When your home is being deluged with water, it goes without saying time is of the essence. The faster you can access the main shut-off valve, the better chance you have of controlling the damage. In addition to potentially wrecking your home and the possessions therein, the water itself can be dangerous and unhealthy.
The good news is, you’ll be able to shut off your home’s own water supply if that is where the water is coming from. The key is knowing where the main valve is located — before you’re in a panic with water gushing everywhere.
Even if you’re not up to your knees in water from a flooding catastrophe, you’ll still want to know how to shut off your water supply — in fact, every adult in your home should learn how to do this. For example, if you need plumbing work done or plan to leave town during a cold spell and want to prevent pipes bursting, you’ll need to know how to find the valve and turn it off.
Types of Valves
Gate valves: If your house is older, it will typically have a gate valve. These types of valves last for years, which is good, but means it could be difficult to move if it hasn’t been turned in ages.
Full-flow ball valves: Newer homes usually have plastic or copper water pipes and feature a ball valve with a lever.
Locating Your Valve
Your valve could be located in several places. If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll typically find the main shut-off valve outside your house. It could be attached to an exterior wall, at or near the property line or street. Usually, the valve will be inside a covered concrete box within a pit underground. If this is the case, you may need a special “meter key” that you can buy at a hardware store to open the box.
If your neck of the woods sees colder winters, the water valve will usually be located inside the house in the basement or crawl space. If it’s in the basement, you will typically find it near the front foundation wall. The valve is usually located close to where the water main enters your home. If the valve isn’t there, you may find it near the water heater or furnace. If the location is hard to access, you may want to consider having a secondary valve installed somewhere easier to get to, for example, under the kitchen sink.
Turning Off Your Main Water Valve
To fully close a gate valve, turn the round handle clockwise several times. You may need to do three or four revolutions to turn it off fully. If you’ve never turned the valve since you moved into your home, you may want to test it out before you find yourself in an emergency situation.
When the ball valve is open, the lever will be lined up with the water pipe. To close it, you’ll need to turn the lever clockwise one quarter turn so that it’s at a right angle to the pipe.
Once you’ve managed to get the main valve off, turn on both hot and cold faucets in the bathtub or at the kitchen sink to make sure that the water to make sure the water supply is completely disabled. Then open all the faucets in the house to make sure the plumbing is fully drained.
Note: If your home has a fire sprinkler system, take extra care when turning the shut-off valve. You want to leave the sprinkler system on while shutting off the plumbing water.