Freshwater Plumbing

Isle of Wight Plumbing Guide to shutting off your water

StopcockUsually there are two or three ways to shut off the water. First, try to
close the stop valves at the fixture or appliance that’s broken. If these are damaged or absent, turn off the water at intermediate shutoff valves that control the hot and cold water to the part of the house with the problem. The whole hot water system usually can be turned off near the hot water heater. Finally, you can stop the water to the entire house at a main shutoff located near the water meter. As a last resort, your municipal water works can shut off
your water before it gets to your house. If you have a well, find the shutoff on the pipe between the pressure tank and the rest of your plumbing.

Water stop valves and shutoff valves function much like faucets, except most of them are left open all the time. Unfortunately, valves used on potable water (water for drinking and cooking) lines may be similar to valves used on natural gas lines, heating oil pipes, and
hot water heating pipes. Finding the valves you need may require some careful tracing of pipes from a fixture back to the water meter.

Try to shut off the water locally first. Toilets and sinks usually have stop valves under them. Tubs and showers may have hot and cold shutoffs on the faucet itself or through a wall access panel in a room adjoining the bathroom. Washing machines are connected to shutoff valves with hot and cold supply hoses. Dishwashers sometimes
share a two-outlet shutoff with the hot water supply tube for the kitchen faucet.

If you can’t locate or operate the stop valve, look for intermediate shutoffs that control multiple fixtures in a supply line. Finding the right intermediate shutoff(s) can require trial and error and detective work. Hot water pipes will always lead back to a hot water heater and cold water pipes will lead back to a water meter (below) or a well pressure tank.

The hot water shutoff is located at or near the water heater and lets you turn off all the hot water in the house. There will usually be a valve on the pipe supplying cold water to the heater, and there
may also be a valve on the outgoing pipe from the heater. If your water is heated by gas, do not be confused by the gas pipe and gas shutoff. The gas pipe leads to the thermostat at the bottom of the
water heater.

The main water shutoff will be located near the water meter, generally found in your basement. Do not confuse it with the gas meter shutoff, which has a disc shaped device associated with it
and generally turns off with a wrench or lever, rather than by hand-spinning. In an emergency, your local water company may be contacted to shut off the water with a key (a special wrench) between the public water main on the street and your house.

Isle of Wight Plumbing has lots more useful advice on our other pages.