Plumbing has been a part of human society for around 5000 years. It’s changed a bit over that time, but many of the fundamentals still remain the same, and for the past 500 years or so, it’s been an integral part of life.
Yet, despite being present in every British home and used by all on a daily basis, many people have next to no knowledge of how it all works. Luckily, plumbing professionals exist to install and manage these important elements of our lives, but does that mean we should all remain in the dark?
Sometimes, it pays to know the basics.
Even if you can’t repair a boiler or replace a toilet, knowing a bit more than your average Joe about plumbing can be beneficial in the long run, from managing minor problems by yourself to identifying issues before they arise.
With that in mind, here are some plumbing tips for absolute beginners — the things we should all know.
Finding the Stopcock
What is a stopcock?
A stopcock is a valve that exists on your property. It is used to shut off mains water supply when turned in a clockwise direction. You may need to do this for a number of reasons, from emergencies to building work. But would you know where it is if you needed to shut the water down in a hurry?
Stopcocks are traditionally found under the main kitchen sink in your home. However, you may find them in your bathroom, by the front door, in the main hallway, or by your gas/electricity metres. Sometimes, though, the stopcock is not in a common location, which can be frustrating and a little stressful.
So what do you do if you can’t find the stopcock? You check unconventional locations.
A stopcock will be located somewhere where mains water runs into the home. Strange places you might find it are:
- Behind your oven or other appliances
- Under floorboards
- Outside the property, often on the street or in the garden buried under a plastic lid
- In communal areas or hallways (flats and apartments)
Turning Off Water When On Holiday
Should you turn off your water supply while away? It’s a question many ask but few are actually sure of.
Could it cause damage to your plumbing?
Turning off your water supply will not damage your plumbing. It is actually advantageous to do so when leaving for a week or two away. This is simply because you may have drips or leaks in the home that you don’t know about. If left for a long time, they can cause serious property damage. It also stops water becoming stagnant in your pipes and ensures that if there was an emergency, such as a burst water pipe outside your home, that pressure changes wouldn’t affect your plumbing systems.
As part of our plumbing tips, we advise that when turning off your water, you check that the valve has been completely closed. You can do this by running your taps and emptying your system of water.
If you find your water carries on running even after a while, then you haven’t closed the valve properly, or there is an issue you need to sort out. Test your ability to shut off the mains water supply days or weeks prior to leaving, so if there is a problem, you don’t have to stress about it while on holiday.
The added bonus of draining your system of water is that it can help stop or prevent noisy pipes, too.
Identifying Potential Problems
Emergency plumbing problems can be very expensive — both due to property and plumbing system damage. Most issues, however, can be stopped with preventative action if caught early enough. In order to prevent problems, you need to know what you are looking for. Here is a checklist of things to keep an eye/ear out for:
- Damage or cracking
- Mildew or mould
- Strange noises
- Water pressure changes
Even those inexperienced people looking for plumbing tips would expect to watch out for cracks or rust, though. What’s more important is where you look for these problems. To prevent plumbing disasters, you’ll need to check:
- External plumbing areas — These include plumbing in places like garages and outside fixtures.
- Closed off spaces — Places such as attics, basements, sealed areas, underfloor spaces and cupboards under the stairs
- Under sinks — Sinks receive a lot of usage and a prime places for wear and tear. Check pipework around sinks, as well as those harder-to-see areas leading up into basins.
- Toilets, Showers and Baths — These are areas we tend not to take a closer look at, but like sinks, they receive a great deal of use. Look inside cisterns and remove bath panelling to inspect pipework and listen for strange sounds.
- Boilers — A shiny case does not mean there is no damage occurring within. Check all pipes going in and out of your boiler and listen closely while it performs certain tasks, such as turning on, switching off, heating water and even while idle.
Think Of Your Boiler Like a Car
The average boiler has a lifespan of about 10-12 years.
The average car has a similar range.
Yet, you wouldn’t expect a car to run for a decade without any maintenance, so why do you expect your boiler to do the same? Many people fail to understand the importance of boiler repair and maintenance.
Your boiler can only be a well-oiled and efficient machine if you keep it that way. Like other machinery, boilers are prone to problems caused by usage — and we use our boilers a lot!
A boiler is a huge investment. To ensure you get the most out of it and it reaches its maximum age, you need to care for it like it’s a vehicle. Repair any issues immediately and have it taken through regular maintenance schedules carried out by professionals.
An annual check may seem extreme, but when it comes to an appliance we rely so heavily on like a boiler, the extra costs are worth the benefits of a long-lasting, more reliable and more efficient piece of equipment.