If you don’t know where to locate the Water Main, let alone turn it off in an emergency, it’s time to learn the basics. As a homeowner, knowing how to turn off individual and main water shutoff valves can save time and money, often preventing further water damage until the professionals can arrive.
It may not be an emergency, but remodeling or repairs, that prompts you to turn of the water to your home.
Whether a pipe has sprung a leak, you’re leaving on vacation, or you’re doing a little DIY plumbing, it’s important to know how to turn off your water supply for safety, maintenance, and peace of mind.
You may just save the day with these tips.
What is a Water Main?
A Water Main is the mainline in a water supply system. It is an underground pipe that delivers water into the home. If a water main breaks or there is a water leak in your home, you will need to locate the shutoff valves as quickly as possible.
If a water leak occurs in your home, it can be a dramatic scene, with water shooting out and flowing into your space. If this occurs, will you know where to look? Which tools to grab? Which way to turn the valve? Water damage is expensive and the quicker you can troubleshoot, the easier it will be to repair the after-effects.
An emergency water leak or mainline break is not the time to go searching for your shutoff valves for the first time. Locate them now and be prepared to cut off any leak at the source.
In case of emergency: Cut it off at the source
Where is the leak coming from? The toilet? The sink? The bathtub? Each of these fixtures has a different water shut-off valve. If you can cut off the water at the source, then there is no need to locate the indoor shutoff valve for the mainline, or the outdoor mainline shut off by the meter. There is the house-side main shutoff and the street-side main shutoff. In your modern home, these will be ball valves.
Localized Shutoff Valves, also called Fixture Supply Stops, are installed in the supply lines of toilets, faucets, dishwashers, washing machines, water softeners, and water heaters. Individual shut-off valves are oval or round valves that when turned clockwise shut off the water supply to the localized area without shutting off water to the entire house. Below are a couple of examples:
Toilet Supply Stop – Behind the toilet, you will see what is called the Packing Nut. The handle is oval or round in shape. If the leak if coming from the toilet, turning the Packing Nut clockwise will stop the localized leak at its source. You may not have access to bathtub/shower shut-off valves. If you don’t have panels or spaces behind the bathroom to turn off these water sources, contact a plumber.
Kitchen Faucet Supply Stops – Beneath your sink, you will see pipes with a series of valves. Each one is a connection to a different appliance, for example to the ice-maker or the dishwasher. If you cannot find the individual shut-offs for your refrigerator or other kitchen appliances, look underneath the kitchen, usually in a basement utility closet. Standard supply stops will leak less often than saddle valves. Consider an upgrade if you are having consistent issues with saddle valves.
How to locate the meter and main shutoff valves
The location of the meter and main shutoff valves in your home depend on the weather in your region and even the age of your home. In colder climates, you will most likely find them in the basement or in an area less susceptible to freezing. In warmer climates, they could be outside the house, attached to the exterior wall or even in an underground box close to the exterior of your home.
The water main outside, located near the meter, contains a “buried curb stop valve” beneath the ground and a “corporation stop” which is what connects your house water to the water main, but this is accessible only by the city. Never tamper with the city shut-off side of the meter or the water meter itself. It is both dangerous and illegal. If you have any doubts, contact your local plumber.
Keep in mind that in order to open the water meter box, you may need a special “meter key,” which you can find at your local home improvement store.
In the case of a water leak or mainline break, call the professionals at Gold Medal Service for immediate backup. We offer 24/7 residential plumbing repair and replacement services when you need them the most.