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Plumbing Leaks: How Do You Shut The Water Off?


main shut off valveRecently I had a customer who had a plumbing line break and she needed to shut off the water to the house. She didn't know how. She was recently single and never had to worry about it. So this Las Vegas handyman walked her through it over the phone. Then it dawned on me that I'll bet there are a lot of people who don't know how to turn the water off during an emergency. So here goes.

Most plumbing fixtures have water shut-off valves to isolate that fixture. For example, toilets and faucets will have a valve at the wall to shut off the water. Plastic piping, such as PEX, will have a manifold that will house all the shut off's in a small cabinet. You turn the water off with a small key. So if the toilet, for example, is running and you don't know what to do...well you can just reach over and turn off the valve. There is no urgency there.

However, if a pipe in a wall breaks then its time for some quick thinking. There will be main water shut-off outside, usually in front of the house at the sidewalk. Look for a cover at the sidewalk with a small hole in it. You can stick a screwdriver in this hole and pry or lift it off and push it aside (there are usually a lot of bugs down there so be prepared). In the hole you will see a meter with a clear covering so that you can read the numbers (it will probably be spinning like an airplane propeller due to the amount of water running). Connected to the meter is the shut-off valve. The proper tool to shut off this valve is a water key, which looks like a large letter "T". You put your hands on the top of the "T" and the bottom of the "T" has a slot which mates with the valve. If you don't have a water key don't worry, I shut them off all the time with a pair of pliers, or a crescent wrench and a screwdriver...whatever is closest to me. Turn the valve until the meter stops spinning.

This will shut off the water to the entire house, landscape included. Some homes have a separate valve built in that allows you to shut off the water to the house without shutting off the water to the landscape. If your house has one, you will typically find it in the garage about 2 feet from the floor.



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