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Where Is The Water Shut Off Valve In Your Home?

water shut off valve

When you move into a new home, one of the very first things you'll want to do is know how to find main water shut off in the house. If there is ever an emergency, like a burst pipe flooding your property, you'll need to access this valve immediately so that no new water can enter your home.

Water shut off valves are the primary connection between the water that travels from your town's supply to your home's plumbing system. In a lot of cases, the water travels through three different city-installed valves before passing through your home’s main shutoff valve. 

Being able to quickly know where to find the main water shut off valve in a house can save you thousands of dollars in the event of an emergency. Taking the time to locate it now can prevent a major disaster down the line. 

How To Find The Main Water Shut Off In Your House

One of the reasons it’s difficult to locate the main water shut off in a home is that its location can change depending on the elevation, climate, local codes and the age of your home. 

Homes in colder climates typically have it on the inside of the home, while more tropical homes often have them on the outside. In Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., the water shut off valve is on the inside since temperatures can get low in the winter and water outside the home could freeze — leading to exploding pipes. 

Ground-Level Inspection

Since the majority of homes here have them on the inside, start your search by looking along the perimeter walls at ground level. The city water main is located by the street and extends straight back in the shortest line to your home, so checking the side of your house closest to the street is a good place to start. 

And since water comes in at roughly ground level, looking towards the bottom of the wall on the first floor or above eye-level in your basement can help you typically pinpoint the valve location. 

Look Back At The Plans

If locating the main water shut off valve through a visual inspection fails you, look back at your home’s blueprints or home inspection report. Under the plumping section, the location of the main water shut off should be clearly located.  

The Types Of Water Valves

Water shut off valves always have a handle on them that you simply have to turn to cut the flow of water. Depending on the type of valve, they will likely be either a gate or ball valve.

Gate Valve

If the pipes leading into your house are metal, usually copper, then you probably have a gate valve. 

This design essentially brings a wall down when the handle is turned that keeps the water at bay. A big problem with this is that if the handle doesn't get turned over a long period of time, it may get stuck and be difficult to turn when you need it to. 

It's best to test this valve immediately if you haven't in a while to make sure that it will work when you need it most. Once found and identified, testing it periodically as part of a plumbing maintenance plan keeps it in good condition, so it’s ready to be used when called upon. 

Ball Valve

If there are plastic pipes leading into your house, you're likely to have a ball valve at the shutoff point. 

When the handle is aligned with the pipe, water flows freely. Turning the wheel a quarter of the way so that it’s at a right angle to the pipe seals off the water. This works as the ball (hence the name) within the pipe has a hole in it that when open, allows water through, but when turned 90 degrees, shifts to block the flow. 

While ball valves don’t suffer the same stickiness as gate valves, it’s still a good idea to periodically test that it works so there are no surprises in the case of an emergency. 

Get Help Now To Prevent Damage Later

Coming home to find that a pipe has burst or a sink is leaking is already bad enough. Not being able to find the main water shut off is even worse. Taking the time to know where to find the main water shut off valve in your house now can save you a major headache, lots of money, and precious time later.

Should an emergency arise and you can’t find your shut off valve, trust the experts at John C. Flood to help set your home back on the right course. Or, get ahead of possible damage by scheduling a plumbing inspection. We’ll locate your water main valve for you and test it to make sure it’s in proper working condition.

Give us a call at (703) 752-1266 or contact us online to schedule your inspection today!