Everything You Need to Know About Your Main Shut-Off Valve

Whenever you move into a new location, one of the first things you should do is locate your main shut-off valve. Hopefully, you’ll go years without needing to touch this water valve. However, in an emergency, it’s essential to know where it is. Explore this guide to discover all the details about your water main shut-off valve.

What Is the Main Shut-Off Valve?

The main shut-off valve is the valve that stands between your home and your water supply. This valve is connected right to the water main. Depending on where you live and what sort of water supply you have, it may connect to the city’s water pipes or to your well’s output pipes.

When the valve is open, water flows from the main supply to the rest of your home. Water pressure pushes water into your pipes, and when you open a faucet or use a fixture, the water will flow out. If you close this valve, all the water flowing to your home will stop. There will still be some water in your home’s plumbing system, but it will quickly drain out.

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Reasons You Need to Know Where Your Shut-Off Valve Is

Especially if you are new to a home, it is extremely important to know where the shut-off valve is. Though there is no reason to turn it off during day-to-day operations, you might need to close it during an emergency. If you have a broken pipe gushing water everywhere, being able to get to the valve quickly can be quite useful. Turning it off will stop the flow of water, so your broken pipes won’t quit pumping out more and more water into your home. Being able to do this promptly, instead of spending 10 minutes wandering around looking for the valve, can prevent a lot of flood damage.

Knowing how to tinker with the shut-off valve can identify some common home plumbing issues. Though rare, it is possible for the shut-off valve to be accidentally closed. When the valve is in a partially closed position, your water pressure will drop. Any time you experience a random decrease in pressure, checking your valve to make sure it’s open is a good idea.

The shut-off valve also comes in handy during home renovations. Any time you are working on your pipes, it can be helpful to close the shut-off valve. Depending on your home’s setup, there might be smaller valves you can close off next to a toilet or other fixture. However, if you can’t find these valves or there’s none near your workspace, the shut-off valve is your best option. It will stop all water flow, so you can do things like swap out fixtures or replace a section of a leaky pipe.

What Does the Main Shut-Off Valve Look Like?

The water main shut-off valve will look like a slightly large pipe with some sort of handle stuck in the middle of it. It’s not a massive pipe or valve, so it can easily blend in with the rest of your fixtures. However, you can identify it because the handle attaches straight to the pipe and does not control a nearby faucet or other fixture.

There are two different types of handles to look for. A ball valve is one of the most common options. This is a straight handle that will run parallel to the pipe while your water is on. The other common type of valve is a gate valve. The gate valve looks like a hose faucet, so it will be a round knob that you can rotate. Both types of valve handles are typically coated with a red, blue, or white coating. However, they might be bare metal or painted another color. Especially in older homes, water valves can come in a variety of unusual sizes and colors.

Common Locations for the Main Shut-Off Valve

The main shut-off valve is usually located outside the house somewhere near the perimeter of the home. However, in some cases, it might be in a basement or under a crawl space. In some homes, the valve is situated somewhere near one of your appliances. It might be close to your water heater, kitchen sink, or furnace.

To find your valve, you’ll need to carefully walk around your home while keeping a close eye out for the valve. The valve is usually located somewhere at ground level. It might run perpendicular to the ground or stick out at an upright angle. If you are walking around outside, it is often at your feet. If you are in your basement, it may be near your head. Keep in mind that the water valve might be covered by a protective box or partially obscured by plants.

How Do You Know If You’ve Found the Main Shut-Off Valve?

For many people, the hardest part is just figuring out whether the random knob they’ve found is the right valve. If your plumbing is in good condition and your water supply is currently turned on, you can test the valve. For valves with a ball valve, rotate the straight handle until it is perpendicular to the pipe. For gate valves, rotate the round handle clockwise until it quits turning.

Once you do this, head inside to a working sink and turn the sink on. If the water pressure starts to drop after a few seconds and then eventually quits flowing, you have successfully shut off your water supply. After confirming this information, don’t forget to go back outside and turn your shut-off valve back to the open position. Do this by rotating the round handle counter-clockwise until it won’t move or by rotating the straight handle until it is parallel with your pipe.

What to Do If You Cannot Locate the Main Shut-Off Valve

If you’ve checked all the common locations and still have no clue where your shut-off valve is, you have a few options. Homeowners who still have their home inspection report can check it. This report should mention where the shut-off valve is and what condition it’s in. You can use this information to find the valve somewhere on your property.

Another way to resolve the problem is to call your utility company. There will often be another valve right at the boundary of your property. Called the streetside shut-off valve or curb valve, this is a valve meant to be used by utility workers maintaining the water lines. Not all streetside valves are meant to be operated by non-professionals. However, your local water company can explain where this valve is and tell you whether or not it has a knob you can use to shut off your water supply.

If you have any other questions about how your water main shut-off valve works, Huft Home Services can help. Our team of professionals is happy to examine your plumbing system and help you locate your valve. We also provide a wide variety of plumbing, cooling, heating, and electrical services. The next time you need repairs, maintenance, or installation in your Sacramento home, contact Huft Home Services for assistance.

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