Main Water Shut Off

Main Water Shut Off Valve could be just about anywhere in or around your home. It is very important to know how to shut off water in case of a plumbing leak flooding your house. There are typically small valves at every water fixture – sinks, toilets, water heaters, even many bath tubs. Of course, every house is different, and there are newer ‘water breaker’ manifolds which allow a homeowner to disconnect water to areas of the house from a central location just as you would turn off an electrical breaker to turn off power to an area.

Any of these are nice ways to disconnect water at one location, but what happens if the faucet valve itself is leaking even when turned off? Or if the water pipe is broken in the wall behind the disconnect valve? That is when your main water shut off valve will save you from an unexpected swimming pool! Every area is different, every plumber is different, and every house is different, but here are a few of the most common locations for water shut off valves: in the basement, cellar, or crawl space; in a utility or mechanical room; in a wall with an access panel (and hopefully well insulated and warmed); in a well house or another outbuilding if on a private water supply; or in the case of older houses – there may be no shut off valve in the home. In this case, the only way to shut off water would be at the city’s shutoff, typically at the street or sidewalk. Check with your local water provider or a licensed plumber before you make guesses or attempt to use a water valve at the street, as these may be restricted to city/utility use only.

Another note – especially for older water shut off valves – if they have not been operated in some time, these valves can tend to seize up with sediment or rust and can be difficult or even impossible to shut off water. When operated, expect older valves to leak for days or indefinitely.

Anecdotally, my house had an old valve which would not turn off water to me house, so I opted to have a new valve installed for my peace of mind. Of course, to accomplish this, the water needed to be off – so I called the city and had them come out to disconnect my water at the street. They did operate the shutoff valve, and water volume dropped an insignificant amount, however it turns out the city’s shut off valve at the street was also seized up. I could not replace my valve until they came out to dig up the line and replace their valve (at their cost, thankfully), and I could finally replace the valve in my house.

Too long, didn’t read version: look around your house for where water first comes into the building and then look for a water shut off valve for emergency preparedness.

-Marshall Tramp, CPI, RMP

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Marshall Tramp, CPI, RMP
Author: Marshall Tramp, CPI, RMP
Top Notch Inspection Services llc
Serving Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho