How to turn off the main water valve

Written by tom lutzenberger
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How to turn off the main water valve
An industrial-type water valve (blue water main image by DSL from

Just like knowing how to shut off your gas main, it's also good homeowner common sense to know how to turn off your main water valve. This comes in handy when working on plumbing issues, or if you need to shut off your home utilities for an extended period of time. It is an uncomplicated process.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Water valve T-tool
  • Large flathead screwdriver
  • Phone number of your local water utility service (optional)

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  1. 1

    Locate the main water valve for your house. Look for a main pipe with an external shut-off lever on the side of the house, usually adjacent to the driveway. Look as well for the main valve from the city supply at the bottom front of the lawn (it should be covered by a cement cover and box in the ground). Determine which valve needs to be shut off for your needs (the meter valve shuts off the entire property while the house side valve shuts off water into the building structure). Call your city water department if you have trouble identifying these locations.

  2. 2

    Look for the main valve either in a wall of the house or in the basement. Locate the water heater and follow the feed to it as a helpful way of locating the main valve. Assume in colder locations that the valve will be in a covered location.

  3. 3

    Turn off the water valve going into the structure using the hand lever usually attached to the pipe. Turn the lever in a clockwise fashion to shut it off. Reverse the direction counter-clockwise if you need to turn the valve on. Remember the old phrase (right-y-tight-y, lefty-loose-y) to avoid forgetting in the future.

  4. 4

    Turn off the water main valve in the front lawn using a special T-tool. Purchase the tool from your local hardware store for about £9 if you don't have one. Open the cement cover box protecting the main valve in the ground. Use a flathead screwdriver to lever the lid up off its box frame to lift it. Place the freed lid out of the way. Carefully position the T-tool over the valve open/close actuator inside the box and insert the valve actuator into the end of the tool. Make sure the T-tool is sitting correctly. Then turn the T-tool slowly but firmly to close the valve. Reverse the direction to open it. Call the city water utility if the valve won't open or is stuck.

  5. 5

    Open one of the faucets inside the house to get rid of residual water in the system after shutting off a main valve. Remove any remaining water pressure, making it easier to work on plumbing if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • On new housing, the main water valve should be visible with the cement cover, but the sister valve further up the line to just shut off the sprinkler may be buried under dirt. Use a metal spoke or probe and work your way from the metal box to the sprinkler valves by your house. You should find the sister valve within a few feet with a plastic cover over it. Dig it up carefully with a hand trowel or shovel to expose the lid.
  • Be careful when using the T-tool on the main water valve. The valve should not take significant effort to turn off and on. If it does, it would be safer to have the city water utility come out and solve the problem. If not, and you break the valve by forcing it, you will be responsible for the cost of repair.

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