If you are to be capable of dealing swiftly with emergencies, you must have a basic knowledge of your plumbing system.
It begins on or near the boundary of your property at a stop-tap between the water board’s main supply pipe and the feed-pipe into your house. This feed-pipe is set 2 ft to 3 ft deep to keep it below normal ground-frost levels and generally enters the house somewhere near the kitchen sink, where there should be the first indoor stop-tap. From here, the pipe is known as the rising main and is taken up to the roof space or other high point of the house where it supplies a cold water storage cistern.
Pipes are taken from the bottom of this cistern to the hot water cylinder and to feed the various cold water taps and WC cisterns. One cold water tap, usually the one at the kitchen sink, is supplied direct from the rising main to give you pure, fresh drinking-water, and in a few parts of the country water boards allow all cold taps to be fed from the rising main.
The storage cistern is generally made of galvanised metal, though in modern houses plastic or glass fibre cisterns are becoming more common. If you have to install a new cistern these are the types to go for because they will not corrode.
A good-class installation will have a number of stop-taps at strategic points to minimise the amount of draining down needed for maintenance work. There should be one on the cold outlet from the main storage cistern and another from the outlet at the hot water cylinder.
Others might be installed to isolate individual circuits, such as the feed to a WC cistern or the supply to a cloak-room wash-basin. Get to know which stop-taps control what and make sure that they will turn easily. This is of particular importance with outside stop-taps, which are rarely interfered with and therefore are prone to seize up.
Another important control fitted to WC and other cisterns is a ball valve which determines the level of water in the cistern. In case the valve leaks, as can happen, there is an overflow pipe fitted through the nearest outside wall to carry the water clear of the house.