How To Locate Your Main Water Shutoff Valve

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Water Main ImageAll water that is supplied to your home from the city funnels through what is known as the main shutoff valve in your home.  Knowing where this value is can save you thousands of dollars if an emergency arises.  This is the valve that you need to be able to locate in an emergency – find it before an emergency occurs so you can shut off the water to your house in no time.

This valve is usually in the basement or on an outside wall in a utility area of the house. The main shutoff valve supplies full flow of water through the pipe when it’s open. Turning off this valve (by turning it clockwise) cuts off the water supply to the entire house.  Its a critical step to take in the event of a burst pipe as discussed in our burst pipe post – to read more click here.

The main shutoff valve in your house probably has one of two designs:

  • Ball valve: Houses with plastic or copper main water pipes leading into the house may have a full-flow ball valve. This valve is open when the handle is aligned with the pipe. To close it, turn the handle clockwise so that it’s at a right angle to the pipe.
  • Gate valve: Gate valves are very reliable and last for years, but can become difficult to turn if not used for many years. If the main shutoff valve has been open ever since you bought your house and you haven’t closed it before – do it now. Better to find out now if its easy to turn or sticky requiring a tool to turn. if you wait until a problem arises and can’t turn it with your bare hands now you could be standing in 3 inches of rising water while you wait for your emergency plumber.

Remember that the main valve is the one to stop most plumbing catastrophes.  Make sure that everyone in the household knows where this valve is located and knows how to turn it off. Turning the handle several turns in a clockwise manner closes the valve.

During your test after you’ve closed and opened the valve, it may develop a small leak around the valve stem. The stem of the valve is held in place with a packing nut which you can tighten just enough to stop the leak. However – don’t overtighten it or the shutoff valve can become difficult to turn again. Sometimes for younger family members having a cheat sheet to remember which way to turn the valve control can be helpful.  Use a label or tag. A general rule of thumb to help you remember – “lefty loosey – righty tighty”

Finally – after turning off the valve let the pipes drain,  Before draining an overlooked tip is to unscrew the aerators (small screens) on the ends of all faucets and tubs before you turn the water back on. Doing this keeps small particles of scale from clogging the small holes in these screens.  Scale can shake loose from the pipes and clogs during the water shutoff.

Hopefully knowing where your main water shutoff valve is located will give you peace of mind and protect your home from potential plumbing disasters.  If you have trouble finding the value contact us and we can help you out!



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