How to Turn Your Water Main Off

A house in Houston suburb flooded from Hurricane Harvey 2017Do you need to turn your water main off? If you’ve recently suffered burst pipes, done major remodels, or had some other water emergency and didn’t know what to do, we have instructions for you!

Where to find the main water shutoff valve 

For most homeowners, your main water shutoff valve is located at the edge of your property. For some, you’ll find the water box in the alley or near the curb in the front yard. It’ll look like a miniature manhole cover or a long, rectangular lid with a little keyhole. These boxes are generally made of concrete and buried in the ground so the cover is flush. For others, you may have a shutoff valve on the side of the house right next to your water meter. You’ll see a knob (that looks like your garden hose knob) and a pressure valve. Never touch your pressure valve – only licensed plumbers should change that.

What tools you need to shut off the water valve

For homeowners with the shutoff valve, typically you don’t need any tools, just some muscle. If your shutoff valve is in a box, you’ll probably need a meter key. They come in different shapes and sizes, so you might be able to borrow a key from a neighbor if you don’t have one, but they may have a different style of box than you. Hardware stores carry them, so they’re typically easy to find. You won’t want to search for one during an emergency, so plan ahead and source your key ahead of time. 
The other tool you’ll probably need is a pair of pliers or a wrench. For some, you can simply turn the lever with your hands, but oftentimes, the lever can become stuck from disuse and debris and other styles have a small lever that can be difficult to grip with your fingers.

Turning the Water Off

water shutoff valve
Photo courtesy Milbur Plumbing

Once you’ve located the shutoff valve and gotten into the box, turning the water off is generally easy. Most shutoff valves require a small turn. You may find you need a good amount of muscle, but because you’re not managing water pressure from this valve, you shouldn’t need to turn it far at all- the settings are on and off and that’s it!

If you live in an apartment you may find you need to turn off water at a sink or toilet if you have small repairs or don’t have full access to the main shutoff valve. These smaller shutoffs are typically underneath your sink or toilet and are simple to find and turn. Just like with the vale’s it’s a quick turn and it’s off. 

What to handle yourself and when to call a professional

Many people found themselves needing to turn off water at the main valve for the first time with the recent cold snap in North Texas. While some were able to locate it and get it turned off, many relied on the fire department to come assist. Before your next water emergency, you should take the time to locate your shutoff valve and figure out and acquire any tools you need to turn your main water line off. Practice turning it off and on so you’re comfortable with the movements and know which tools to use where. 
If you need to do a major remodel or have a large leak, burst pipe, or have trouble with your water pressure, you should contact a professional plumber. Classic Construction is here to help and will provide free estimates. Call us today for your water damage needs or if you plan a remodel for your home or business. We serve residential, multi-family, and commercial clients throughout the DFW area.

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