If your household plumbing suddenly springs a major leak, do you know what you would do? Calling your local plumber is a smart move, but it shouldn’t be your first instinct when your home is flooding by the second. This is a time to shut off your home’s main water valve immediately -- but you can’t do that if you don’t know where it is or how to close it.

One-Step Process

Every home connected to a municipal water supply has a main shut-off valve that can stop the flow of water to all pipes, fixtures and appliances. In most cases, this valve is located next to the water meter.

The water meter location isn’t always obvious. Sometimes it’s on the side of the house or attached to a short above-ground post, but it’s often hidden underground. Look around your home for a small hatch or metal cover, similar to a manhole cover. If you find one marked “water”, open the lid to reveal the water meter inside. If you can’t find the water meter, call your local water authority or plumber to ask about its location.

Expect the valve to be connected to the water line next to the water meter, but know that not all valves look the same. Some are ordinary spigot handles like you’d find on your garden hose faucet. Others are metal flanges that may look like they’re just part of the water line, so look closely and don’t hesitate to ask your water authority for help.

If your valve doesn’t look like it can be turned by hand, it may require a pipe wrench or a long-handled plumbing wrench called a water key. These can be picked up at any hardware store, and it’s important to have them handy in case of an emergency.

Here, There and Everywhere

Once you know how to shut off all the water to your home, it’s helpful to take a tour of your fixtures and appliances to locate their own dedicated shut-off valves. These are more likely to be the type you can close by hand, but if they haven’t been used in years, they might be stuck open.

Sink valves are usually located right beneath the sink, inside the cabinet if there is one. Toilet valves are also easy to spot -- this is almost always a small handle attached to the water line leading from the wall.

Appliance valves, like those for your washing machine or dishwasher, are also likely to be of the hand-crank variety. But these can be hidden behind the appliances themselves, so you may need to hatch a plan for how to quickly access these valves in the event of an emergency.

For other fixtures like tubs and showers, the valve could be inside the walls. Accessing these valves may require removing hardware like faucet handles or face plates.

Give It a Go

To be sure you’re ready for the worst-case scenario, it pays to shut off each valve just to become familiar with the experience. This is a particularly good idea if a valve turns out to be stuck; a little lubricant spray now can make closing a valve quick and easy when every second counts.

If you’re having trouble opening a sticky valve, finding your main water shut-off or any other household plumbing challenges, don’t hesitate -- pick up the phone and call your licensed local plumbers today.

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