Water Shutoff Valve in the Home


Finding the Water Valve for Your House

Panic time is not the time to find the valve.

Find the valves first, when you are calm and relaxed, not as the water is cascading down the interior stairs!!

Whenever you move into a different residence, whether it is new or existing, it is extremely important to understand and identify all of the water valves and lines within your residence.

The reason for this is the obvious, a pipe breaks or leaks, the toiler overflows, the washing machine hose breaks, etc., you need to access control of the water flow immediately.

Water can be a very damaging element if left uncontrolled.

Follow these simple suggestions, and you will have identified the majority of the major shut off valves within the residence.

  1. In most cases, the important valves are located in the basement, if you have one, if your residence is on a slab, the valves will normally be in the designated mechanical room.
  2. If your plumber installed your plumbing and heating system properly, there should be a designated valve for each different type of fixture, or piece of equipment. 
  3. The valves will normally be ball valves with either a round handle that is twisted clockwise or counterclockwise, or a lever that is moved 90 degrees to open and shut off the water or other fluid.
  4. Standard valve operation is clockwise to turn the water on, and counterclockwise to turn the water off, with a round twist handle, and perpendicular to the pipe to shut the water off and parallel to the pipe, to turn the water on, with a lever handle.
  5. It is recommended that a complete review of all plumbing and mechanical systems be made to determine where the valves are located and the function that they perform. Follow the plumbing lines and you will find the valves.
  6. The most important valve is the shutoff valve for the water supply.  If the water supply into the home is either well water or public water, there is normally a valve, immediately upon the entrance of the water pipe into the home.  This valve should be found first and tagged. Also it is important that you can easily access this valve if in an emergency the water must be immediately turned off.
  7. If the water supply is a public supply, there will be a valve box located  curbside that the water company can access.  This valve is used as a last resort, if a valve cannot be found within the residence to turn the water off.  The utility company will come to the residence and insert a special wrench that is attached to a long pole, allowing access to the water valve located down at the elevation of the waterline entering the residence.  This valve is not meant for the residents of the structure to operate.
  8. The standard color identification is red for hot water, and blue for cold.  However, don’t be surprised if this standard is not applicable to all installations.  Sometimes, if the plumber has the valve, they will install it, whether the correct color, or not.
  9. The easiest  method of establishing which line is hot and which is cold, is to touch the pipes.  If the water has been recently run, the hot water line will be warm to the touch.
  10. Once the valves are identified, the tagging of the valves is recommended to take advantage of the time you have just spent in researching the system.
  11. In new homes, or in renovations, it is recommended that the plumber and mechanical contractors tag all of the valves and lines to easily identify all of the systems for you.  This is the best method of finding those valves that are required, if something needs to be turned off.
  12. If you have a very professional plumber and mechanical sub, have them provide you with an as-built drawing with all of the valves noted on the drawing.  In this manner, if a valve tag is lost or removed, you can easily re-establish its identification.  
  13. Although this is obvious, the function of the valves is to turn the flow of water on or off.  Find the valve, turn it counterclockwise, or perpendicular to the waterline and test the piece of equipment or fixture.  If the water is not flowing, you have found the correct valve for that piece of equipment or fixture.

Do not procrastinate when identifying valves, waterlines or other fluid lines. The instant occurrence of a leaking hose, pipe or fixture, will cause significant damage, if the water is not turned off in a timely fashion.