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Where is Your Water Main and How Does it Work?

DIY May 15, 2018
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Lindsay Cutler

Any talk of a home water main is enough to send some homeowners into a tailspin. Where is it located? How do you work it? Shouldn’t I call the plumber for this? Your water main is never far from your home and should be fairly easy to find, but it’s always better to know where the main is before leaks occur.  Every home is different and the location of the valve may vary based on climate, but here’s how to find your water main and how to use them.


In cold climates

In colder climates the water main is usually located indoors and enters through the foundation to prevent freezing pipes. Check your basement, crawl spaces and water boilers for the largest pipe protruding through the ground or wall. Follow the pipe and you’ll find the shut-off valve. And if you already know where your water meter is, the shut-off valve is never far off!


In warm climates

In warmer climates where there’s less risk of freezing pipes, the water main usually enters the house from the street level. Check for the shut-off valve in a box near the curb under a concrete or metal lid. If you can’t find it there, check the perimeter of your property and the exterior walls of your home. If the water main is located outside, it’s likely there will be two valves — one for the city, one for you. Either will work, but your municipality prefers you use the one closest to your home.



If you live in an apartment and you’re not comfortable with the idea of turning off the water supply to the entire building, take the next best step and shut off the water supply to your apartment alone. If you have a water heater inside of your apartment, find the nearest valve and turn it clockwise to shut the water off.


If your apartment doesn’t have a water heater, take the next best step and turn off the water valves to the individual fixtures. This includes the valve for your toilet, bathroom and kitchen sinks, washers, dishwashers, etc. You’ll know you did this correctly if you turn on the faucets and water trickles to a halt.


Types of Valves:

Ball valve

There isn’t a huge distinction between valve types, but gate valves are typically newer and have lever handles. They don’t regulate the amount of water flow; it’s either on or off. They’re easy to use and only require a short quarter-turn of the handle. Turn them to a horizontal position to turn the water supply off.


Gate valve

Gate valves are seen in older homes and, similar to ball valves, only operate on or off. You might have to turn the wheel clockwise for a bit to turn off the water supply completely.


Globe valve

Globe valves look similar to ball valves, but unlike ball valves and gate valves they can regulate the amount water flow. Turn them clockwise to turn off the water supply.


Still can’t find your water main?

If you’re still at a loss locating your water main check your home’s inspection report, or do the next best thing and call a plumber for help. Better safe than sorry!

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