company as soon as possible. For straightforward claims, a quick cash settlement may be possible for you to arrange your own repairs.
Alternatively, insurance companies will arrange a contractor to visit your home and assess the water damage. The contractor will establish what work is needed and if any specialist work is required (like asbestos removal or drying), they’ll explain what this means and who will do the work. If a claim isn’t covered, they’ll let you know as soon as possible.
Serious damage such as water leaks can sometimes involve lots of different people, therefore it’s important you know who’s doing what and who to contact about your claim. If the insurance company has appointed a contractor to complete the repair, they’ll be your main point of contact for everything related to your claim. If a drying company or asbestos specialist are appointed, these companies will be coordinated through your insurance provider's contractor.
Glen Mankelow, our LV= home insurance underwriter states: "When a flood or water leak happens, the repairs and remediation can be very expensive as well as causing devastation. Large amounts of water can damage the building itself and completely destroy your contents. It’s important that when you take out, change or renew your home insurance policy that you answer all questions honestly and provide true and accurate information. If you don’t we may reject a claim, cancel or avoid our policy (treat it as if it never existed)."
Repairing your home
Your insurance companies’ suppliers will explain what work is to be done and will coordinate with you to make sure you’re happy with the planned repairs. Where required, you may need to choose decorations or replacement fixtures and fittings so these can be available in time.
Your home will need to be dry before repairs can go ahead. This either happens naturally, or by arranging for drying equipment to be installed. It might be necessary to remove some fixtures and fittings to help dry out the property, Your insurer should arrange this for you as part of the drying programme.
The contractors working at your house will work with you to minimise any disturbance to your family life, however at times disturbance is unavoidable, so your insurer should chat to you about alternative accommodation. When all work is finished, you’ll be asked if you’re happy with the repairs that have been completed before closing the claim.
If you’re looking for more information on insuring your home against water damage, read our guide on what to do if there's a leak in your home.
* Research of 2,000 Brits was commissioned by LV and conducted by Perspectus Global in June 2023
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