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Can you locate your stopcock?

  • Almost seven million1 UK adults have no idea what a stopcock is
  • A quarter of people have never bothered to look for the stopcock in their home
  • Homeowners are more likely to know where their stopcock is than renters

Millions of Brits could be at risk of household damage from escaping water due to a lack of knowledge about their stopcock. Despite it being the main water control in homes, almost seven million people in the UK have no idea what a stopcock is and 25 per cent have never tried to locate it according to new research by Direct Line Home Insurance2.

While three quarters (77 per cent) of UK adults correctly said that a stopcock is a valve regulating the flow of cold water that supplies the house, eight per cent thought it was a plug to prevent overflow in a sink or an emergency stop button for the gas supply. Less than half (45 per cent) of 18 to 34 year olds correctly identified what a stopcock is, compared to 97 per cent of those aged over 55.

Homeowners are more knowledgeable about their stopcock, with 82 per cent having located it in their property, compared to just 57 per cent of renters. While a stopcock should rarely need to be used, it is vital to know where it is located for an emergency, as shutting off the water supply could save thousands of pounds and prevent the destruction of treasured possessions if a pipe was to burst. During freezing weather spells, as many as 3,500 claims have been recorded in a single day from burst pipe damage, costing the average household £7,0003.

Morgan Simpson, Direct Line Home Emergency Response Manager, commented: “A stopcock is essentially the off switch for your mains water supply in the home and it could be extremely costly if you don’t know where it is. Damage from burst water pipes is a massive cause of household insurance claims and the impact can be reduced if you maintain your stopcock and turn it regularly. Homeowners should definitely be familiar with their stopcock to ensure they are able to locate it in the event of an emergency. People should also make sure that they have the adequate insurance in place and that damage from burst pipes is included in their policy.”

Worryingly, one in ten (9 per cent) of those that know where their stopcock is, have never tried to turn it. Homeowners and renters should remember that a stopcock can seize up over time so set a regular reminder, every six months, to check it is working and can be turned off in an emergency. It could be the difference between a minor leak or serious flood damage.

Stopcock tips from Direct Line

Know where your stopcock is

Stopcocks are usually found in the kitchen, under the sink. However in some houses the stopcock is found in the front or back hall or in a larder unit beside the sink unit. Make sure you know where yours is so you can access it in the event of an emergency.

What does a stopcock look like?

A stopcock looks like a tap but without an outlet spout. It will be situated between two lengths of pipe, acting as a connector. This allows the stopcock to impede the flow of water when it is closed off.

Turn it regularly

When turning stopcocks back on it is a good idea not to turn them on fully to prevent them from getting stuck in the future. When turning on, turn the valve anti‐clockwise as far as it will go and then give them a slight turn clockwise.

How to turn it off

In case of water escape, locate your stopcock and simply turn the valve clockwise to turn off the water supply. Turn on the taps in the sinks and bathrooms to remove any water remaining in the household system.

Consumers concerned about the impact of escape of water in their property can take advantage of Direct Line Home insurance Plus which includes Emergency Plumber cover, with no excess to pay. The service ensures a plumber attends a customer’s property within three hours to address unstoppable leaks, following an incident such as a burst pipe. Direct Line will pay up to £500 (including VAT) for emergency assistance to cover the cost of the call‐out, labour at the customer’s home, and parts to fix the leak. With Home Insurance Plus policies from £174, customers could make significant savings if they need to make a claim.

For water leaks that can be contained by turning off the water supply, Direct Line will still ensure an Emergency Plumber is sent to the property at a time convenient for the householder. Customers also benefit from no excess charges for plumber call outs and unlimited call outs during their policy period.

Notes to editors

1275 respondents selected ‘I don’t know’ when asked what a stopcock is. Out of 2006 this is 14 per cent of the sample. Of the UK population this is 50,909,000 * (275/2006) = 6,979,050 people

2Research conducted by Opinium Research on 2,006 UK adults, 29 April to 3 May 2016

3ABI, 2014

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