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What's happening around the stopcock?

(11 Posts)
Wingedharpy Wed 15-Feb-17 19:03:38

Looking for some reassurance and wisdom here please.
I took up the lounge fitted carpet today ready for the decorator next week followed by replacement carpet and underlay.
We live in a Victorian terraced house and the mains stopcock is in the lounge at the front of the house.
When I exposed the underlay around the stopcock there was evidence of it having been wet in the past (water stain)but it was dry as a bone today. However...
the floorboard in the stopcock corner is soft and crumbly.
I have excavated the crumbly area and it is approx 2cm all round the stopcock supply pipe. There is now a crescent moon shaped excavated area evident.
I am panicking and think maybe the house is falling down or into an underground river.
DH says it is probably just as a result of condensation on the cold water pipe and as the carpet has been down years, it's simply all those years worth of water sitting on carpet and underlay which have caused this.
Could he be right or do I need to call someone immediately?
I felt all around the pipe and it is completely dry.

PigletJohn Wed 15-Feb-17 19:24:55

if the floorboard is crumbly it needs replacing. Is it chipboard?

Post some pics please.

I doubt it will be caused just by condensation. Slight plumbing leaks often heal themselves with limescale.

Post some pics please, including closeups of the stopcock and pipes, and any green or white stains.

BTW to avoid it seizing up, wind it fully open, then down half a turn.

PigletJohn Wed 15-Feb-17 19:27:59


A Victorian house usually has the original stopcock in the front garden, next to where the front gate used to be, and in a straight line to where the kitchen sink used to be. Buffoons often bury and pave over them. If you look in neighbours' front gardens, some of them will be visible.

If you have a water meter, there will be a T handle you can use to turn the water off.

Villagernumber9 Wed 15-Feb-17 20:03:40

It will most likely be condensation coming from the pipe.
What people used to do was to wrap an old shirt or something around it so there would be less condensation and, any water would soak into the cloth and dry.

Wingedharpy Wed 15-Feb-17 20:06:02

Never done images before PJ, so hoping this works.
The whole floorboard isn't crumbly - just the bit I've scraped out.
Floorboard is original, in place since house built in 1900 as far as I know.
The healing via limescale theory sounds very possible as we have horrendously hard water.
The white staining on the floorboards are old mortar marks.
Wood that is now in place is firm and sturdy.
Gale force wind blowing through hole I've made which, DH says, proves the sub floor air vents are working and not blocked.
Off to look in front garden with a torch for any signs of another stopcock.

Wingedharpy Wed 15-Feb-17 20:10:53

Not really the look I was going for though Villager.
The "old shirt wrapped around a pipe" look!!
Never seen that one on Grand Designs!
Thank you for your input though.😀

Villagernumber9 Wed 15-Feb-17 20:25:20

End of the day, it's just condensation. Over a hundred years and only got a small area affected, not too bad.
You might want to look at getting something on it and boxing it off. You don't want your new carpet getting stained.

PigletJohn Wed 15-Feb-17 20:29:20

I can't see signs of recent leakage, at least since it was painted. Bare copper shows green or white marks around leaks.

It looks to me like the pipework is soldered copper. A tiny leak here could be filled with limescale. This would be a replacement or additional pipe since the house was built. It's the mains supply pipe so would be at high pressure and a tiny hole could spray out water.

The water damage seems to be around the pipe, not the stopcock.

It looks to me like cold air would blow up the hole in the floorboards, so I wouldn't expect condensation. That is more common where a cold pipe enters a warm, steamy room, especially a bathroom. I suppose it's possible builders hid rubble under the floor and blocked ventilation.

The floor looks like softwood floorboards, which are not easily damaged by occasional damp.

If you see any future signs of damp, including woodlice (which eat damp and rotting wood) then the suspect pipework would be cut out and replaced with new without much difficulty. At this point I'd replace any timber showing signs of rot or long-tern damp.

Try not to disturb it, because movement may open up any bad jointing. If you rub it down for repainting this might start a leak. There are leak sealants which give a temporary bodge.

If you do any work on it, you might consider running it under the floor where it will be out of sight. You can lag it under the floor with Climaflex or similar. If you go for a Combi or an unvented cylinder you would benefit from replacing it with larger plastic pipe.

Wingedharpy Wed 15-Feb-17 21:00:00

Many thanks for your help.
I feel slightly better about it though would prefer it wasn't there at all.
Just one last question if I may.
How would running it underneath the floorboards work with the stopcock and access?

PigletJohn Wed 15-Feb-17 21:09:55

the stopcock can be in any convenient place. If you want, you can have a little trapdoor in the floor (preferably in a corner, away from the door or behind the door, as people will not walk on it and make it creak)

Modern plastic pipe is somewhat flexible so is easy to run along a convenient route. It doesn't need joints and elbows so there's not much to go wrong and start leaking. Many people put the indoor stopcock under the kitchen sink where it comes up from the floor and plumbers start looking. An outdoor stopcock isolates the whole house, but some buffoon may pave over it. I clean out my stopcock pit very occasionally, to remove the mud, stones, spiders and slugs. I have a fire hydrant as well so I keep that free of obstructions and clearly marked just in case.

If you have a water meter, look down with a torch and identify the T handle so you know what to do in an emergency. The handle can actually be pulled off. If yours is missing, ask the water co for a replacement. It may be blue.

Wingedharpy Wed 15-Feb-17 21:22:15

No water meter here.
Quick look at immediate neighbours front gardens shows nothing in the way of stopcocks in any of them.
I will look again tomorrow in daylight.
Am now Googling creative ways of concealing ugly pipes though usually, it is well hidden behind a large chair.

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