Aug 5, 2020

DIY

Finding & Fixing Your Water Shutoff Valve

Knowing where your water shutoff valve is can save money and stress in the event of an emergency. Learn how to find and fix yours.

It’s important you’re familiar with your main shutoff valve before an emergency occurs. Here's a guide on how to find and fix it.

Water is wonderful when it’s where it’s supposed to be — in a glass on the nightstand, falling from the sky on a mild summer’s day, or dripping peacefully off the edge of an infinity pool at your luxury resort. Ahh. That’s a nice visual.

That being said, few things strike more panic into a homeowner’s heart than the sight of water where you don’t want it to be — leaking from a running toilet, streaming from a burst pipe, dripping from a busted water heater. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a leaky sink can cause serious damage to your home in a very short amount of time. Knowing exactly where your main water shutoff valve is located and how to turn off the water supply as soon as a leak, spill or flood occurs can save your home from costly damages.

It’s important you’re familiar with the main shutoff valve’s location and function before an emergency occurs. When the pressure is on, you’ll know exactly where to go and how to jump into action.

The little valve that could (save your home)

In order to reach the main shutoff valve, all water entering your home must first pass through at least three valves installed by the city. Since you aren’t in control of the city’s valves, it’s best to know just how to take control of the waterflow in your very own home. When facing a household water-related emergency, the main shutoff is the first place you need to go in order to prevent the damage from spreading. This important piece of plumbing is almost always located in the basement or on an exterior wall of a utility room.

Types of main shutoff valves

Gate Valve

These are ultra-reliable and will last you for years. Gate valves are the ones that have a round, screw-like knob—envision the knob that’s on many homes’ outdoor water taps. Close the gate valve by turning it in a clockwise motion. The drawback is that, if not regularly turned, they can become stuck. If you have a gate valve, we highly recommend taking a moment to close and reopen it every 3 to 6 months, just to keep things loose and moving freely.

If you find your gate-style valve has gotten stuck, spray the stem with penetrating oil (e.g., WD-40) and wipe off the excess with a dry rag. Then, using a wrench or a hammer, lightly tap the valve to get it to open up.

Ball Valve

This kind of valve is extremely sturdy and easy to use in all kinds of climates. It has a lever, or handle, on top of the valve that you can turn into either the open or shut position. The motion that is required to operate the valve is quick and minimal compared to the sometimes-cumbersome gate valves.

The ball valve is open when the handle aligns with the pipe itself. To close it and shut off the water supply, pull the handle clockwise so that it’s at a right angle to the pipe.

Turning the water back on

Before you turn the water back on, it’s important you take a moment to unscrew the small screens known as “aerators” from the ends of all of your household faucets. This prevents loose particles in the pipes from clogging the tiny holes in the aerators.

There will often be some leakage near the valve’s stem after you have reopened it post-repair. As soon as you notice a leak, gently tighten the packing nut that’s holding the valve’s stem in place. Tighten it enough to stop the leak and no more than that — over tightening this nut will make the valve hard to turn again.

You got this

Every homeowner should know where their valves are located and how to operate them. You’ll be so proud of yourself when you’re able to go from zero to hero and jump into action the next time there’s a moment of plumbing peril in your home.