Cold Water Tank Overflowing — How to Replace a Ballcock Washer

Updated on March 3, 2018
eugbug profile image

Eugene, an avid self-taught DIYer, has acquired 30 years of experience with power/hand tools, plumbing, electrics, and woodwork.

Source

Leaking Valves, Overflowing Water Tanks and Toilet Cisterns

You hear water running outside your home. You look up and see a pipe sticking out from the edge of the roof or soffit which you've never even noticed before. Water is trickling out from the pipe and down onto the ground.
That mysterious pipe is the overflow from the cold water header tank or cistern in your attic. If the tank overfills, excess water flows safely via the overflow to the outdoors. It's not likely to be a catastrophe, and the flow may only be a trickle, but if you have a water meter and pay for your water, obviously the cost of this wastage can mount up.
This guide explains the basics of the pipes and valves in home plumbing systems and how to remedy an overflowing cold water tank in the loft. You can use the same repair principles for remedying a leaking toilet cistern. There is some variation in the type of valves fitted to tanks. Newer tanks are fitted with diaphragm valves, whereas older tanks use a sliding valve system with a replaceable washer as shown in the photos below.

Note: This article covers replacing a washer in an old style ballcock valve (part 1 valve). This valve is actually against regulations in new installations.There are several different types of valves different to the one below, but all of them use some form of fiber/rubber washer/O-ring/diaphragm system to shut off flow.

What is the Cold Water Tank in the Attic For?

The cold tank in the loft serves three purposes, firstly it acts as a storage reservoir and can supply water in the event of an interruption in supply from your water company. This cold water supplies WCs, showers, baths and hand basin taps (faucets), and feeds into the bottom of the hot water tank. The water isn't drinkable and shouldn't supply the cold taps in the kitchen because it has been lying indefinitely in an open tank into which anything could have dropped (insects, spiders, and possibly birds, bats and their droppings!). You can make a cover from plastic or plywood to stop this happening.
The second function of the tank is to provide a pressure head and feed for the hot water tank (gravity feed). Water flows out from the bottom of the cold tank (the blue line in the diagram below) to the bottom of the hot tank. Because the cold tank is higher than the hot tank, the resulting pressure forces water through the tank and out the top. Water in the hot tank is heated by an electric (immersion) element and / or heating system boiler (furnace).
Another function of the tank is to collect expanding water as it rises in the expansion tube when the water in the hot tank is heated.

Older buildings only use the tank in the attic for pressurizing the hot water tank and water is fed from the rising main to all fixtures. This is called a "direct system".

Domestic Plumbing Systems - Pipe Layout in House

The diagram below outlines the most basic plumbing arrangement in a modern home. You may have extra plumbing fixtures, but the basic principle is the same, although the hot water tank can be located on the ground floor or on upper floors. Some older houses may not have a tank in the loft.

Inside the house, several gate or ball valves allow water to be shut off to various sections of the plumbing system. A gate valve has a wheel/knob which is turned clockwise to shut off flow. A ball or quadrant valve has a lever handle which is lined up with the pipe when the valve is on. To turn it off, the handle must be turned through 90 degrees so that it is perpendicular to the pipe.

Gate valve
Gate valve | Source
Ball valve (quadrant valve)
Ball valve (quadrant valve) | Source

How Valves Are Used to Isolate Sections of the Plumbing

Water enters the building at ground level.

  • Valve 1 is located directly outside the premises on a wall or in a box in the ground. This normally has a square section on the end of the shaft and needs to be operated with a key. In colder climates it may be in the basement. This enables the water supply entering the building to be cut off. Unlike a gate valve, this valve has a rubber seal which tightens against a seat so that water can be totally shut off. There may be another stopcock outside the boundary of the premises under an inspection cover but sometimes this is shared and cuts off water to several homes
  • Valve 2 located indoors is the main stop cock, and shuts off water where the service main enters the building. Drinking water must not be supplied from the tank in the loft, and comes directly from the service main.
  • Valve 3 shuts off the feed to the cold water tank in the loft to allow maintenance or drainage of the tank.
  • Valve 4 shuts off the cold feed to the bottom of the hot tank, removing the pressure, and this prevents hot water water leaving the top of the tank.
  • Valve 5 shuts off feed to WCs, baths, showers, wash basins etc. There may only be one feed pipe from the cold tank to both the hot water tank and these fixtures, in which case there will only be one valve to shut off this supply, i.e one valve shuts off both cold water and hot water (because pressure is removed).

You may have additional valves feeding each appliance. These valves are usually small isolating types which are operated by turning a screw or short lever.

The hot tank is vented to the atmosphere via an expansion pipe which runs up into the loft to the cold tank. This allows expansion to take place without restriction as water is heated. Also if the heating system malfunctions and water in the tank boils, steam can escape and water can flow safely back into the cold tank.

In-direct Plumbing System

Schematic of basic plumbing system in the home
Schematic of basic plumbing system in the home | Source

Home Heating System Expansion Tank

If you have an open or vented heating system, there will also be a small reservoir tank in your attic. This is a top up reservoir for water in radiators and boiler, and also collects water as it expands in the heating system. An expansion pipe runs from the boiler up to the tank and then bends downwards over the tank so that water can drain. If your central heating system overheats, this pipe can also vent steam. Overheating could be caused by faulty thermostats forcing an oil or gas boiler to remain on all the time, but but more likely due to a circulating pump failure (or loss of power to the pump) on a solid fuel system with a back boiler and the radiators upstairs turned off. Alternatively a failed immersion thermostat could cause water to boil in the tank. The tank is normally fed by the same cold water pipe as the larger tank. This small tank also has a ball cock which can suffer from the same problems as the main cold water tank.

How a Ballcock Valve Works

The tank in the loft is fitted with a ballcock valve (also known as a balltap or float valve) to prevent it over filling. This is the same as the system used in a toilet cistern. Water enters via the valve, and as the level in the tank rises, it pushes upwards on the underside of a plastic or brass float attached to a lever arm. The leverage of the arm creates sufficient force to close the valve once the tank has sufficiently filled.

Cold water tank in the loft
Cold water tank in the loft | Source
Ballcock in a water tank. The red float attaches via an arm to the valve. Once the water level rises sufficiently, the arm pushes on the valve, closing it
Ballcock in a water tank. The red float attaches via an arm to the valve. Once the water level rises sufficiently, the arm pushes on the valve, closing it | Source

What Causes the Cold Tank to Overflow?

  • The float has developed a leak so that it fills with water, sinking, or providing insufficient force to close the valve
  • The rubber washer in the valve has deteriorated so that it doesn't seal properly
  • The brass nipple in the valve has worn to such an extent from decades of abrasion by particles in the water that it won't seal any more. (a ridge can develop in the wall of the nipple's tip. In this case, the valve will have to be replaced

Any of these scenarios will cause water level to rise in the tank, eventually causing an overflow.

What Tools are Required to Replace a Washer in the Ballcock Valve?

  • Water pump pliers or alternatively a pipe wrench (Stilson wrench) or vise grips
  • Flat blade screwdriver
  • Small pliers -
  • Long nose (snipe nose) pliers, not essential, but useful for pulling out the split pin
  • Torch - ideally a head torch
  • Knife

These are just some of the 20 Essential Tools You Need For Home Maintenance

Clockwise from top - Water pump pliers, standard jaw pliers, long nose (snipe) pliers, curved jaw vise grips, flat blade screwdriver
Clockwise from top - Water pump pliers, standard jaw pliers, long nose (snipe) pliers, curved jaw vise grips, flat blade screwdriver | Source
A head torch is great for working in low light conditions and keeps your hands free
A head torch is great for working in low light conditions and keeps your hands free | Source

Step 1 - Turn Off the Valve on the Pipe Feeding the Tank

As described in the explanation of plumbing systems above, this is valve 3. This may be located downstairs, near the cold tank or near the hot tank. You will have to trace the piping and by a process of elimination, identify which valve controls what. If you push the float of the ball cock downwards and no water flows into the tank, you have found the right valve. Usually valve 3 (shown in the diagram above) feeding the tank is on a 1/2 inch / 15 mm pipe.

Step 2 - Remove the End Cap From the Valve in the Tank

The valve on this tank is a slide valve type. Inside the body of the valve is a nylon or brass slider with a rubber washer embedded in the end. Water flows out through a nipple inside the valve. The slider is pushed against this nipple by the float arm and this cuts off flow.
Using the water pump pliers, pipe wrench or vise grips, unscrew the end cap. If it's obstinate and refuses to turn, try pouring some hot water from a kettle over the cap, this should expand it slightly and make it easier to turn.

Remove the end cap
Remove the end cap | Source

Step 3 - Remove the Split Pin

A split (cotter) pin holds the float arm in place. Squeeze the two ends together with the pliers. Now use the long nose pliers to grip the looped end of the pin and pull it out. If you rotate the pin backwards and forwards while pulling, it makes it easier. If its really tight, tap it with a hammer (don't hit it hard, just use lots of light taps).

Squeeze the ends of the split pin together
Squeeze the ends of the split pin together | Source
Pull and twist backwards and forwards
Pull and twist backwards and forwards | Source

Step 4 - Remove the Float Arm

There is a knack to doing this. Move the float arm into a horizontal position and then pull it downwards. You will likely need to wiggle it a bit to get it out.

Remove the float arm. Hold it horizontally and push down
Remove the float arm. Hold it horizontally and push down | Source
This is what the end of the arm looks like. The "heart" shaped bit fits into the slider and pushes it backwards and forwards
This is what the end of the arm looks like. The "heart" shaped bit fits into the slider and pushes it backwards and forwards | Source

Step 5 - Check the Float

Over time, floats can become cracked or develop leaks where they screw onto the arm. Shake the float to see whether there's any water in it. You can buy replacement floats in a hardware store.

Shake the float to see if there's any water in it
Shake the float to see if there's any water in it | Source

Step 6 - Remove the Slider

Push a narrow blade screwdriver up into the slot in the underside of the valve. Push the slider so that it sticks out of the valve body. You wont get it all the way out with the screwdriver, so grip the end and pull it out with your fingers or nails.

If the washer looks ok and isn't excessively worn, the nipple in the valve might be worn so that it doesn't seal properly against the washer. If this is the case, consider replacing the complete valve. A new valve will have a push type fitting suitable for connecting to copper or plastic tubing, or alternatively a compression fitting. You can read more about these type of fittings in my article

"A Complete Guide to Using Plumbing Fittings for Joining PVC, PEX, and Copper Pipe"

Push the valve out with a screwdriver
Push the valve out with a screwdriver | Source
Pull out the slider
Pull out the slider | Source
The slider has a removable washer embedded in the end
The slider has a removable washer embedded in the end | Source
Water comes out through this nipple. Eventually over a period of decades, grooves can form at the end and the rubber washer at the end of the slider won't seal properly. So the complete ballcock valve will have to be replaced
Water comes out through this nipple. Eventually over a period of decades, grooves can form at the end and the rubber washer at the end of the slider won't seal properly. So the complete ballcock valve will have to be replaced | Source

Step 7 - Remove the Washer

Push it out with a screwdriver.

Push out the washer with a screwdriver
Push out the washer with a screwdriver | Source
This washer is well past its "sell by date"
This washer is well past its "sell by date" | Source

Step 8 - Replace the Washer

You can buy a washer in a store or make one from a suitably thick scrap of sheet rubber. If you are making one, use the perimeter of the slider as a guide and then pare to fit. Push the washer back into the slot of the slider, using the screwdriver to stop the rubber catching in the edges of the slot. Once you get it in halfway, lay the valve on its side and push it in fully with your thumbs.

Use the perimeter of the valve as a guide
Use the perimeter of the valve as a guide | Source
Source
Push on the edges of the washer while forcing it in, to stop it catching
Push on the edges of the washer while forcing it in, to stop it catching | Source
Push the remainder of the washer in with your thumbs
Push the remainder of the washer in with your thumbs | Source
Source

Step 9 - Replace the Slider, Float Arm and End Cap

Push the slider back into the valve body ensuring that the slot in the slider is aligned with the slot in the underside of the valve body. You can use the screwdriver to feel whether it is lined up. Replacing the float arm can be tricky if the two slots don't line up. Hold the arm horizontally and push upwards, wiggling it a bit helps to get it into place. Push the split pin back into place and splay the two ends slightly apart with a screwdriver. They don't need to be spread far apart. Replace the end cap and screw tight, hand tight is good enough. A smear of Vaseline on the threads helps to prevent seizing should it be necessary to remove the cap in the future. You can do this on threads of taps also when re-assembling.

Smear a little Vaseline on the threads
Smear a little Vaseline on the threads | Source
Spread the ends of the pin slightly apart
Spread the ends of the pin slightly apart | Source

Step 10 - Turn the Water Back On

Turn the water back on. Hold the underside of the lever arm, and pull it upwards to validate that the valve cuts off water properly. Initially water will gush into the tank and the level will rise quickly. However as the tank fills, the valve will start to close and flow will dwindle, so it can take ages for water to stop dripping because of the slow rise of water level. Don't worry if this is the case.

