Water is essential for life, but freshwater resources are limited. Water scarcity is a growing issue, affecting billions of people and ecosystems worldwide. It plays a crucial role in agriculture, industry, and economic development, and, therefore, preserving water resources and promoting sustainable practices are necessary to ensure a secure and equitable water supply for all. The point is, water is precious and wasting it is not an option.
Knowing where your water stop valve is and how to use it (some people refer to it as a stopcock or stop tap but it all refers to the same thing) will ensure that any precious water lost in a plumbing emergency will be kept to a minimum. It doesn’t take long to lose gallons of water when pipes burst, plumbing connections are damaged, or the toilet overflows. We explore how to locate your inside and outside stop valves and how to turn them on and off so that you are fully prepared if a plumbing challenge comes your way.
How to find your inside stop valve
There is no definitive place that your inside water stop valve will be. Typically, your inside stop valve will be located near to where your water pipe enters your house on the ground floor. This may be under the stairs, in a kitchen cupboard, boiler cupboard, sometimes in the bathroom, or under the kitchen sink, but there is no set place. To find your inside stop valve, you can follow these steps:
Know what you are looking for: An internal stop valve looks like a spout-free tap or lever and sits between two lengths of pipe acting as a connector:
Look for the water meter: The water meter is usually located outside the house, near the street. It is typically housed in a concrete or plastic box with a removable lid. The inside stop valve is often found near the water meter.
Check under the kitchen sink: In many UK homes, the inside stop valve is located under the kitchen sink. Look for a valve connected to the cold-water pipe. It may be a lever-type valve or a round wheel valve.
Look in the bathroom: If you can’t find the stop valve under the kitchen sink, check the bathroom(s). Look under the sink, inside vanity units, or behind toilets. Again, search for a valve connected to the cold-water pipe.
Inspect the utility room or airing cupboard: Some UK homes have a utility room or airing cupboard where the water supply lines are located. Check these areas for a valve along the main water supply pipe. It might be housed in a small box or concealed behind a panel.
Check utility areas: In some homes, the inside stop valve is found in utility rooms where the water supply lines are accessible. These areas are often laundry rooms, garages, or storage rooms. Look for a valve along the water supply line.
Check near the water heater: If you have a water heater, the inside stop valve might be located near it. The valve could be on the cold-water supply line leading into the water heater or on the main water supply line connected to the water heater.
Look for an external access point: In certain UK homes, particularly older properties, the inside stop valve might be accessed from outside the house. Check the external walls, near the front or back of the property, for a small metal cover or box that houses the valve.
Consult the house blueprint or manual: If you have access to the house blueprint or manual, it may provide information about the location of the inside stop valve. Check plumbing diagrams or any other relevant documentation.
If you’re having trouble locating the inside stop valve, it’s recommended to consult a plumber or contact your water company for guidance.
How to find your outside water stop valve
It is always important to have a working inside stop valve to use as the primary way to turn the water to your home on and off. However, in an emergency, it may sometimes be necessary to find and turn off your outside stop valve. For example, if you experience a leak in the pipework between the inside and outside stop valves.
In London, Thames Water have upgraded most of their outside valves in recent years, so they are easier for homeowners to operate. If you look near your water meter or outside the front of your property, on the pavement, there will likely be a round or square cover. If you have an older home and you share a water supply with neighbours, it may be located at the end of your road.
Typically, Thames Water outside stop valve covers look like this: