All of the plumbing in your home is very important. It supplies you with clean, fresh water and removes the household sanitary waste in a safe and enclosed way.
Most homeowners do not truly appreciate their plumbing as it is hidden behind walls, in cupboards or concreted under the basement floor. At the end of the day, a home that is correctly plumbed is a safe home.
The most important fixture within your home is called your main water shut off valve. This valve is the entry way from the city supply into your home. It supplies ALL fixtures in your home, from toilet tanks, to kitchen sinks, bath tubs to washing machines. If this valve is compromised or fails and you have a burst pipe somewhere in the home, your home is at risk of severe flooding.
In the case of a pipe bursting, the first thing to do would be to head to the main valve and turn it off. This will mitigate the damage. The problem is, many homeowners do not know where their valve is because either they have not been told of the crucial importance of it and haven’t bothered to locate it, or the valve has been covered by drywall or built into a cupboard and it’s not visible.
Your main valve must be visible, easily accessible and be usable. If it has no handle, has become so stiff over time that it cannot be turned, your valve must be replaced.
If you have found your valve is in disrepair or unusable, please do not wait to get it fixed until another day. Once you call your plumber, your plumber should call the city water department (if you are living on city water) and they will arrange to show up, usually at the same time as the plumber, to shut off the water to the house at what is called the curb stop. This is the city owned valve that is located under your front lawn. Many homeowners ask why the plumber can not do this and it’s because the city may not allow it (this will vary depending on the municipality you live in). In addition, the city will charge for this service and the cost will be added to your next water bill.
How can you locate your valve if you don’t know where it is? It is usually at the front of your home (but not always!), in your basement and on the road facing wall. It will more than likely have a meter attached to the pipe it is on.
Take a look at the valve and see if it is rusty or wet. Turn the handle of the valve. If it turns easily and does not leak, the valve is in good order. If the handle is very stiff and/or does not turn, it needs to be replaced. If you are unable to locate your main water valve or are uncertain of its condition, contact your trusted, licensed plumber to get it assessed.
Plumbing (and plumbers) have become the forgotten hero(es) of a safe and sanitary home. Please take time to appreciate your plumbing and all that it does and also appreciate the knowledge that licensed plumbers have, so that your home is plumbed correctly and safely.