Advice from Local Plumbers--Where to Shut off Water in an Emergency

Advice from Local Plumbers--Where to Shut off Water in an Emergency

Emergencies occur in many different forms and sizes. A small emergency occurs when a child flushes a toilet and water begins to spill over the top of the bowl. Larger emergencies occur when a pipe bursts or water becomes contaminated. Responding quickly by turning off the water immediately can prevent bigger problems from occurring. However, it isn't always necessary to turn the water off at the street in order to take care of a problem. Local plumbers recommend turning off water closest to the source of the problem. Knowing ahead of time which valve to use can help you respond more quickly when an emergency occurs.

Device Valves

Nearly all plumbing devices are equipped with local shut-off valves. If the water problem is coming from the device, the simplest solution is to stop the flow of water to that device. Following is a list of devices and possible locations of their individual valves:

  • Toilet—behind the toilet, usually near the floor
  • Sink—underneath the sink near the p-trap if it has a separate shut-off valve
  • Dishwasher—underneath the sink adjacent to the dishwasher
  • Ice maker—either behind the refrigerator or in the basement or crawlspace
  • Washing machine—behind the washer
  • Water heater—supply line for cold water located on top of the appliance
  • Water softener—supply line for cold water leading into the device

The specific location of each device may be different. Be sure to check your homeowner's manual for details.

Main Valves to the House

Many homes are equipped with valves that will shut off all the water to a home without turning the water off to the entire property. These valves are often located in the basement or on an outside wall. They are usually found near the location where the main water line enters the house. This valve is easier to access than the main water line. Therefore, most of the time you would want to use this valve to turn off water to the entire building.

Water Main from the City

The other main shut-off valve is located near the edge of the property line where the city water connects with the building's water. This valve is encased in a box under the ground. It is usually covered with a heavy metal plate. You would use this valve in the event of an emergency that renders water lines unstable such as an earthquake or a fire.

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