I’ll never forget that night. I was laying out new mulch in my home that we had just built a few months prior, with my pregnant wife sitting on the tailgate of the truck, when I accidentally hit the sprinkler backflow valve and sent a geyser shooting into the air. Frantic, I ran around the yard looking for a way to shut it off, but I had no idea how to find the main water valve for my house. Thirty minutes and dozens of gallons of water later, I finally located it. Chalk it up to a rookie mistake, but I just hadn’t taken the time to locate the essential components of my new house.
You should. In the event of a leak or pipe burst, knowing where your main water valve is can be the difference between a small repair bill and a HUGE repair bill due to waste and damage to your home. Water is one of the more destructive things in your home, so you need to know how to neutralize it.
How to Find Your Main Water Valve
The first thing you can do is simply walk around the perimeter of your house. Normally, it’ll be on the side of your house that’s closest to the street, since home builders save money by running a direct line from the street to the house itself. If you can’t find one close to your house, there should be a valve located at the beginning of the water main, near the sidewalk. It’s usually underneath a metal door; pull it up and you should find it no problem.
Alternatively, if you can find a copy of your inspection report when you bought your house, look in the plumbing inspection section and see if there’s a photo or diagram available. This will help you know where to look. If all else fails, call a plumber.
There are also individual cutoffs inside your house to different appliances and units. For instance, every toilet should have a knob or pull-lever underneath the tank on the wall that you can pull to kill the water to that one toilet. Those are especially handy if you ever need to do some repair work. The same goes for sinks, washing machines, and a few other appliances.
How To Shut the Water Off
Once you locate the main water valve for your house, you should see either a round handle valve or a ball valve. Both are pretty straightforward and reliable, but take a few minutes and make sure that you actually can turn it before you find out you can’t in the middle of an emergency.
A round handle valve looks (shocker!) like a round handle, just like you would see on an external water faucet. Turning it a few times will shut the water off or back on, depending on your needs. A ball valve only requires a quarter turn, since it shuts off the water completely when the handle is out of line with the flow. You might need a screwdriver or pair of pliers to turn this knob one way or the other.