How Do I Shut Off My Water?

water filtration installation

What is the first thing you should do if you have a leak in your basement and you can’t find where it is coming from? We get this question every single day. When I asked some of our master plumbers this question, the answer was consistently concise and unanimous: shut off your main water valve! My follow-up question was “What is the first thing you should do if your toilet is leaking?” The answer, again, was unanimous: shut off the supply valve to the toilet. If anything is leaking, it’s always best to shut off the nearest supply valve to it so the appropriate repairs can be performed on them while mitigating the risk of any water damage. One of our master plumbers gave me some very helpful advice for identifying and operating important shutoff valves in your home.

The Main Water Shutoff Valve

The main water shutoff valve controls the flow of all water coming from the city water works into your home. This means your main water shutoff valve will stop the water to everything inside of the house. This is the most important thing to know about valves, because if any of your other, more localized valves are failing, you can always stop the water from your main water shutoff valve.

How to find it and use it:

  1. Locate your water meter. If you are in a warm climate, your water meter is likely outside, possibly in a box under a metal plate near the street. If you are in a cold climate like here in the Minneapolis area then your water meter will most likely be located near the basement floor next to the wall facing the street.  The reason the water line enters the home near the basement floor is prevent the water line from freezing.
  2.  There should be a shut off valve on both sides of your water meter. The city-side valve, also called street side, will be located between the basement wall and the meter.  The valve on the other side of the meter is your house-side valve.
  3.  Turn valve to the right. These valves will be either a ball valve or a gate valve. A ball valve has a handle you turn 90 degrees to clockwise to shut the water off. A gate valve has a spoke that turns like a wheel.  Turn it to the right  as well to shut off the water.
  4. After turning your water back on, run all of the faucets in your home for a minute or two. This will remove any of the air that was trapped in the pipes when you turned off the water. A further precaution would be to remove the aerators from your faucets first, to prevent any gunk getting caught in them. Just remember to turn the water on slowly to prevent spurting.

When to use it:

  • A leaky pipe in the basement
  • A leak inside a wall
  • An unidentified leak
  • Other valves aren’t functioning properly
  • Before leaving for vacation

The Water Heater Supply Valve

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Some people tout the benefits of being submerged in cold water.  For the rest of us, thankfully, there is the water heater. Water heaters are largely inconspicuous until they stop working. If and when this time comes, it’s important to know where the cold water supply valve is located.

How to find it and use it:

  1. Find your water heater. It is many times located by the furnace in the mechanical room.  The water heater is generally tall and cylindrical.
  2. The cold water supply line is typically situated next to the hot water line coming out of the water heater. Sometimes the heaters have a blue ring where the cold water line enters the heater. If not, start at your water meter and follow that piping until that brings you to the water heater. You might have to follow it through the water softener, but you will get there. That is your cold supply line.
  3. Follow that cold supply line from your water heater going backwards. The first valve you see on that pipe is the cold water supply shutoff. It will be similar to the other valve styles I discussed earlier.

When to use it:

  • Your water heater is leaking or not working
  • You’re doing any repairs/maintenance to your water heater
  • Before going on vacation (just in case)

While there are certainly other valves in your home, these are the ones used most often.  They are mostly reliable and simple to use, but can break down over time. If you have a faulty valve, it can sometimes be rebuilt or if not can always be replaced.

The Toilet Supply Valve

Most of us don’t really think about toilets. Most of us don’t want to think about toilets. We just want them to work and when they’re not working, we want them to be fixed as soon as possible. Whether it’s you or Benjamin Franklin Plumbing fixing it, the water supply valve needs to be shut off first.

How to find it and use it:

  1. Look on either side of your toilet. There should be a water line that looks like a hose running from the wall. These will most often be silver colored, but can vary. Some older models might not have a valve, thus necessitating turning off the main water valve.
  2. The actual valve will be protruding from the wall. The pliable hose runs from the valve to the toilet. The valve handle most often has an oval shape.
  3. Turn the valve clockwise. The valve will slightly and slowly depress towards the wall if you are turning it the proper way to shut the water off. Turn it the opposite way to turn the water back on. Be careful if the valve looks old and corroded. Try to turn it gently first, so you don’t break it.

When to use it:

  • Before doing any repairs on your toilet
  • Your toilet is running
  • Your toilet is clogged and you need to leave the house

If you don’t want to do this yourself you can always call your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing experts to care of that for you. Give us a call at 952-933-8888!

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