Source
Pull upwards on the float arm to check whether the water flow shuts off ok
Pull upwards on the float arm to check whether the water flow shuts off ok | Source

You might need some of these tools!

Adjusting Ballcock to Change Water Level

In a toilet cistern you can conserve water by placing a plastic bottle filled with water into the tank. This reduces the amount of water used every time you flush. Alternatively you can use a piece of brick or other heavy object. Another option is to adjust the ballcock arm so that it shuts off the water valve when the water level is lower. If there is no screw which facilitates making an adjustment and the arm is the older style brass type, hold the arm securely in the middle so as not to damage the valve. With your other hand, grasp the arm just before the ball float. Bend the arm downwards so that it ends up being curved downwards. Water will now force the float to act on the arm and close the valve at a lower level. Newer style ballcock valves have a screw for adjusting level. Turn the screw clockwise to reduce the level to which the tank fills.

Turn the screw clockwise to reduce water level
Turn the screw clockwise to reduce water level | Source

Prevent Your Cold Tank From Freezing

Modern lofts have their floor insulated so not a lot of heat permeates up into the loft space, especially if upstairs radiators are turned off. The result is that the cold water tank can start to freeze. If you're regularly running taps and using the shower, the main cold tank continually fills with new water, so this is less likely to happen, but pipes in the attic can freeze and burst if a home is vacant for a couple of days during extended snowy and cold periods. This is especially the case if plumbing is copper, and pipes can freeze in very cold weather even if they're lagged. PEX plumbing because it's flexible, is better at tolerating sub-zero temperatures because the plastic has more "give" and can stretch. The smaller water tank used for topping up the central heating system and collecting water as it heats up and expands (or the system overheats and water boils) is much more likely to freeze because water isn't continually replaced. So in cold weather, it's a good idea to leave the trapdoor to your attic open and allow some heat up into the space to prevent this happening.

Be Prepared! - Plumbing Tip

The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared!" so take a leaf out of their book by locating and identifying all the valves in your home! Work out what they do and write the function on the wall behind with a thick marker. Alternatively, tie a label around the stem of the valve. Gate valves can seize up after years of disuse so every so often (once a year), give them some exercise by turning on and back off again. If a pipe springs a leak in your home, you don't want to be running around figuring out how to turn off the water.

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Questions & Answers

  • I have two header tanks up in my loft, one big tank and another small tank with a similar configuration. Why is tank number two overflowing to the roof?

    The smaller tank is likely to be the expansion tank for the central heating system. Just like the main cold water tank, this will overflow if the ballcock washer is worn or if it is set up so that water level reaches the overflow before the float shuts off the valve.

  • We had this done three weeks ago (at great expense). There is now a quite loud and droning noise when we turn the shower on or run water for a while. The plumber has come around but of course it did not happen while he was here. Do you know why this might be happening? The plumber said it might happen for a day or two but three weeks seems a bit much. It is annoying but is it a signal of something more sinister?

    The noise is presumably due to the tank filling when it drains when hot or cold water runs. The sound could be due to water hitting the existing water in the tank as it fills; vibration in pipes as water turns on and off (water hammer) or sound from the valve itself as water exits. Sometimes pipes can bang against each other so clipping them properly so they can't move may help (or sliding small sections of insulation onto them to separate them).

    Replacing a section of copper tubing where it enters the tank with about a meter of PEX tubing may also help. PEX tends to give more of a cushioning effect than copper.

    The jet in the valve or the valve itself may be a low-pressure type that's primarily used for filling tanks rapidly (e.g., agricultural water troughs). It may be possible to replace the jet in the valve (or maybe the whole valve would have to be replaced) with a high-pressure type that fills the tank more slowly.

    Have a look at these links that discuss the problem in a little more detail:

    https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-an...

    https://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2...

  • Warm water is coming into the header tank at the bottom, is this normal? I'm wondering if this could be the reason the overflow is still dripping?

