Knowing how and where to shut off your home’s main water supply is as important as knowing how and where to turn-off or reset an electric breaker or replace a fuse.
Every home was required to have a main water shut-off valve installed inside the home during initial construction. So for most emergencies or repairs, shutting-off the proper inside valve will be our focus of this notice.
There are also underground shut-off valves installed at the property line; if shutting-off this valve is necessary, please call on a registered master plumber or WSSC Water to work this valve.
It is important to understand that different plumbing arrangements will dictate where the proper main supply valve is located:
A. Basements – the shut-off valve is typically located near the front foundation wall. The main water may have come through the concrete floor or through the wall. The valve is typically within 3-5 feet of where the main water enters. In some cases, the main water may enter in a different area, like a mechanical room, up through the floor, near the water heater or furnace.
B. Crawl-space plus a basement – the shut-off valve may be where the water enters the basement or in some older homes, the shut-off may be inside the crawl space. If the latter is true, you may want to consider a secondary valve located in the basement.
C.) Crawl-space with no basement – the shut off valve will typically be located near the water heater or under the kitchen sink, but anywhere is possible. As with “B” above, it may be inside the crawl-space; in which case, you may want to consider a secondary valve located up in the living space (near the water heater or under a sink).
D. Slab-on-grade construction – the shut-off valve will typically be located near the water heater or under the kitchen sink, but anywhere is possible.
If you home has a fire sprinkler system, care is needed when selecting a shut-off valve. Unless it is a sprinkler pipe which is leaking, you should only shut-off the home’s plumbing supply and leave the sprinkler piping charged/live.
If the water shut-down is for a broken sprinkler line or sprinkler head than locate the 1st valve (closest to the main water line entry point) and operate that valve as described below.
For all other general plumbing shut-offs, emergency and non-emergency:
A.) Round “wheel” handle valves will turn-off by turning the handle to the right (clockwise). It may take 2 or more full revolutions.
B.) Slowly turn level handle valves ¼ turn, until the handle it not parallel with the pipe. It should stop at a ¼ turn.
C.) Open a tub or sink faucet (hot & cold), on the highest level to relieve pressure and watch that spout to ensure a full shut-down. Then continue to open faucets throughout the home to drain-down as needed.
D.) If draining down home, be sure to de-energize the water heater and boiler where applicable by shutting off power to electric water heaters and any type of boiler. For gas water heaters, turn thermostat down to the pilot only setting; if you drain the heater, shut off the gas.