How to Turn Water Off to a House

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People turn off the flow of water from a main line to secondary pipes throughout a house when dealing with various situations. Sometimes the situation involves a natural disaster such as a winter freeze or earthquake, or human actions such as construction or underground drilling, that result in a damaged, leaky or broken pipe. Other situations include installation of a new appliance that relies on water, such as a whole house dehumidifier or sprinkler system or vacation preparation.

Things You'll Need

  • Grip-style gloves
  • Shut off any appliances in the house that relies on a continuous flow of water such as a boiler, hot water heater or whole-house humidifier. Follow any shutdown instructions provided in the owner's manual for each appliance.

  • Determine the location of the main water supply line (pipe) and the type of shut-off system. If you have a well, check for the line near the pressure tank. The pipe may have handle attached to a ball valve or a wheel attached to a gate valve. If it doesn't, check for a circuit switch marked “well pump” in a main or secondary circuit breaker box inside the home. If you have municipal water, check for a handle or wheel on a pipe in the basement, under the sink, in a closet under the floor or in the garage (if applicable). In addition, check near the water meter, on a pipe coming out of the ground and connecting with another pipe on the side or crawlspace of the house, or on a pipe under a circular or square access panel in the backyard or nearby street.

  • Turn the water off. If you have a valve system, put on your grip-style gloves. Turn the handle a quarter turn right (ball valve) or the wheel right until it can no longer turn (gate valve). In the case of wells that don't use a shut-off valve, turn off the electricity going to the well pump by opening the circuit breaker box and flipping the "well pump" circuit switch.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you no longer have an owner's manual for an appliance, contact the manufacturer for shutdown instructions.
  • If the main water line is underground beneath an access panel, call your water company or municipal water authority for assistance with turning off the water. Many water companies don't want anyone tampering with an underground line, as the line often provides water to more than one home and you can accidentally turn off the water to nearby homes and/or cause damage.
  • Never leave appliances that rely on a continuous flow of water turned on when turning off the water to a house as doing so can permanently damage the appliance.

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