Your plumbing system is essential for many of your home comforts, influencing everything from clean dishes to being warm. Given its importance, it is surprising how few people go out of their way to ensure that everything is running smoothly – especially as repairs and replacements can be costly. Things do go wrong, and the time will come that you need to call in a plumber to get everything sorted. However, much as you check the tyres and change the oil on your car without the need to call in a mechanic, there are several easy steps to take that will keep your home plumbing operating to capacity.
1. Find the Stopcock
You probably already know the location of your stopcock but, if not, finding it should be the top priority. If you have a plumber in, they will be able to point out its location. Its importance stems from the fact that it can turn the water into your property on and off in an instant. It is the entry point for all water into your home, so if anything goes wrong with the plumbing, this is your first port of call. Turn it off as soon as possible, and you will minimise the risk of water damage or any other ill effects.
2. Check the Stopcock Annually
You don’t need to be overly lucky to go years on end without any issue with your plumbing, and the stopcock will see no use at all. As with any moving part in a plumbing system, the stopcock is liable to seize up or otherwise deteriorate. Part of your plumbing maintenance schedule requires you to test the stopcock at least once a year – ideally before any situation gets out of control. Any issues that arise should then be seen to sooner rather than later.
3. Give Radiator Valves a Workout
The nature of heating means that unless you live somewhere that never really gets warm, you do not know that there is a problem with your heating until you need it – which could be months from now. A common plumbing problem is that radiator valves can seize up, much like the stopcock – when the weather cools down; there are more calls for a replacement radiator valve than anything else in the first few days. The valve itself is usually fine, but the sludge in the system can cause them to seize. To combat this, turn the temperature up and down occasionally on each radiator, even if it is not on. This will encourage different flows and prevent seizure when you need them most.
4. Don’t Neglect the Heating when its Warm
As noted, you can go months on end without the need for your home heating system, and it too can stop working at any time. Blockages are relatively common, but they can be addressed by diligent residents who turn the system over every couple of weeks. If issues arise, you can address them before it becomes a problem, and the act of being on will flush the system through, preventing those blockages.
5. Check Isolation Valves when you Check the Stopcock
If you have committed to an annual check on the stopcock, it is worth getting into the habit of doing the same with isolation valves. These are effectively small stopcocks, and rather than stopping any water entering the property; they prevent it from reaching certain appliances. This can be handy on weekends when plumbers are more expensive or when awaiting parts, as you can temporarily address a leak without losing water throughout the home – but they must work as needed.
6. Ask your Plumber’s Opinion on your System
There is a balance to be struck here, as plumbers are always after more work and you’ll have to use your knowledge in conjunction with their opinion. When the opportunity arises, ask for advice on whether they would add isolation valves in strategic parts of the home or indeed for any other changes they might make.
7. Label Valves Appropriately
If you have numerous isolation valves in your property, it makes sense to have them reasonably close together. With the sink, washing machine and other appliances nearby, it is common for them to congregate in the kitchen. In emergencies, you or your plumber do not want to waste time checking each one for the desired result, do take the time to make it clear which valve controls what.
8. Don’t Keep your Shower on the Same Temperature
You will have noticed that many of these tips involve addressing issues before they have the chance to occur, and this extends to the shower. If your shower has a thermostat, leaving it on the same temperature can see the controller seizing, especially in harder-water areas, making it difficult to change the temperature in the future. Turn it over regularly to dislodge any build-up.
9. Survey your Pipe Protection
Pipes make the plumbing happen, but they are susceptible to changes in the weather and other external factors unless adequately protected. If you have never checked insulation and other protections, then it is worth doing so at the earliest opportunity. Each year, you should then check the integrity of any pipe protection you have in place, as frozen pipes can be an inconvenience at best and a flood risk at worst.
10. Consider Insurance Requirements
Home is often the safest place imaginable, but you are surrounded by water, electricity, gas and other potentially dangerous things always. Electricity and gas are not relevant here, but water definitely is, and insurance policies often stipulate certain requirements specifically related to the water supply. A common one involves turning off the stopcock if the property is to be vacant for more than a month, but it is worth checking for any other relevant considerations when you can.