How to Find Your Water Shut-Off Valve

By Jennifer Merrigan

Locating your water shut-off valve is essential to prevent potentially devastating damage to your home from burst pipes or water leaks, and it’s best practice to turn off your water supply when you’re completing major home repairs. If you don’t know where your shut-off valve is offhand, or can’t find it within a matter of seconds, now is the time to determine where it’s located. Here are several ways you can find your water shut-off valve.

3 ways to find your water shut-off valve

1. Look inside your home

The first and easiest way to locate your home’s water shut-off valve is to physically search for it inside your house. The best location for it to be is inside your home near your water heater. If it’s not there, think about other locations close to the ground level of your home and areas near the front of your home, like the garage or utility closet.

2. Reference your property inspection

If you’ve already looked in the obvious locations, the next best step is to reference your property inspection. Go to the plumbing section of your inspection report to find the location of the shut-off valve and a photo of the valve. Even if your inspection didn’t discover any problems with your water shut-off valve, the report will still document its location and include a photo of the valve.

3. Locate the shut-off valve outside

If you can’t find your water shut-off valve through other methods, you may be able to find it outside near your home’s property line. This is because the water main comes from your street and makes a direct line into your home.

First, find the small plastic utility box that’s typically found on your front lawn. These are usually small green plastic boxes hidden in your lawn, close to the street. There will be a flap on top that easily comes off and will hold your street-side water main.

Once this has been located, call your water company’s emergency contact line. They will direct you on whether you should shut off the valve yourself or wait until an emergency dispatch team arrives.

How to locate the water shut-off valve within your house

Having access to your home’s water shut-off valve will let you completely turn off the water supply to your home in the case of emergencies, such as a major leak or flooding. This is the best option for leaks that cannot be shut off by local valves, or fixture valves.

  • Focus on-grade—When looking for your water shut-off valve around the perimeter of your home, keep your focus on the base of your home, also known as on-grade. For example, if you’re searching for your valve in your basement, you should be looking for the valve at eye level or higher. If you’re looking for a valve on the ground level of your home, look for a valve closer to the ground.
  • Follow the water meter—Consider starting from the outside of your home where your water meter is, then follow that line from the outside of your home to the inside. Your water meter line should lead you to the water shut-off valve.
  • Find the collection point—If you have a newer home, search for a plumbing collection point, also known as a PEX plumbing manifold. These manifolds have water shut-off valves that can turn off the water in your entire home.

How to turn off your water shut-off valve

The style of the water shut-off valve will determine how to shut off the water, but most will require you to turn your valve in a clockwise fashion until the water turns completely off. The following are the most common types of water shut-off valves and how to turn them off:

  • Ball valve—This large metal valve, commonly found on main water pipes, has a lever handle designed for quick and easy turning. This type of valve is often found at the main water shut-off point in the home.
  • Gate valve—Similar to a ball valve, a gate valve is designed to either allow full flow of water or shut if off completely. To turn a gate valve on or off, you’ll have to turn the circular handle to raise or lower a metal gate inside the valve body.
  • Globe valve—Resembling a ball valve, a globe valve is different in that it allows for variable water flow. This type of valve is often found on pipes that lead outdoors. To turn it off, turn the handle—this will operate a plunger that moves down against the water flow, closing it off.
  • Knife-style valve—A knife-style valve has a handle that runs parallel to the pipe it’s attached to. Turn that handle one-quarter turn and the water main will shut off. Keep in mind that the knife-style valve only allows turning of the handle in one direction.
  • Stop-and-waste valve—This valve, also known as a round handle valve, has a similar style to what you’d see with a hose faucet. Similar to how a hose faucet functions, you should turn the round handle clockwise several times to turn the water off completely. To turn the water on, rotate the handle counterclockwise.
  • Street-side valve—If you have a street-side valve (this will be on the street side of your water meter in a utility box), you’ll have to turn this off with a special tool. Note: this valve should never be turned off.
  • House-side valve—The more common valve found in a utility box is the house-side valve, which, as the name suggests, will be found on the house side of your water meter. The valve will have a knob that can either be turned by hand or with a nut.

Appliance shut-off valves

Some leaks won’t require you to turn off the main water shut-off valve. If you have a leak around an individual fixture, see if the certain fixture has its own shut-off valve—most will have angled fixture shut-off valves that can be easily gripped and turned.

Toilet

Think about where the pipes are located for your toilet. More than likely, you’ll find them near the floor and closest to the wall. From there, you’ll see metal tubing and a valve or handle.

Turn the handle clockwise until it stops easily. Don’t apply added pressure to the handle, as this can break the valve.

Sink

Look underneath your sink, either in the cabinet attached to your sink or directly underneath the sink. There, you’ll see a couple of metal tubes. Turn both the handles on the valves clockwise to shut the flow of water off. Similar to the toilet valves, don’t apply added pressure when turning the valves.

Washing machine

Often, you’ll have visual access to your clothes washer valves. They’re either visible right above the washing machine or can be found behind the washer. There will be two valves attached to the wall for hot and cold water; turn those handles clockwise to shut them off.

Shower/tub

Sometimes, you’ll see exposed plumbing for your shower or bathtub. If you can see the plumbing, the water shut-off valves will be clearly visible. Turn each valve clockwise to turn off the water. If you can’t see the plumbing and need to turn off the water for your shower or tub, find your main water supply line and turn off the water that way.

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