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Find your main water valve before crisis strikes



You are in your house. Suddenly you see water rushing out of the dishwasher. You need to shut off the water quickly to stop the flow and prevent damage. Would you know where to find the main water valve?

Because all adults living in your home should be able to cut the water supply to all areas of the home, you may want to take time now to locate the shut-off valve. This will save valuable time in an emergency and help reduce losses to your home.


The water valve may be either inside or outside the house. Outside, it often is on an exterior wall or in a covered box within an underground pit. The indoor location may vary depending on whether you have a basement, crawl space or slab foundation.

  • Basement or crawl space: The shut-off valve is normally near the front foundation wall, usually within 3-5 feet of where the main water supply enters the house.
  • Slab: Most often, the valve is close to the water heater or inside the garage. Keep in mind that the valve sometimes is behind an access panel, so you may have to look around to find it.

If you are unable to locate the water shut-off valve, you may want to call a local plumber or the utility company for assistance. If you recently purchased the home, the property inspection report should detail the location of the shut-off valve.


Your main water line can be equipped with one of two types of shut-off valves.


A ball valve has a straight handle.

Ball Valve

This type has a straight handle that runs parallel to the pipe when the water line is open. To shut off the valve, turn the handle a quarter turn. This type of valve turns in only one direction; a metal stop prevents it from turning the other direction.

Round Handle or Gate Valve

Referred to by either name, this valve works like a garden hose. To shut off the valve, turn the handle clockwise several times until the water is fully turned off.

Both valve types are reliable and can last for years. However, they can become difficult to turn if they haven’t been used. Turn your valve on and off once a year to make sure everything is in working order.

The common plumbing fixtures in your home also have separate valves that control the water flow to each individual unit. Sinks, toilets, water heaters and washing machines should have a small valve near the plumbing that can be turned clockwise to shut off the water if needed.

Knowing where main water valve is in the home and how to turn off the water flow in an emergency can be a simple way to prevent costly damage to your home.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.