General plumbing maintenance tips

Wed 26th Jun 2013 - 12:01pm DIY Troubleshooting General plumbing maintenance tips

Benjamin Clarke

The world of plumbing is a large one, and keeping on top of it can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Learning best practice tips from professionals may be easier than you think. Follow this simple guide to keep on top of your plumbing and heating system, making them last for many years to come without the need of expensive emergencies and big problems.

Caring for Your Stopcock

The standard British home has two stopcocks; one located outside the property boundary and the other usually located under the kitchen sink or wherever the mains water enters a property. These valves are put in place to prevent the property from flooding.

You need to take care of the one located within your home as in the case of a flood, this tap can prevent further damage. Give your stopcock a spray of WD40 every now and again and keep checking it. If you don’t give your stopcock some general TLC then it may become brittle over time and may be quite hard to turn off, this is not great when you need to isolate your water in the event of an emergency.

If you can’t find the stopcock within your home then it is advised to locate the one outside the property. Go outside and check the pavement for a small manhole, the cover should have ‘Water metre‘ or the name of your provider written on it. The cover may not have been opened for many years and may be difficult to open, so use an old flathead screwdriver and prise it open. Once you enter the manhole you should see a small dial that in some cases may be enclosed in polystyrene or a plastic case.

In some cases there could be more than one tap (if you live in a block of flats or converted home). If you are not sure which is yours then don’t just go and try all of them. Go inside your home and turn a sink tap on as far as it will go, then come back outside and check which dial is jittering. If they all are then repeat the process later on in the day.

How to stop a dripping tap

If your tap has an irritating drip and you have ensured it is turned off tightly then there is most likely something wrong with the rubber inside the tap. Most common in taps of the older variety this problem has an easily fixable solution. Firstly look at the tap, if it is dripping from the spout, then it is likely to be the rubber washer, if the tap is dripping from the top, then the O-ring needs replacing.

Step by step guide to changing the washer:


Keep all the separate parts in the correct order as you dissemble the tap, this will make it easier to put together.

* Turn the main water supply off at the stopcock.

* Put the plug in the sink so small screws will not fall down the drain.

* Take the lid off the tap (commonly the part that says H & C for hot and cold)

* Inside you will find a screw, which you need to unscrew.

* Next you need to expose the cartridge; this can sometimes be difficult as the effects of hard water can cause a build-up of limescale on the inside of the tap. In this case you may need to use an adjustable spanner and some force to get it out.

* You then need to take the cartridge down to your local plumbing centre, and ask them for a washer to fit. This will save you time and money in the long run as the people in the plumbing centre will know what type of washer is needed and the correct size.

* Unscrew the old washer and put the new on in its place.

* Put the tap back together and you should have a non-dripping tap.


Removing Limescale

Limescale is a common problem in many places all over the UK and can be a nightmare to get rid of. But it is simpler than you think to get rid of, all you need is some vinegar. If your shower head is clogged up then leave to soak in some vinegar and water overnight and the problem should be sorted.

If your taps are suffering from limescale then the best way to solve the problem is to soak some kitchen towels in the vinegar and wrap it round the tap overnight. You can also wrap some cling film round the tap to make sure it attacks the affected area. Leave it overnight and the following day the results should be amazing.

Blocked and smelly drains

Smelly drains and blocked drains can be a big problem to many people all over the world. Nearly all drains have a ‘U’ bend in them to prevent smells from sewers from coming back up the drains. If the ‘U’ bend becomes empty, the solution could just be to run the tap to fill the bend back up with water.

Blocked drains can also be easily fixed, wait until the excess water has drained away and take some bicarbonate of soda and some vinegar and place them down the drain. Two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda and a good bit of vinegar should do the job. Once these have been poured down the drain, put the plug in and the reaction starts forcing the blockage to break up and move out of the drain. Once left for around 30 minutes boil the kettle and pour the hot water down the drain.

Patchy heat coming from radiators

If you find that your radiators are giving off heat in patches (different to the top being cold and the bottom being warm) then you may find that there is sludge in your radiators and pipes. This is not as easy to get out of your heating system and should not be attempted by yourself. If this is the case then you need to call a plumber to fix the problem.

If you find your radiators are warm at the bottom and cold at the top then you need to bleed your radiators. Follow the How to Bleed a Radiator guide to make sure you are bleeding them in the correct way.

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