How to Locate Your Emergency Shutoff Valve

If water is gushing from an overflowing toilet, leaky pipe, or rusted-out water heater, you need to act fast to prevent water damage. One option is to locate the main water shutoff valve. If the leak stems from a specific plumbing fixture, you can also try turning the valve behind it. Here’s everything you need to know.

3 Tips to Quickly Find the Emergency Shutoff Valve

Check Inside the House

Begin your search indoors. Check the perimeter walls on the side of the house facing the street. If you have a basement or crawlspace, the valve could be located there. If your home is built on a slab, check near the water heater or inside the garage. No matter its location, the main water shutoff valve should be near ground level. It may also be protected behind a plastic access panel.

Check Streetside

If searching around the house turns up nothing, it’s time to check outside. Walk to your property line and look for a rectangular metal cover flush with the ground. It may be labeled “water” or “water meter.” Be aware that you may need a special meter key to open the box.

Check Your Property Inspection Report

Still can’t find the emergency shutoff valve? As a last resort, read over the plumbing section of the property inspection report from before you bought the house. You should find information about the shutoff valve’s location, putting an end to your search.

How to Turn Off the Main Water Valve

Once you find the valve, all you need to do is turn it off. Follow these instructions, depending on the type of valve you’re dealing with:

  • A ball valve is a straight handle running parallel to the pipe when open. To close it, turn the valve until it’s perpendicular to the pipe.
  • A gate valve is a round handle. Turn it clockwise several times to fully shut off the water.
  • The house-side valve in the underground utility box may turn by hand, or you might need a meter key or wrench. Either way, twist the valve clockwise until the water shuts off.

Alternative Option: Shut Off the Water Close to the Source

Every home plumbing fixture should have an isolation valve to shut off the water leading to it. For this reason, it’s really only necessary to shut off the water main if a pipe is leaking. Check behind the fixture in question—whether that’s your toilet, sink, washing machine, or ice maker—and turn the isolation valve clockwise as far as it will go.

Call a Plumber for Help

If you’re having trouble finding and operating the emergency shutoff valve, contact Mike Counsil Plumbing and Rooter for help. We can also serve as your emergency plumber once you get the water turned off. We unclog drains, repair broken pipes, fix toilets, and much more, all with 24/7 availability. Give us a call anytime at 408-618-8002 to request plumbing repair in San Jose, CA.

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