Just as knowing how to locate and operate your breaker box can get you out of a hair-raising electrical emergency, learning how to shut off water flow to your home can keep you out of a serious, flood-related pickle. From natural disasters to simple wear-and-tear, water leaks happen causing significant water damage. How do you protect your home and belongings? It’s as simple as learning how to find “the off switch.”
Where do I find the right shut off?
That will depend on the situation. Smaller, gherkin-sized pickles such as an overflowing toilet can be addressed by turning off the valve at the source of the issue. Larger, kosher dill-size pickles, on the other hand, and you’ll need to shut off water flow to your home at the main supply valve. We’ll cover all types here…
- At the source:
Overflowing toilets, leaky sink faucets, dishwashers, and washing machines often have supply line water valves, knobs, or levers right at the source, allowing you to address location-specific problems will maintaining water flow throughout the rest of your home.
- Toilets: typically on the wall or floor underneath the toilet tank.
- Sinks: underneath your sink faucet, often inside a cabinet.
- Washing machines: typically located directly behind your washing machine.
- Dishwashers: this valve may share or be located next supply valves for the kitchen sink.
- At the main supply valve (inside):
Shutting off water at the main cuts off water supply to your entire home. The trick to locating the proper valve is familiarizing yourself with the plumbing arrangements of your home…
- Basements: You’ll typically find the valve to shut off water flow near the front foundation wall, though it may be near a water heater or furnace, inside a mechanical room, or rise up through the floor.
- Crawlspace: In crawlspace homes, the valve could be located anywhere, including inside the crawlspace, but it is typically found near the water heater or under the kitchen sink.
- Crawlspace + basement: The valve to shut off water is typically where the water line enters the basement, or the crawlspace in older homes.
- Slab: Slab homes could have a main shutoff valve anywhere, but near the water heater or kitchen sink are the most common locations.
- Shutting off water at the street:
If you look out into your yard and see a leak of gargantuan proportions (Dad! Look! A lake!!), your best bet will be to turn off water at the street. The outside water main is typically located near the sidewalk or driveway apron, and may be a few feet underground. Though most homeowners don’t have the T-shaped tool necessary to do this, the approximately $20 investment is quite handy in these emergencies. Just be sure to go through a “dry run” to ensure you have all the tools you need on hand - or keep the number for your local water department easily accessible if you don’t.
- Shutting off water flow with wells:
Simply turn off the switch or circuit breaker to the well pump, then the water valve after the pressure tank (it will still have some water in it).
- FIRESPRINKLERS – making life interesting…
If your home has a fire sprinkler, you’ll need to take extra care when selecting the shutoff valve.
- Fire sprinklers + inside main water meter: Aim for the 2nd valve, above and downstream from the fire sprinkler tee.
- Fire sprinklers + outside main water meter: Turn off the 2nd valve, downstream from the fire sprinkler tee.
- No sprinklers + inside main water meter: Either valve will shut off water flow, but using the 2nd is best in case you aren’t sure if your home has sprinklers.
- No sprinklers + outside main water meter: Typically there will be only one shutoff valve.
Lefty loosey, righty tighty.
If you don’t know which direction to turn the valve in, locating it won’t be much help. Turning the valve clockwise (righty tighty) will shut off water flow. Turning the valve counter clockwise (lefty loosey) will let water loose, restoring its flow through your home. NOTE: It may take several rotations to shut off water flow completely.