How do I shut off the water to my house?
Like most plumbing companies, esp. with winters in Minneapolis and St Paul, this is a common emergency plumbing question we help our customers with at St Paul Pipeworks.
There are two basic types of valves around the water meter or water heater. The first is a gate valve with a wheel handle that you turn all the way to the right to shut it off. The second is a ball valve that you turn one quarter of a turn so that it is perpendicular to the pipe to shut it off.
There are many types of supply stop valves that you might find at a fixture. There is one with an oval handle that you turn all the way to the right to shut it off. There is one with a metal handle that you turn a quarter turn to the right so that it is perpendicular to the pipe. And another common one is a push button, a white button made of plastic. There will be a pipe coming out of your wall with a small plastic shutoff supply and you just push that button in to turn off the water.
I have a fixture that is actively leaking or flowing, how do I turn off the water?
If water is leaking or flowing out of control, the first thing to do is look to see if there is a water supply shutoff valve underneath the appliance. Often with a kitchen sink, vanity or wash basin there is a small valve on the pipes underneath that service it. Also, there is usually a valve right underneath a toilet to serve it. In an older style home or appliance it is generally an oval shaped valve that is designed to turn clockwise, or to the right. Usually, it takes about two to three turns to the right to get it tight and shut the water completely off or at least enough to get the water down to a small drip until the plumber arrives.
How do I turn the water off if I have no water supply valve?
If there is not a supply shutoff valve underneath the appliance, you will want to find the main water valve. Around a water meter, there are almost always two main valves and you can turn off either one of them. Sometimes there is a wheel-shaped handle that you turn clockwise, or to the right, and it usually takes about three to six turns to tighten it and shut the water completely off. The other main valve is more of a straight handle that you turn ninety degrees so that the handle becomes perpendicular to the pipe. They are often referred to as ball valves because there is a stainless-steel ball inside that rides on a sheathing of Teflon. You will find these right around the water meter area and again, you will turn them to the right. Most water heaters have a valve that is on the cold water inlet into the water heater and when you turn it, you are turning off the hot water. This will seem counter-intuitive. A common misconception is that whoever installed the water heater only put one valve in to shut off the cold water, but that actually shuts off the hot water. The first pipe that goes to the top of your water heater is the cold water inlet and the other is the hot water outlet. If you turn off the cold water inlet, the water heater is not pushing anymore water through the system, so the hot water is essentially turned off as well.
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