How to Find and Shut Off Main Water Shutoff Valve

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Posted June 1, 2017

In case of a plumbing emergency, it is always a good idea to educate yourself on how (and where) to turn off your main water supply – as well as the isolation valves on your various plumbing fixtures. A ruptured line, burst pipe, or sewage backup can wreak havoc on your home and potentially cost you thousands in water damage and water bills.

In severe cold weather, the water in your pipes can freeze. When water freezes, it expands and can burst the pipe, not matter how thick or strong it may be. Learn how to prevent frozen pipes here; but, if it’s too late and the pipe has already burst, turn off your main water valve as fast as you can to prevent further damages.

Being able to contain the situation as soon as possible will greatly help with damage control and allow a wider window of time for help to arrive (if the situation calls for it). Everyone in your home should know exactly where the water shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off.

Additionally, if you are going to be away from your home for an extended period of time, it is highly recommended that you turn off the main water valve.

Where is the main water shutoff valve located?

This is the million-dollar question. Your main water shutoff valve could be located in several different areas. If you have a home with a basement and crawlspace, it is probably located on an interior wall near the front of the house, where the water comes in from the water meter. In this case, it is most likely hiding in plain sight. If your home was built on a slab, the valve might be located near the hot water heater or inside your garage.

interior main water shutoff vlave
Main water shutoff valve to the house. Photo Credit: Aaron Stickley 


WARNING: Never touch the pressure regulator, located just above the shutoff valve. Only a licensed plumber should adjust your water pressure.

If the valve can’t be found inside the home, the next location to check is near the end of your property line (or street) in a covered box within a “pit” underground. This is normally a cement box buried in the ground near your front curb; however, you may need a special “meter key” (available at local hardware stores, like Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, and Home Depot) to open the box.

Once you fit the meter key into the “lock,” turn it counter-clockwise, and then tilt the key toward the outer edge of the box to lift the lid open. Be careful when opening the box. Sometimes, small critters, reptiles, bugs, and other surprises are waiting for you.

open water meter box
In some cases, all you need to open the water meter box is a long screwdriver.


Once you have located, opened, and cleared away any dirt or debris, it will probably look something like this:

reading your water meter
Shut off the water by turning the ball valve 1/4 turn to make it perpendicular to the water pipe. If the ball valve is parallel, it is ON; if it is perpendicular (90° angle), it is OFF.


The water meter should also be able to tell you if you have a plumbing leak somewhere in your home. Learn how to read your water meter and conduct a DIY leak detection test here.

WARNING: do NOT tamper with the city shut-off side or the meter itself. It is illegal to tamper with, obstruct access to, or remove a water meter. Be very careful, and if you have any doubts at all, call your local plumber or utility company.

If you are still unable to locate your valve, your trusted local plumber or utility company should be able to tell you where it is. Also, if you still have your property inspection report, you should be able to find the area of the document that shows you where your main water shutoff valve is located.

How to Turn Off Main Water Valve

Once you find the shutoff valve you will either hand turn it (clockwise for gate valves and perpendicular to the pipe for ball valves) or use the appropriate tool depending on the design.

WARNING: old water valves can be damaged and corroded. Only use your hand to turn your water valves on or off. If you cannot do it by hand, call a professional plumber.

Ball & Gate Valves

ball and gate plumbing valves

Ball Valve Shutoff

how to turn off ball valve


If it is located inside your house, it will most likely be a gate or “wheel” valve that you’ll simply turn clockwise to stop the flow of water. Another way to shut off the water is to go to the water meter box. Just be careful not to mess with the city shutoff side of the meter.

Watch this video to learn how to locate your main water valve, test for leaks, and turn it off if necessary:

After you successfully turn the water off, it’s important to release pressure from your pipes by turning on the hot and cold faucets in your home.

Where are the isolation valves?

Isolation shutoff valves are much easier to locate. Most essential home plumbing fixtures have separate valves that control the water flow. Sinks, toilets, water heaters, and washing machines should have a small valve located near the plumbing that can easily shut off the individual water supply.

water heater shutoff valve Hot water shutoff valve. Photo Credit: Aaron Stickley
faucet water shutoff valve Faucet shutoff valves. Photo Credit: Aaron Stickley


Simply turning the valve clockwise will turn off the water flow. Sink and toilet problems can be dealt with quickly by simply shutting off the supply this way. It’s always good to test the isolation valves periodically to make sure they are working properly.

Again, once your tighten the water shutoff valves and turn off the water, open up your hot and cold lines to release pressure and test if the water is indeed off.

Make it a priority to locate the water valves in your home – and keep plumbing problems from turning into costly repair situations.

If you have any further questions about locating and shutting off your main water valve, don’t hesitate to contact Hiller Plumbing, your local plumbing specialists.

The best way to maintain a healthy plumbing system is to have periodic maintenance checks conducted by a professional. Your licensed plumber will be able to conduct a full inspection of your plumbing system to identify potential risks before they turn into costly problems.

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