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How To Find The Main Water Shutoff Valve: A Guide For Beginners

where to locate main water shut off valve

How To Find Your Main Water Shutoff Valve

One of the first things we as homeowners and even renters need to know is to where and how to shut off the water to our house. It’s critically important to take the time today to find out where the main water shutoff valve location is to your house.  

Believe me, the last thing you want to do is wait until you’re standing in a puddle of water looking around wondering how to stop it from continuing to flow onto your hardwood floors. During the middle of an emergency is not the time to figure it out.  Avoid disaster by taking a few minutes today and find it.  Then, make sure everyone in your house knows where it is.

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New Home or Apartment? Where Is The Main Water Shutoff Valve?

One of the first things I do when moving into a new home is look for the main water shut off valve. The first house I lived in, it was easy.  It was located in the garage next to where I parked, so i saw it every day.  My current home was a different story.

Prevent Emergencies And Costly Repairs

I was in the middle of remodeling our current home, working on it in the evenings and weekends.  One evening I walked through the front door and found myself stepping into a puddle of water. At the time I had no idea where it had come from or if it was still running.

Fortunately, I located the problem and corrected it.  The water had come from a line from the water softener that I failed to connect after disconnecting it the day before. Double fortunate…I had just removed the old flooring and had not put in the new flooring yet. I barely escaped disaster.   

This experience got me to think though…Did I know how to turn off the main water supply to my house?  Did I know exactly where the main shutoff valve was located.  The answer was no.  Did I quickly figure it out? Yes.

Why It’s Important To Know

There are some really good reasons for knowing how to shut off the water supply to your house.

  1. A Broken water line: This can happen many different ways and can be very detrimental and costly. I’ve even seen where someone screwed into the wall and hit a water line.  Water spraying all over the place.  Fortunately for them they knew where the shutoff valve was.

  2. Repairs/Renovations:  You will need to be able to turn the water off if you want to make any repairs to your sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc.  

How To Find The Main Water Shut Off Valve

To find the main water shut off valve, you’ll want to look in the basement or on an outside wall of the garage or utility room, keeping in mind you are looking for where the main water line is coming into the house from outside.  

Many times the main shutoff valve is located in places we don’t really want to go. They are frequently found in dark, dirty places where bugs, mice and other creepy crawlies prefer to reside.  Where it’s located really depends on things like where your house is regionally (cold or warm region), are you on city water or a well or how old your house is.

Both houses I’ve lived in, the shutoff valve has been located near an outside faucet.  This might be a coincidence, but it also makes sense. 

If you are on city water, you should be able to locate a valve out near the street on the house side of the water meter.

If you have a well, look near the holding tank in your house.  You should see a line coming in from the well to the tank, and another from the tank to the house.  There should be a shutoff valve between the tank and the house.

What To Look For and How to Turn the Water Off

Your main shutoff valve will most likely either be a ball valve or a gate valve.  Whichever kind of valve it is, you’ll turn it clockwise to shut the water off.  The ball valve only requires ¼ turn.  The gate valve will require multiple clockwise turns to completely turn the water off.

Ball Valve:  Typically found in newer homes, or older homes with updated plumbing. Has a lever for a handle. Only requires ¼ turn clockwise to turn off.

single handle ball valve
Ball Valve
ball valve
Ball Valve

Gate Valve: Typically in older homes.  Has the typical “round” valve handle appearance. Requires multiple clockwise turns to completely shut water off.

Gate Valves

    You may notice a small leak from around the stem of the valve after turning it off and back on again.  To stop the leak, simply tighten the nut at the base of the valve just enough to stop the leak. Over tightening can make it so you won’t be able to turn the valve off again.

    Now, take some time today and locate your main water shutoff valve. Afterwards, share with everyone else in the house where it is located. Don’t wait until you HAVE to know where it is. A little time spent today can save massive amounts of money spent later!

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