Isolating water supply

Hello
The internal stopcock for isolating the water supply to our house is leaking slightly and I'd like to open it up and replace the washer or maybe even replace the tap itself. Of course to do that I need to turn off the supply at the external stopcock.
After rooting around a bit I found what I presume is the external stopcock under a small metal cover in the garden. The actual tap is about 1-2 meters below the cover. I was going to get myself a long tool for turning this tap off, but someone advised me to be very careful since they can be completely seized up. Our house is 20 years old and (afaik) the external stopcock has never been used in that time.
I'm now worried that if I apply too much force to the tap then it will shear or crack leaving me with an expensive bill. Does anyone have any idea of how likely this is and any advice on the best course of action?
Thanks Pete
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If the water is leaking from the stopcock from the spindle of the handle, this can be fixed without turning off the water. You back off the spindle nut and withdraw it. You then wrap thin string around the threads (used to be hemp, but you must now used hemp substitute) and jointing compound (Boss White substitute). Then screw the nut back on tightly. When you unscrew the nut, it will leak a bit more quickly, but shouldn't gush or anything.
You may even get away with just tightening the nut a bit.
Christian.
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On Fri, 31 Oct 2003 14:03:33 +0000 (UTC), Pete wrote:

break or is unusable, it is down to them to fix it (free).
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John Armstrong wrote:

Really? So if I go outside and pound my stopcock (hypothetical, since I don't actually have one) with a lump of iron until it breaks, then they'll fix it for free? I think not.
Same applies if you break it while trying to shut it off. They aren't obliged to fix it for free, since it may well have been user error that resulted in it breaking.
--
Grunff


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On Fri, 31 Oct 2003 15:01:07 +0000, Grunff wrote:

Well it is their tap, they will fix it. They may have you charged with criminal damage though if they know you clobbered it to death :-)

If it breaks during normal use, I would have said it was defective anyway and needs replacing. All the info available on repairs by water companies seems to concentrate on pipework. The pipework up to and including the stop tap in the street is definitely the WC's responsibility though. Most WC's also appear to offer free leak repairs to the householder's underground pipework too. Leaks cost them money, so it is in their interest to minimize them.
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AFAIK, most offer the first leak (up to a certain length I think) free. Subsequent leaks etc, are not free. And they're repairs, not replacement. So a rusted iron pipe may leaking in one place, may well leak other times.
D
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Pete wrote:

I was in a similar situation as youself. Called water company and they came and cleaned out the muck on top of their stopcock and checked it worked. They said I could buy special long key to operate it from plumbers merchant but if I didn't want to do that they would turn off the water for me on request and turn it back on again when I'd replaced my internal stopcock. I went for the second option, no problem at all.
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Made myself a wooden 'tool' to turn my outside stopcock - just 2 x 1" with a 'v' cut in the end and a handle screwed on. When I tried to turn off the water I was too gentle and despite thinking I'd closed the stopcock, water still flowed very fast. I had to snug it down a bit more to turn it off. No problems.
I replaced my under sink stopcock with a plastic compression model from bes.co.uk. It was 25 mm MDPE (the blue tubing) to 222 mm copper, and very easy to fit.
Neil
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Niel A. Farrow wrote:

My bodgers used an angle grinder, a bit of scaffolding pole, and a tommy bar...needs a LOT of force to turn teh avreage stopcock.

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Niel A. Farrow wrote:

All the Water coy stopcocks round here are the square drive type and deep in the ground, so it the proper tool or nothing. Relatives stopcock outside old terraaced propery was u/s so they replaced with a new plastic job encased in polystyrene. It came with its own plastic key which is stored in the hole, very handy.
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[snip]

Around here the Water Co run their stopcocks with the gland packing nut locked down as hard as possible. So they tend to use two spanners, releasing the gland nut before trying to move the tap.
--
Tony Williams. Change "nospam" to "ledelec" to email.

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