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Everything You Need To Know About Your Water Shut-Off Valve

Your water shut-off valve is a small device with a watertight seal and a big job — keeping your home safe from water damage. Be prepared in case of emergency. Know where to find your shut-off valve and take care of any problem promptly… with the help of our guide to everything you never knew about your water shut-off valve.

What Does My Main Water Shut-Off Valve Do?

A water shut-off is a primary control that turns off the water supply to your bathroom and kitchen plumbing. For example, it prevents flooding when you are planning to repair a fixture such as a faucet or toilet or when you are faced with a plumbing emergency, like a leak from a water heater or supply line. Ideally, you should also turn the water off whenever you plan to leave your home for an extended period.

When a plumber comes to your home for a service visit, their first questions will likely be, “What’s the problem, and where is the water shut-off?”

How To Find My Water Shut-Off Valve

Look for your main water shut-off in one of the following places:

  • On the front wall of your basement or crawlspace
  • The ceiling
  • Behind an access panel
  • Near your water heater
  • Behind access panel
  • In townhomes, it can be found at the front of the property in the basement/lowest level or at basement ceiling height in the center of the unit

In addition, your home has individual water shut-off valves for your fixtures and water-using appliances, including sinks, toilets, water heater, washing machine, and boiler.

How Do I Turn Off The Water Shut-Off Valve?

Close an indoor water valve by turning it in a clockwise direction. An outdoor shut-off valve may require specialized tools (for example, a meter key or a wrench) to open the cover and shut down the valve itself. If you’re not sure which tools you need, ask us — we’ll be happy to advise.

Be ready to act quickly in case of an emergency. Make sure you (and the rest of your household) know the exact location of your main water shut-off and how to turn it off. This way, you can minimize water damage from severe leaking or even flooding, saving yourself thousands of dollars and a major headache.

Common Water Shut-Off Issues

Both main and individual shut-off valves sometimes develop issues. Here’s what can happen and how to solve the problem:

Shut-Off Valve Leaking

Often you’ll notice an individual water shut-off dripping from the valve stem when it’s turned on after being closed for a long time. Your shut-off valve leaking is not uncommon in newer valves, as well.

Try fixing it yourself — gently tighten the packing nut with a wrench, turning it only one-eighth to one-quarter of a turn; then open and close the valve several times. If tightening the packing nut doesn’t stop the leak, turn off your home’s main water line, remove the packing nut, and install a new valve. Afterward, replace the packing nut and restore the water supply.

And if installing a new shut-off valve still doesn’t clear up your leaky issue, it’s time to call in a leak expert, AKA a licensed plumber.

Stuck Water Shut-Off Valve

When your water shut-off hasn’t been used for a while, the handle may get stuck. Obviously, you want it to be easy to use in an emergency, so regularly turn your shut-off handle back and forth, at least twice a year. Lubrication with WD-40 or warming the valve with a blow dryer can be helpful, too.

Bursting Pipes

It’s generally wise to shut-off the water when you will be away from home in the winter. However, you should turn off your water heater and drain your plumbing pipes by running all your faucets. If any water is left in the pipes, they may freeze and burst. So before reopening the shut-off valve back on, check for leaks or other damage. If you have any questions about the condition of your pipes, a professional plumbing inspection will set your mind at ease.

Old Plumbing Fixtures

Old plumbing fixtures could be equipped with T-shaped “saddle valves.” However, these devices are more prone to leaking and clogging, so we recommend protecting your home by replacing them with standard water shut-off valves.

Keep Your Home Safe

Keep your water shut-off valve in good shape to protect your Ottawa home against water damage. Contact an expert plumber from Out of This World Plumbing. We’ll inspect your plumbing system and replace any damaged components.


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