    Sounds odd. The header tank pressurizes the hot tank by feeding it from the bottom. If the water in the hot tank becomes excessively hot due to a failed immersion thermostat causing the element to run continuously, water could boil in the tank and eventually some of it could be expelled through the expansion pipe into the tank. The same would happen if the tank is heated by a back boiler and the circulation pump fails, or radiators are turned off upstairs, causing the tank to overheat. I've noticed in my own house that warm water in the small header tank that tops up the heating system can become warm due to convection. However, as far as I understand it, for a vented heating system, there should always be two header tanks. Otherwise anti-corrosive chemicals from the heating system could end up in the water feeding the hot taps, and cold taps of hand basins (this cold water isn't supposed to be drunk because it came from the header tank and can have all sorts of dust and dirt in it!). In any case, hot water expansion shouldn't cause an overflow unless the ballcock is faulty or it's set in such a way that the water level in the tank ends up being too close to the level of the overflow.

  • I've replaced completely the 3/4" ballcock on my loft water storage tank serving my power shower. However the I'm having difficulty aligning the threaded female elbow connection to the existing pipework. How do I achieve a watertight seal when the elbow isn't fully tightening on the ballcock inlet? I have fully tightened the elbow is 90 degrees out of the previous position.

    I'm not a plumber, so I don't know whether this is the recommended solution, but I had a similar problem attaching an elbow to the ballcock in a toilet cistern. I simply use more PTFE sealing tape so that the fitting starts to tighten up a couple of threads before the male part reaches the "end of the line" on the threads in the female elbow. If you discover that you've gone too far, and the fitting can't be tightened further around to the correctly aligned position, don't loosen it, to re-align as it may leak. Undo and re-apply tape again. It might be helpful to post on plumbing forums to get a second opinion.

© 2014 Eugene Brennan

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    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      6 weeks ago from Ireland

      Hi Stephen,

      Does the float cut off the flow when you push up on it with your hand?

      Is it rubbing against the sides or end of the tank.

      Could the float be punctured?

    • profile image

      Stephen Godwin 

      6 weeks ago

      I have checked all the remedies mentioned and there seems to be no problems with any of these My problem is that the small edder tank continues to fill and overflow there is no leaks anywhere and I changed the ballcock just in case, I take water out of this tank about 2ltrs twice a. Day maybe more does anyone recognise this problem or can suggest any remedies to stop this problem Thanks Steve

    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      4 months ago from Ireland

      It depends on the degree of freezing Clare. If water on the surface freezes, the ballcock float won't drop to allow water in. So you'll eventually lose cold feed to your toilet, bath, shower and wash basin and also hot feed as the tank empties. There's a certain amount of "give" in plastic, so a some freezing on the surface isn't a big deal. If all the water in the tank freezes, it could probably stress the tank and damage it. During extended snowy/freezing weather, leave your trapdoor open, and radiators on upstairs to allow some heat to travel up into the loft to prevent any further freezing of water in the tank. Break any ice around the float so that it can move up and down.

    • profile image

      Clare 

      4 months ago

      What should you do if you cold water tank freezes over? Is it a cause for concern? Can it effect the tanks integrity?

      Thanks,

      Clare

    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      6 months ago from Ireland

      Great! Thanks for the feedback Sean, at least I have one happy "customer"!

    • profile image

      Sean 

      6 months ago

      Great article. I was considering calling a plumber but this article left me in no doubt that I could do it myself. The plumber wanted €120 but I bought the washer for €0.50!! It took me less than 30 mins despite very limited access to the attic space, tank and valve.

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 

      7 months ago from Clarksville TN

      Very well written article. We don't have a cold water tank but it is useful for those who do.

    • profile image

      Charles 

      7 months ago

      Thanks, brilliant hub, very detailed. Gave me confidence to do it myself. Just wish I had knee pads in my work trousers, kneeling on those boards at an awkward angle not good!

    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      8 months ago from Ireland

      Hi Tania,

      Hot water will run off from the hot tank quicker than the cold tank will fill. Now this could be because the pressure of the incoming cold water up in the attic is less than the pressure of the hot water (which is created by the pressure head of the cold tank). This might be possible if the tank feeding your home is one of the older concrete types on pillars not much taller than a house and you're not much lower than it, but unlikely if it's up on a hill somewhere. The reason the cold tank seems to continue to fill after you've run the hot water is because hot water flows out fast from the hot tank, while the level of water in the cold tank only drops maybe an inch or two. So the ball only drops a bit and the valve only partly opens and the water trickles in.

      Some valves are noisier than others so probably you should have bought a "silent type".

