If a pipe bursts or your water heater starts leaking, one of the first things you want to do is make the water stop gushing by finding the water shut-off valve. Depending on where the plumbing emergency is, you have a few options.
IS YOUR LEAK NEAR A FIXTURE LIKE A TOILET OR A SINK?
If so, you can turn off the localized water valve to the specific appliance. Toilets, sinks, washing machines, and water heaters often have specific shut-off valves just for themselves, which makes it easy for you to shut off the source without removing water access for the rest of the house. These fixtures have these shut-off valves to help make installations and repairs a little easier.
Typically, these shut-off valves will be gate valves or ball valves. Gate valves have a circular bit that you turn clockwise or counter-clockwise to turn on and off the water. It’s possible to overturn the handle and cause damage, so turn it slowly and smoothly while checking the water flow. Once the water stops flowing, stop turning. Also, when you’re ready to turn the water back on, do so very slowly; suddenly letting in a rush of water through a half-opened valve can damage the inner workings.
Ball valves have a large handle that you turn 90 degrees to turn the water access on and off. If the handle is parallel to the pipe, access is open and water will flow to the appliance. If the handle is perpendicular, the water is off.
Do you want to turn off your house’s water entirely?
Your home’s main shut-off valve is usually located outside. You should look in the area between the street and the closest exterior wall of your house to the street, because when your house was being built, it was connected to the municipal water system with the shortest route possible. Your shut-off valve will likely either be located in a green box dug into your front lawn or a circular metal access cover near your driveway. The green boxes pop right open, but the metal ones will need a special tool, a meter key, to be opened.
Once the curb stop is opened, you will generally see two valves and a gauge. Leave the gauge and the valve furthest from your house alone; those belong to the city. Instead, only turn the valve that is closest to your property, and use slow, smooth movements like with a gate valve.
Once your water is turned off, either to a specific appliance or to your whole house, you can better inspect the problem. Make sure you turn off electricity if you’re repairing a heater or washer before you do anything!As always, check out Brian Wear Plumbing for more tips, or contact us for further plumbing needs!