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How do I Find & Turn Off My Home’s Main Water Valve?

John Turpin is our resident home service repair expert here at Service Direct. He’s got the knowledge and experience to help homeowners like you make sense of most home repair issues. And with Service Direct, we connect you with top-tier service professionals to help with any repairs needed.

Don’t Panic If You Can’t Find the Main Water Valve

Do you know where your home’s main water valve is? And do you know how to turn it off? It’s important to know these now before you have to deal with a plumbing emergency because chances are, you will.

One day, you may have a pipe suddenly burst behind a wall, flooding your home. When this happens, you need to be able to turn the water off for repairs. It’s also helpful to know how to turn the water off before leaving home for a long trip.

Besides these situations, it helps to know where the main water valve is and how it functions to keep it working all the time. Periodically closing and reopening the valve prevents it from getting stuck and you’ll know if it’s worn out as well.

Now, let’s dive into knowing more about the main water valve. Read on to learn what it is, how to find it, and how to turn it off when needed.

How to turn off your water at home yourself
Read on for how to find and shut off your main water valve

What Is the Main Water Valve?

Do you know what the main water shut-off valve is? Well, this valve is what controls the flow of water throughout your entire house. The water supply can come from either a public source of water, such as the municipal water supply. Or, you have a private source, i.e. a well.

For the water to get through your pipes and to the rest of your home, it has to get through a kind of gatekeeper first. And what is this gatekeeper? It’s the main water shut-off valve, or simply the main water valve. When you turn it on, water flows freely everywhere in your house. When you turn it off, water is restricted.

Water shut-off valves don’t just control the water flower in the entirety of the house. Some of them control the flow of water just to a specific part or fixture of your home. For instance, it can turn off the water that flows to the kitchen sink, the toilet, or the washing machine. In any case, the main water valve is how to control your home’s water supply.

What Are the Different Types of Main Water Valves?

Main water valves come in a wide range of types used in institutional, commercial, and industrial fields. But if we’re talking about valves used in residential areas, there are two main types – the gate valve and the ball valve.

These valves’ sizes typically range from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inch. The beauty of residential main water shut-off valves is you can maneuver them without the need of any tool. You can turn them on and off by hand.

Gate Valves

Gate valves have circular handles. The handle is attached to the valve’s stem and when turned will slowly close the gate inside of the valve. When the handle is rotated in a clockwise direction, the gate closes and the water flow is blocked. When the handle is turned in the opposite direction, the gate opens and the water flows freely again.

How to guide for shutting off your home water plumbing
Learn the difference between gate and ball valves for water shutoff.

Ball Valves

Ball valves are the most commonly used for homes and are characterized by a lever-style handle. It has a ball inside the valve, as the name suggests. In the center of the ball is a hole where water flows through when the valve is open and the handle is in line with the pipe. Turning the valve to 90 degrees prevents water from flowing.

Our resident home repair guru, John Turpin, has provided some useful DIY tips for how to find your home’s main water shut off valve and how to turn it off.

How to Find the Main Water Shut-off Valve

There are a number of places where the main water shut-off valve could be. It can be behind the furnace or inside drywall. It can be in a crawlspace, cellar, or basement near the main water line as it enters the home.

If you are in a warmer area where you don’t have to worry about your pipes freezing, the valve can be found outdoors. It can also be buried somewhere near the street, below an access panel hidden in the ground.

How to Turn Off the Water in the Main Water Valve

Now that you know how to find the main water shut-off valve, time to learn how to turn off your home water supply. Don’t worry because it’s easy enough to turn the water off in your house. All you need to do is follow the steps below.

1. Locate the Main Water Valve

We already taught you where to look for the main water shut-off valve. If you haven’t looked yet, now is the time to search for it. Check the places we’ve mentioned before. If you live in a warmer area, start looking outdoors.

Once you find the valve, take the time to inspect it. See if it is aged, has rust, or is dripping. If you can confirm it’s worn out significantly, then it is best to replace it now or contact a plumber to replace it for you.

2. Turn the Valve Clockwise

For a gate valve, you turn off the main water valve by turning the handle clockwise until it doesn’t turn anymore. If you have a ball valve, you can cut the water off by turning the lever clockwise to 90 degrees.

For the most part, you don’t need any tool to turn the water off in your house. The valves themselves are designed for manual hand turning. But if the valves are stuck and you can’t turn them, you can use a pipe wrench or a channel lock wrench.

When using a tool, be sure to grip the valve’s handle firmly but gently. Apply pressure in the right direction. Go slow and don’t squeeze too tight or you may damage the valve. If you can’t make it work, you should call a plumber to fix it.

3. Drain the Water from the Tap

Once you have successfully turned off the water, you should take this opportunity to relieve the pipes of some pressure. Let your faucets run until they are empty. At this time, you can also start working on your plumbing tasks.

4. Turn Water Supply Back On

Are you done with your repairs? If you are, then turn the water back on by turning the valve counterclockwise. In the beginning, the taps will spit air as the pipes are filled with water. Give it a few minutes before turning the tap off.

Water Shutoff FAQs

What Is the Best Type of Main Water Shut-off Valve?

Of the two, the ball valves are the most reliable. They’re also the most commonly used in residences for main water shut-off valves. Their mechanism prevents them from getting stuck while allowing water flow to open and close fully without issue.

When Should You Replace Your Main Water Valve?

It’s probably time to replace your main water valve when your pipes continue to drip even when the valve is turned off. Replacing the valve is not complicated with the house water off, but if you’re unsure how to do it, you can enlist the help of a local plumber.

Why Won’t the Main Water Shut-off Valve Close?

A main water valve not closing completely is often due to sediment buildup inside the valve’s body. The sediment ends up lodged between the gate and the body itself, preventing the valve from closing. The only type of valve that suffers from this is the gate valve since ball valves operate differently. If this happens with your valve, loosen the packing nut above the valve body and the stem. This helps to break the sediment free and be flushed away with the flow of water. Don’t forget to tighten it back again when you are done.

Hire a Local Plumbing Pro

The methods above are effective DIY tips to learn how to shut off your main water valve. But if you need professional help, then don’t hesitate to contact a local plumbing pro using the phone number or form on this page.

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