Drinking water quality is routinely monitored in the distribution network but not inside households at the point of consumption. Fluctuating temperatures, residence times (stagnation), pipe materials and decreasing pipe diameters can promote bacterial growth in buildings. To test the influence of stagnation in households on the bacterial cell concentrations and composition, water was sampled from 10 separate households after overnight stagnation and after flushing the taps. Cell concentrations, measured by flow cytometry, increased (2-3-fold) in all water samples after stagnation. This increase was also observed in adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) concentrations (2-18-fold) and heterotrophic plate counts (4-580-fold). An observed increase in cell biovolume and ATP-per-cell concentrations furthermore suggests that the increase in cell concentrations was due to microbial growth. After 5 min flushing of the taps, cell concentrations and water temperature decreased to the level generally found in the drinking water network. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis also showed a change in the microbial composition after stagnation. This study showed that water stagnation in household pipes results in considerable microbial changes. While hygienic risk was not directly assessed, it emphasizes the need for the development of good material validation methods, recommendations and spot tests for in-house water installations. However, a simple mitigation strategy would be a short flushing of taps prior to use. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.