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Water Shut Off Valve; Avoid a Disaster

main water shut valve that is tagged with a yellow tag marking this is where to turn off the water.

Every year, water damage from frozen pipes, ruptured washer hoses, leaking supply lines and dripping water heaters costs homeowners and insurance companies billions. Shutting off the main water supply to your home before leaving for an extended length of time can protect you against catastrophic water damage.

ServiceMaster of Columbia recommends that everyone in your home know where the main water shutoff valve is located and how to turn off the water in an emergency.

Main Water Shut Off Valve

Many water meter setups have two valves, one on the street side of the meter and one on the house side.

  • Colder climate, you’ll typically find the main shutoff in the basement near the front of the house.
  • Warmer climates, it will be outside your home attached to an exterior wall or in an underground box with a removable lid.

There are two types of main shutoff valves. The gate valve is common in older homes and has a round handle that must be turned a number of times to open or close the valve. Gate valves are designed to be fully open or fully closed.

Photo of a ball valve and gate valve, common main water shut off valves
Examples of the two styles of main water shut off valves

The ball valve is more common in newer construction and has a lever handle that needs to be turned 90 degrees to turn the water on or off. You can immediately tell if it’s open or not: In the closed position, the lever is perpendicular to the pipes; in the open position it’s parallel.

It is always good to practice turning off the water.

  • Turn on a faucet somewhere in the house and shut off the main water valve.
    • All water flow should stop.
  • Gate valves can break, so be gentle when you’re handling it.
    • If valve is stuck, leave it alone.
    • If it leaks or doesn’t shut off all the way, have a licensed plumber replace the valve or replace it yourself if you’re comfortable with a straightforward plumbing project.
    • You’ll need to call your water department (and possibly pay a small fee) to have the water to your house turned off at the curb stop while you make the repair.If you have a well, shut off the electrical switch for the well when you leave for an extended period so it won’t pump any water while you’re gone.

Shut Off Valves

Can’t shut off the main water supply because you have an automatic sprinkler system or someone watering the plants while you’re gone, shut off the valves to the most common sources of water damage such as:

  • dishwashers
  • ice makers
  • washing machines
  • toilets
Three examples of water supply line shut off valves.
Three types of water supply line shut off valves.

Individual shutoff valves or “stops” are installed on the supply lines leading to most appliances as well as to toilets and faucets. Typical supply stops have a small round or oval handle that you turn clockwise to shut off the flow of water. The shutoff to your refrigerator’s ice maker might be located under the sink or in the basement.

ServiceMaster of Columbia is your 24 hour emergency service for water removal due to a pipe burst, broken hose, etc.  Our technicians are certified and ready to go to help you and to Restore your Peace of Mind.  Call 573.443.8383, the Master of Disaster.