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10 tips to maintain your plumbing system

1. Find your main stopcock. Ask your plumber to show you where your main stopcock is, if you don’t already know. If you have a problem with leaking water, the first thing you need to do will always be turn the water off, so you can minimise the damage.                

2. Maintain your stopcock. Check that your stopcock actually works. People often don’t turn their stopcock from one year to the next and it can seize up. Turn it at least once a year, just to make sure that it will work when you need it to.

3. Stop radiator valves from seizing up. Turn the temperature up and down periodically on each radiator. Otherwise the valves are likely to get stuck, as sludge can settle in the system.

4. Help your heating system flow freely. Turning the heating on every couple of weeks for five minutes gets the valves moving and stops them getting blocked. It prevents problems come October when the heating is suddenly turned on after six months but fails to work because something has become blocked.

5. Check your isolation valves. Check that your water-using fixtures or appliances all have isolation or shut-off valves. These will close off the water supply to a specific device with either a lever or a screwdriver. If the valve is open, the handle faces in the direction of the pipe; closed it crosses the pipe. Make sure you can turn them on and off easily.

6. Survey your plumbing system. Ask your plumber if you need shut-off or isolation valves on your water-using fixtures or appliances that don't have them already. It isn’t essential to have isolation valves on taps, but they are useful. If something starts dripping under the sink, for instance, you can just turn that off rather than the whole system.

7. Make valves easy to find. Label your isolation valves. It can save you time in a crisis. It also makes life a lot easier for any plumber coming in to deal with a problem, as it means they don’t have to trace the pipes back to the cistern to work out what each one is for. 

8. Move the dials on your thermostatic shower. If you live in a hard water area, make sure you regularly turn the temperature up and down – at least once a week. If you leave the thermostat in exactly the same place it may well scale up and if you want to change the temperature it won’t move.

9. Protect your pipes. Ensure your pipes are lagged (insulated) properly to avoid them freezing up during a cold snap.

10. Turn the water off at the mains when you go away. A lot of insurance policies say you must turn the water off if the house is empty for 30 days or more. It doesn’t take a minute to do and could save you a fortune.

Paying a Which? Trusted Trader for a basic call out and asking them to give your system a thorough check can help you avoid expensive plumbing problems in the future. If you are having a plumber in for any routine work, it’s a real opportunity to give your system a health check. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to water damage.

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