For the homeowner, in terms of Home Maintenance, there are few things more disconcerting than to have a water line rupture somewhere in the house or otherwise break and start spewing pressurized water everywhere. If and when that happens (it probably will someday) you will find it comforting if you know where to go to find the shut off valve for the water supply to your building. It is common to find isolation valves below a sink or toilet.
If those local isolation valves are old they may not be easy to operate -mainly because they are seldom used. It is best to be prepared in case you need the main water valve for the building. My advice is to take the time and find it. This is good advice whether you own the home or rent it. If water is spewing all over the place, it’s your belongings you will saving if you can quickly shut off the water.
How To Find Your Main Water Valve
In a municipal area (where you have public water piped in from the street) the main water line is most likely on the street side of the house. There is usually one main ‘trunk’ line with smaller lines branching of to the bathroom(s) and kitchen, as well as the outside faucets.
Follow the Main water line back and you’ll find it as it emerges through the foundation.
If your house is on a well, the Main Water Supply could be on any side of the house. If you know where the well is located, that’s the side of the house to look for it. If not, again, follow the main water line across the basement and you’ll find it.
Of course, if the water pump is in the basement, you’ll find the water line there. (Some pumps are submersed in the well).
Bear in mind, as above, this valve is rarely used and, if it is fairly old, it might begin leaking if the seal is dried out. If it is old and ‘drippy’ it’s a good idea to have an experienced plumber replace it with a new valve. To do so will require the valve in the street be closed. As the valve is below grade, it requires a special long-shafted tool to operate it. A Qualified Plumber will have the necessary tool to do that.
How to Recognize Types of Common Valves Found in a House
Gate Valves have round handles that turn clockwise and counter-clockwise. Always remember “Righty -Tighty” (CLOSED or, OFF) and “Lefty -Loosey” (OPEN or, ON).
Ball Valves have a Lever or, stem type handle. OFF or, CLOSED position is when the handle is at a right angle to the supply line. ON or, OPEN position is when the handle is parallel to the supple line.
Provide Positive Valve Identification for Unusual Events
In my house I have now “tagged’ or ‘labelled’ all the valves, identifying what they supply. It is a good policy to show everyone in the household where the Main Water Valve is. It is good to be familiar with its location and have it tagged to confirm, at a glance, that you are at the right valve.
Case in Point: Learning the Hard Way
I remember waking up one Saturday morning years ago and listening to what I thought was the sound of rain. As I opened my eyes and squinted toward the window, what I saw was a bright sunny day. That took a moment to register. I was looking at blue sky and hearing, quite distinctly, the sounds of a moderately heavy rain. I rolled that around my half asleep brain for a moment and decided the sounds must be coming from down in the basement.
Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw about four inches of water over the entire cellar floor and a ruptured pipe spewing pressurized water up against the underside of the floor above and then falling down on the floor making the raining sound.
Yikes! What to do? I raced upstairs to get something on my feet. Our cellar floor was concrete but kind of primitive, as the house was built in 1898. I didn’t want to wade through with my bare feet. Next I wondered where the heck the shut-off was. We had lived there for about a year and it never occurred to me to locate the Main Water Supply Shut-Off Valve.
In the ensuing minutes, quite a number of gallons spewed into the basement before I was able to locate and shut off the water supply.
When your basement is flooding or your kitchen is getting sprayed down under pressure, it’s not the time to go exploring the location of the Main Water Supply Valve.
Though not a 911 event, that was one of my first unusual events in the continuing saga of maintaining our Home and Garden.
You have any thoughts on this or experience? If so, why not share them by commenting below.
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