Stopcock and Roll: How to Shut Off The Water To Your House

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: your downstairs neighbor knocks on your door at 2 am to tell you that there’s water coming through the ceiling.

So what do you do to avoid a flood of biblical proportions?

Or maybe you just want to do some DIY plumbing. Whether you’re installing a new faucet or a whole house water filter, you’ll need to make sure the water’s off before you get to work.

There are multiple ways to turn the water off in any home, and whether you’re a homeowner or renter you need to know how to do it when the time comes.

So don’t wait for the 2 am knock! Here’s how you can shut off the water in your home.

How Can I Shut Off The Water In My House?

Whether you’re refitting your washing machine or you’ve sprung a leak, you’ll need to turn the water off. Here are four ways you can stop the flow.

Shut Off The Water To A Faucet Or Appliance

If an appliance has sprung a leak or your faucet won’t stop dripping, you can turn off the water locally to carry out a repair. Localized water shut-off means you can get on with your DIY without upsetting the rest of the house!

And shut-off valves for your fixtures will invariably be located close to the appliance. That might save you a trip into the basement, hunting for the stopcock. But the location and look of the valve can differ and occasionally there won’t be a local shut-off at all. Familiarize yourself with your appliances, so you know what to do when a leak occurs.

Faucets: Faucets will often have a shut-off valve under the sink – trace the plumbing from the base of the faucet and you’ll find it. The red valve will control the hot faucet while the blue valve indicates that it shuts off water to the cold faucet.

Toilets: A running toilet can waste a few gallons of water every minute – it’s like flushing money down the drain. If your toilet has a shut-off valve it’s likely to be found on the bottom left of the tank, but not all toilets have an independent shut-off.

Dishwashers: The pipe supplying water to your dishwasher should have a shut-off valve. Because your dishwasher is connected to your kitchen’s plumbing this valve is usually located under the sink, close to the shut-off valve for your faucets.

Washing Machines: Washing machines will have a shut-off valve on the hot water intake and usually another on the cold water pipe. The valves might be located under the sink closest to your washer, or in an independent valve box nearby.

Shut Off At The Main Shut-Off Valve

If your appliance doesn’t have a shut-off valve, or there’s a leak coming from an unknown source, then you need to turn the water off fast. You can turn the water off to your home at the main shut-off valve, also known as the stopcock. This will stop any water from entering your home's plumbing system.

It’s a blunt tool – you won’t be able to shower, or even get a glass of water from the faucet until the water is restored. But if there’s a leak in the main branch line then it's the only way to stop the flow.

The main shut-off valve will be located where the main water line enters the house and it’s often in a utility space or hidden in an accessible wall void. It’s usually big and obvious, and will always be on the same side of the house as the water meter.

Because the stopcock doesn’t get used too often it can be stiff and hard to turn. Turn the valve clockwise to shut off the water.

The mains water shut-off stops more water from entering your home but the standing water in your plumbing will be there already. To drain this, turn on the lowest faucet (in the basement or downstairs bathroom) and let it run. Your home’s plumbing will be emptied promptly and the leak should cease.

Shut Off The Water At Your Water Heater

If you want to repair or replace your hot water heater without restricting the supply to the rest of your home then you can turn off the water at the heater.

The heater will have two valves on the hot and cold water pipes – these valves are often located directly beside the water heater, where the pipes enter the heater. You can tell the cold water shut-off from the blue valve, while the red valve identifies the hot water shut-off.

Turning either valve will shut the hot water off in your home. In fact, many water heaters will only have a valve on the cold water intake, as preventing cold water from entering the heater will shut off your hot water heater anyway.

Shut Off The Water At The Water Meter

As a last resort, you may be able to shut off the water at the water meter outside your home, but there may be city ordinances prohibiting this. As the water meter is city property, tampering with it could be illegal, but if there is no other way to shut the water off it may be necessary.

Your water meter can be found in the water box outside your home and the box will usually contain two shut-off valves, one on the customer side and one on the city side. Turn off the customer-side valve to shut off water to your home.

Wrapping Up…

Knowing how to shut off the water to your household is essential in an emergency, but it also allows you to perform easy DIY on your home’s plumbing.

Whether you’re looking for a local shut-off so you can get to work or shutting off the water to prevent water damage from a leak, now you can shut off the water at the source. Localized shut-off gives you easy access to perform minor repairs, while the mains water valve lets you pull the plug on your home’s water.

Whenever you move to a new home, finding the water shut-off valves should be on your to-do list. Don’t wait, or you may end up getting wet.


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