Straight out of our customers’ files: We had a panicked caller on the line last month, screaming into the phone, “There’s water spraying out all over our basement!” The calm, soothing voice of our general manager talked her through the process of locating her home’s main shut off valve and stopping the water. We followed up with the prompt dispatch of one of our plumbers and a mitigation specialist, to avert much of this disaster-in-the-making. When a water supply pipe develops a leak, the water pressure in the pipe will cause an impressive spray all over the area, quickly followed by flooding of the room or basement.
Do you know where your house has its shut-off valves? It’s time to locate yours and test it out; make sure every member of your family knows where it lives too. It will most likely be in the basement, or perhaps you have a crawl space or utility room, close to the water meter. It will probably be close to the foundation of the home.
There are two main types of shut off valve:
- Ball Valve: This is pictured above and to the right. It’s a simple quarter-turn handle, and you can easily see if it’s ON (in line with the pipe) or OFF (at right angle to the pipe). The yellow handle is the shut off valve you would turn, “downstream” from the water meter. To the right of the meter at the bottom of the picture above is another shut off, called the “street side” shut off. This type of valve will only turn one way and should be easy to turn on or off. It’s the most common type for a main shut off valve.
- Gate Valve: If you have an older home, you may see a Gate Valve on the main shut off. It’s pictured to the left, and will take several turns clockwise to turn off. Go counter-clockwise to turn the water back on. You won’t be able to tell if the water is on or off just by looking at the valve; you’ll have to try turning it. This type of valve should also turn easily.
After testing your shut-off valve, it’s a good idea to take out each faucet’s aerator before you turn it on. Sediment may have gotten into your pipes, and you don’t want to plug up the little screen on the end of your faucet. Simply screw it off, turn the water to the faucet on until it flows clear, turn it off, and screw the aerator back on.
If your shut off valve, whether it’s a gate or ball valve, doesn’t turn easily, don’t put a wrench or other tool on it to force it – you may crack the pipes or valve. Give us a call, and one of our plumbers can come out to see if your main shut off needs to be replaced.
Better to find out now if you can avert a disaster in your home if a pipe breaks!