      Once upon a time you could connect a pipe to the outlet of the valve, exiting under the surface of the water, so that water flowed through it into the tank and didn't may gushing noises or do the interminable drip drippy thing all night (Chinese water torture!). However this sort of thing is against regulations because of the danger of water siphoning back into the supply lines if they empty during a water cut-off event. There must be a gap between the surface of the water and the outlet of the valve. I've seen a suggestion somewhere that you can use a piece of waste pipe standing on end in the water, but raised from the bottom so that water can flow in or out and also raised a little from the surface of the water. When water drops down it echoes in this stilling chamber which has smaller dimensions and contains the sound. I don't know how effective this would be, or how you would hold the pipe in place, plus it would have to be out of the way of the float arm so that it isn't prevented from dropping.

    • farries profile image

      Tania 

      8 months ago

      Hello,

      I appreciate your article thank you! I am a lady with little plumbing knowledge but lots of plumbers who charge a fortune and don't fix the job!!! So I decided to change my cold tank valve as I have very noisy pipes when running hot water either upstairs or downstairs (it is not banging, just very loud gushing/whistling noise). After changing the valve it is still noisy, if I push the float down or push it up the noise stops. I believe it is something to do with the cold water not filling the immersion heater as quickly as the hot water runs off. If my theory is correct, do you know how I may resolve this problem. Many thanks for your help. Tania

    • profile image

      francis andrews 

      10 months ago

      i,m a plumber with 30 years experience ,don,t waste time buy a new ball valve.

    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      11 months ago from Ireland

      Thanks Sam. I'll keep that in mind. How would you recommend getting access to the nipple without dismantling? Maybe stapling sandpaper to the end of a wooden rod?

    • profile image

      Sam 

      11 months ago

      Excellent article, clear and easy to understand. One thing I would add though is if the nipple has become pitted and still not holding back water, a light sanding starting at 120 and working up to 400 grit will solve this problem.

    • profile image

      Debbie 

      13 months ago

      This is brilliant - I'm going to do it myself. Great easy to follow pictures - thank you!

    • profile image

      Tom Foster 

      15 months ago

      Super-clear article and pics - thanks - made me certain I didn't want to tackle such a corroded nightmare, call in the experts. Sad innit.

    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      18 months ago from Ireland

      Well that's unfortunate! The problem with these stopcocks is that the spindle or shaft which joins to the gate in the valve is not very large diameter so if you get overenthusiastic and try to turn it backwardsw and forwards with a wrench, metal fatigue can cause the shaft to wring (just like bending a paperclip backwards and forwards).

      You can try a few thinks. Firstly try tapping the body of the valve (use lots of small sharp taps, not heavy blows) This may separate the bond between moving parts and body.

      Try heating the body of the valve with a hairdrier. Then try turning the shaft. This will expand the body a little and help to unstick it from the shaft and gate.

      Thirdly you can try using a tightly fitting spanner (wrench) on the handle of the valve. It's unlikely you have a wrench this size so you could use a stilsons (pipe wrench) or water pump pliers. If the valve is below floor level however, the chances are that you mightn't be able to extend the handle of the wrench sideways in the hole. You could try removing the handle from the spindle of the valve (assuming the nut isn't itself seized into place!) The end of the spindle is usually of square section and you can fit a wrench onto this, or use a long or short handled vise grips

    • profile image

      Cordoba 

      18 months ago

      Hi Eugene many thanks for your quick response. I've found the stopcock just hope its the main one, it was under a wooden cover in the living room near the kitchen followed your tip on how to locate, the cover was painted over and screwed down! The issue I have now is that is completely seized and I can't get it to budge at all, probably due to the hard water over the years. Do you know of any way to get it moving again? I've tried applying some oil to loosen it and some back and forth pressure with a wrench over a cloth and applying some elbow grease but nothing is working. There's very little chance of finding the external stopcock as the property is on a private road that's completely gravelled. Got to love old character houses!

    • eugbug profile imageAUTHOR

      Eugene Brennan 

      18 months ago from Ireland

      Hi cordoba, sounds as if the main shut-off valve is only for cutting water to your sink plus other fixtures. If you follow the incoming feed to this valve, are there no other valves before it, perhaps outdoors or at a water meter in the vicinity?

      I've never used the freezing method. There are two techniques, use a freezing spray or a refrigerating coil which fits over a pipe. The latter would allow you to shut off the water flow indefinitely. Just in case there are any issues removing/refitting the ballcock, it might be a good idea to freeze the pipework feeding the tank, then fit a stopcock in this feed pipe. This will allow you to work at a leisurely pace replacing the ballcock.

      Good luck!

    working

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