How To Locate Your House's Main Water Shutoff Valve

A plumbing isolation valve is what directs and controls the flow of water within a plumbing system. The main water shutoff valve is the most essential type because it controls all of it, instead of certain areas. Knowing exactly where it is located and how to operate it is vital in the case of an emergency, so you can prevent or reduce water damage to your home.

Normal isolation valves are typically found in the area they control, like under the kitchen sink or close to the washing machine. This makes them easily accessible and convenient to address a specific water issue that doesn't affect the entire house. The main water shutoff valve, on the other hand, is typically located near the water meter or where the main water line enters the home, which is often in spots like the garage or basement. However, it might also be installed near an outdoor faucet or even buried underground.

How to turn it off

In the case of an issue or leak that you can trace, turn off the isolation valve in that area if possible, rather than reaching for the main shutoff valve. The main valve comes in handy in big emergencies where specific isolation valves won't work. Moreover, if you leave your home for an extended amount of time, it's recommended to shut off the mains water to prevent any chance of flooding in your absence. Make sure to drain the pipes after turning the water off so there's no water in them when they are being worked on.

There are different types of shutoff valves and each one operates differently. Those within the house are typically wheel or gate valves which need to be turned clockwise until the water turns off. If you have a ball valve with a straight handle, turn it down to shut off the water. For those wanting more control over their property, there are even electronic shut-off valves that use your home's Wi-Fi and can be operated remotely.

The more you know

Everyone in the home should know how to turn off the main water shutoff valve because a leak or burst pipe needs to be addressed as quickly as possible — the more time water has to leak, the more time it has to seep into the walls or the foundation and cause serious damage. You should also be familiar with the type of shutoff valve and its location before you find yourself in an emergency because it might be locked in a meter box or under an outdoor access cover that needs to be opened a certain way.

Because they aren't used often, valves can develop various signs of wear and tear. They can lose their effectiveness and even develop leaks of their own. With this in mind, it's a good idea to check them regularly to make sure they still close and open all the way and replace them when they don't anymore. If it's really old or you don't feel confident doing it yourself, it might be better to call in a plumber to handle the replacement.