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Do you know where your stopcock is?

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An alarming seven million UK adults have no idea what a stopcock is, let alone what to do with it.

Millions of Brits could be at risk of household damage from escaping water owing to a lack of knowledge about their stopcock, according to Direct Line Home Insurance.

The stopcock is the main water control in homes, but almost seven million people in the UK have no idea what it is or does. A quarter have never tried to locate it in their home, said Direct Line.

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 it do?

Three quarters of UK adults correctly said that a stopcock is a valve regulating the flow of cold water that supplies the house – in order words you can turn it to shut off your water supply – although this fell to less than half of 18 to 34 year olds, compared to 97% of those aged over 55.

Homeowners are more knowledgeable about their stopcock, with 82% having located it in their property, compared to just 57% of renters.

Why is it important?

It’s vital in 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 £7,000, according to Direct Line.

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 10 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.