Water leaks are never fun and definitely messy. The sooner you learn where your water shutoff valves are and how to turn them off, the better. Sometimes your plumbing will spring a leak because a piece of piping or connector splits. Winter is more challenging if you live up north where temperatures drop below freezing. Regardless of where you live you need to know where your main water valve is.
You need to shutoff exterior faucets to avoid problems if/when the temperature drops below freezing. Typically you'll have one or more outside faucets for watering the lawn, washing the car, etc. Each exterior faucet should have a shutoff valve inside the house where you can turn off the source of water to the outside faucet.
Sometimes a homeowner will close the shutoff valve and forget to drain the pipe from the shutoff valve to the faucet, leaving water in the pipe which can freeze. Make sure you drain the outside faucet, close it and remove the garden hose. The outdoor shower to the left, has an extra valve inside to drain the system. Lower than all the other pipes, the red valve is turned to let water in the system drain through the pipe below the valve. Learn more tips about shutting off your water supply.
Water emergencies happen often from a plumbing leak inside your home to water entering your home from outside. You need to respond to water problems quickly. Why? Water or high levels of moisture left too long can cause damage, often hidden damage, which increases the risk of mold along with higher repair costs.
Once you see a small stain on your ceiling, the water leak that caused it didn't happen that day but days or weeks earlier. What appears to be a small problem, might be small … and might be a lot bigger once you start searching for the source of the leak.
Learn How to Shut your Water Off
Most homeowners don’t know they can shut off the main water supply to their home. The plumbing system starts with a water shut off valve where the water enters your home and many fixtures like toilets have another shutoff valve you can use to stop the flow of water without killing the entire or main supply. When you buy a home, you want to get familiar with your shutoff valves (practice opening and closing at least one) so you’re prepared for this emergency.
Always Turn the Handle Clockwise to Shut the Water Off
Where Are Your Water Shutoff Valves?
Ideally every source of water in your home has it's own shutoff valve. You don't see them as they're not pretty so they're often hiding inside the bathroom vanity or behind the washing machine. In more recent years, it's becoming more common to add shut off valves near the washing machine and leaving these visible to remind you to shut the valves when you leave for an extended period of time. If you have a shut off valve that looks like the one pictured here, you need to turn the handle a full 90º to shut it off. How to remember, if the handle is in line with the piping, the water is flowing. If the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, the water supply is off.
- Near the water meter (main shutoff) where water enters your home. In colder climates the main shutoff is inside the home while it may be outside in warm weather climates.
- Under each sink there should be two (2) shutoff valves, as there are 2 supply lines for hot and cold water. Don't forget extra sinks like a bar sink or a utility sink in the laundry room.
- The dishwasher is connected to the water line under the sink, so you shut it's water off with the kitchen sink shutoff.
- Each toilet has a shutoff valve (shown here) behind the toilet, most often on the left side. To shut off water to the toilet, you turn the valve to the right.
- The washing machine should have valves behind it that are easy to access, and turn off.
- Look for a shutoff valve on the cold water pipe coming into the top of your hot water heater.
- The refrigerator ice maker may be controlled by the kitchen sink or other water supply valve. It may also have its’ own small shutoff valve.
- Only bathtubs and showers do not have special shutoff valves because their controls provide that function.
- Find the shutoff valves for exterior plumbing including faucets and a sprinkler system. If they don't have individual shutoff valves, ask the plumber to install them on the next visit.
If your home has an interior sprinkler system for fire suppression like many condominiums must now have, learn how to shut this system off. In multi-unit buildings, i.e. condominiums, the water supply may be shared and either an onsite manager or the fire department should know how to shut the water off if the owner of the unit with the shutoff valve isn’t home.
Most homeowners will need to deal with a variety of plumbing problems. Even if you call your plumber to handle repairs, it pays to learn a little about the plumbing in your house, that's exactly why we strive to provide content that will empower women homeowners.
PS It's also a good idea to turn your water shut off valves on and off once a year. This will prevent the valves from freezing up which can then involve cutting them off after 10 years, and replacing them.