Imagine trying to function around the house without any running water. Your kitchen, your bathroom, your laundry room, your backyard garden—so many important parts of your home depend on that running water. But when you have a plumbing emergency, suddenly that source of running water could become a destructive force, causing flooding and other damage.
When running water is out of control in your home, the best option is often to turn the source of your home’s water supply off entirely until you can assess the situation. Do you know how to do that?
It’s always best to familiarize yourself ahead of time so that you know what to do in the event of an emergency. You don’t want to be trying to figure out how to turn your water off as a burst pipe floods your bathroom!
When a pipe bursts or has a significant leak, it can quickly flood an area, causing water damage. Shut off the water supply to stop the flow and prevent more water from entering the affected area.
If a toilet is overflowing and you can't stop it by simply flushing the handle, shut off the water supply to the toilet. This valve is typically located behind or beneath the toilet.
A leaking water heater can release a large amount of water, potentially damaging the surrounding area. Turn off the water supply to the water heater to stop the leak.
If a faucet, sink, or other plumbing fixture is continuously running or leaking, it can waste water and cause damage over time. Shut off the water supply to the specific fixture until it can be repaired.
If sewage is backing up into your home, shutting off the main water supply can prevent further sewage from entering your plumbing system.
In the event of frozen pipes, turning off the water can help prevent pipes from bursting when they thaw. This is a preventive measure.
The first step is to remain calm and assess the situation. Determine the severity of the plumbing emergency and ensure your safety. If the situation is too dangerous or beyond your ability to handle it, consider calling a professional plumber or your local water utility.
The main water valve, also known as the main shut-off valve, is usually located near the point where the main water line enters your home. This can be in various places, but common locations include the basement, utility room, garage, or near an outdoor water meter.
After that, you need to turn off the main water valve. Most homes have one of two types of valves—either the lever valve or the wheel valve.
To shut off a lever-type valve, simply turn it 90 degrees (a quarter-turn) so that it's perpendicular to the water pipe. When it's across the pipe, it's in the "off" position.
To close a wheel-type valve, turn the wheel clockwise (righty-tighty) until it's fully closed. These valves can sometimes be a bit stiff, so you may need to use some force. If it's a multi-turn valve, keep turning until it won't go any further.
After you turn off the main valve, you need to open a faucet (preferably at the lowest point in your home) to ensure the water supply is indeed cut off. This will help relieve any pressure left in the pipes. Then you can proceed to address the plumbing emergency or make necessary repairs.
What happens if you find yourself in a situation where it feels like you might need to turn off the water, but you’re not 100% positive? It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Turning off the water when you don't need to is generally not a problem, and it's often a safer choice in situations where you're uncertain about a plumbing issue. You can always turn it back on again!
If you think you do need to turn the water off, make your decision by taking these steps:
Evaluate the severity of the plumbing issue. If it's a minor leak or drip that you can easily fix, you might not need to shut off the water. However, if the problem is causing significant flooding or damage, it's best to shut off the water.
If the plumbing issue poses any safety risks, such as the potential for electrical hazards or structural damage, prioritize your safety and shut off the water.
If the plumbing emergency is in a location where water damage can be particularly destructive, like an upper floor, valuable electronics, or near electrical systems, it's a good idea to shut off the water supply.
If you're unsure about whether to shut off the water, consider consulting a professional plumber or your local water utility for guidance.