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Knowing where and how to shut off the main flow of water to your house is something every homeowner should know before a pipe bursts and you are running around in three inches of water searching for your home’s shut off valve. It could save you thousands of dollars, property damages, wasted water, and lots of stress. Here is what you need know in order to locate and use your water main shut off.   


Types of Water Valves

There are currently two types of water valves used to turn on or turn off the water flow to your house: the gate valve and the ball valve.

  • Gate Valve

More traditional and reliable, the gate valve is a round or oval handle that needs to be turned counter-clockwise to stop all water flow. Gate valves commonly become difficult to turn after years of no use so you may need a wrench to turn the valve. 

  • Ball Valve

Increasing in popularity is the ball valve which is typically found in homes with plastic or copper piping. Instead of a circular valve, ball valves utilize maximum torque by using a handle that is easy to turn and only requires a 1/4th turn stop or allow water flow.   

Water Main

Every home contains a central hub that controls all water flow to and through your home. Understanding how your water main works and what sort of valve it uses is essential when shutting off your home’s water supply. However, the most difficult challenge homeowners’ face is simply locating their water main. This is due to the fact that water mains can be installed in a variety of places.

  • Inside

Most homeowners can access their water main from within their own home typically located in the basement, near a water heater, or in the garage. Exactly where your water main is located in one of these three locations is difficult to say due to the fact that every home is different based on location, the type of home, who built the home, etc. With this in mind, you may have to look around a bit to pin point the exact location of your home’s water main. If you are unsuccessful in finding your water main, you have two options: (1) call a plumbing professional or (2) look for your water main outside.

  • Outside

Commonly found in cities and urban areas, water mains can are typically located outside near the street in a concrete or plastic box buried underground. Upon opening the box (some protective boxes require a man hole key or a meter key to open), the water main may be buried by dirt and debris which needs to be cleared in order to see the main shut off valve. Using your hands or a tool, turn the valve off.

Shutting Off Water to an Individual Appliance or Fixture

For more minor or specific plumbing problems such as a running toilet or leaky faucet, it is much easier and more convenient to stop water flow to that particular appliance or fixture instead of shutting off your home’s running water. For faucets you can find the shut off valve under the sink; for toilets you can locate the shut off valve by the toilet’s left or right side; and for refrigerators you can find the shut off valve behind the refrigerator. Most of these shut off valves become stiff and brittle over time so it is important not to force it open and closed because this can cause leaks and breakages.