At some point in time, you will probably need to shut off the water supply coming into your home. You’ll want to do that if you have frozen pipes in the winter or before you perform any major plumbing work. You may also want to shut the water off if you are heading out of town for an extended period.
The first thing you need to do is know where the main water shutoff valve is in your home. There are four common areas, and it depends on where the main water line enters your home:
- Basement. If your home has a basement, the water usually enters through a basement wall or floor. The valve should be near that point.
- Crawlspace. If your home is built over a crawlspace, the water line usually is located on the street side of the crawlspace. If not, it may be in the first above-ground entry point.
- Slab. If your home is built on a slab, the valve could be in a utility room or attached garage.
- Exterior. If you live in a warmer climate, or have a second home in a warmer climate, the valve could be located outside in an underground box with a removable lid near the street. It could also be attached to an exterior wall.
Now that you have found the valve, how do you turn the water off? There are generally two types of shutoffs.
- Ball valves are more commonly found in newer homes. These valves have a lever handle that turns 90 degrees to turn the water on or off. In the closed position, the lever is perpendicular to the pipes; in the open position it is parallel. These valves are less prone to wear.
- Gate valves are more common in older homes. Gate valves need to be turned clockwise to turn the water off; counterclockwise to turn it on.
It is a good idea to occasionally test the valve. Turn on a faucet somewhere in the house and then shut off the main water valve. The water should stop.
Finally, note your house may also have a shutoff just for the exterior. You’ll want to shut that off in the winter to prevent outside spigots from freezing and cracking.