How to Find Your Outside Stopcock

In order to ensure that your home’s plumbing and drainage systems remain in good working order, it is essential to know what to do when something goes wrong. If you are experiencing a leak or a burst pipe, this means you need to be able to quickly switch the mains water supply off to prevent flooding or water damage.

In order to do this, you will need to know the location of your property’s stop taps, also known as stopcocks. These valves control the supply of cold water into your home, and can be used to shut the supply off at the source if you are dealing with a major leak.

Every property will have two stopcocks – an internal stop tap located within the home, and an external stop tap to be found outside in close proximity to the building. Most people will already know where their internal stop taps are located, but they may be unsure about how to find their external stop taps.

Here, the drainage experts at Lanes Group will provide all the information you’ll need to find and use your property’s outside stopcock, and explain when it’s appropriate to make use of them.

Where is your external stop tap?

Because external stop taps are located outside the home, they can be more difficult to find than the internal stop tap, which can reliably be found under the kitchen sink, under the stairs, in an airing cupboard or utility room, or in a downstairs toilet.

By contrast, you may need to search a little bit for your external stop tap, which will be located outside the front of your property, near to the property boundary. It could be in any of the following common locations:

  • On or near the road in front of your home
  • In the same pit or chamber as your water meter
  • In the soil or grass at the end of your garden, or on the adjacent pavement
  • Embedded into the grass verge at the front of the property
  • At the end of your driveway
  • At the end of your road, if you and your neighbours have a shared supply pipe

You will be able to recognise the external stop tap from the small plastic or metal cover, about the same size as a CD case, which will usually be marked with text saying “WATER”, “STOPCOCK”, or simply the letter “W”.

It is important to know how to find your external stop tap before a water leak occurs, so if you do not know where it is, it could be a good idea to search for it and make a note of its location for when an emergency arises.

How to use your external stop tap

It is important to note that in most cases where you need to switch off your cold water supply, you should be using your inside stop valve. However, if the internal stop tap cannot be accessed for some reason – or if you have a leak in the supply pipe between the inside and outside stop valves – then using the external valve may be necessary,

In these cases, follow these steps:

  • Open up the stopcock cover using a flathead screwdriver
  • Use a torch to assist you in locating the valve within the chamber if necessary
  • Turn the stop tap clockwise using either your screwdriver or a dedicated stop tap key, depending on the design of the valve. If you need a stop tap key, you can purchase one from a DIY or hardware store
  • Stop turning the valve when it can no longer be turned, and wait for all of the water to run out of your taps

Who is responsible for the external stopcock?

Responsibility and liability for your external stop tap will depend on where it is located. If it is within the property boundary, then it is your responsibility to maintain and operate the valve when necessary, including making repairs to the valve if it becomes damaged.

If the stop tap is located outside of the property boundary, then it is the responsibility of your local water company. In these cases, you may need to seek permission to operate the external stopcock, even in an emergency – this is because for many properties, a single stop tap will connect to multiple homes, and switching it off will turn the water supply off for your neighbours as well.

If your external stopcock falls under the water company’s jurisdiction, you may also need to seek permission to turn the supply back on after it has been switched off. The supplier will be responsible for maintenance and repairs, but if you operate the external stopcock and damage the valve, you may still be liable for the costs.

Because of these complications associated with using the outside stop tap, it is recommended that you use the internal stopcock in the majority of instances.

When should you call for help?

If you are having trouble locating the external stopcock or want to know whether you have permission to operate it in an emergency, you should contact your water supplier to see if they can help you.

Once you have successfully located the external or internal stopcock and used it to turn the water supply off, you should get in touch with a service provider who can help you fix the underlying problem with your pipes. If the issue is with your water main or water supply pipes, you should contact expert plumbers; if the problem is with your drainage system, then Lanes Group is here to help.

Find out more about our domestic drain repair and relining services here, or give us a call on 0800 526 488 to learn more.