How to Quickly Turn off Water Supply for Repairs

Your fixtures and pipes will need repairs and maintenance from time to time. To do that, you will first need to shut off the water either at the main shut off valve or at the fixture’s shut off valve.

Most fixtures are installed with separate shut off valves somewhere close to them. This prevents the need to shut off water to the entire house when carrying out plumbing repairs.

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To turn off water to the house, look for the main shut off valve in the basement, garage, crawl space or an external wall where the main water line enters the house. If you want to turn off water to a specific fixture, look for its shut off valve on the wall behind it and turn it clockwise.

Most fixtures in your house will have a shut off valve dedicated to them. The big challenge is usually the bathtub/shower. If you want to replace the shower/tub faucet or cartridge you may sometimes need to shut off water to the whole house which is usually not ideal.

The problem with shutting off water to the entire house is say the water is turned off, and water is continuously drawn from the water heater, the heating elements will most likely burn out. I will show you what you need to do in later on in this post.

Let us look at how to turn off water to the different fixtures in your house before deciding to turn off water to the entire house.

How to Turn off Water to a Kitchen or Bathroom Sink

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Both kitchen and bathroom sinks have 2 shut off valves, one for the cold water and the other for the hot water. When doing any repairs like replacing the faucet or cartridge, you will need to turn off both shut off valves.

To turn off water to a kitchen or bathroom sink, look for 2 (usually oval-shaped) valves on the wall under the sink with 2 flexible hoses connected to them. Turn them all the way clockwise to turn off the cold and hot water supply to the sink faucet.

How to Turn of Water to a Toilet

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A toilet does not need hot water. It is supplied with cold water by a supply line which is connected to the toilet fill valve from underneath the toilet tank.

To turn off water to a toilet, look for a shut off valve connected to the flexible water supply pipe on the wall behind the toilet. Turn the valve all the way clockwise. Flush the toilet and if you don’t hear the tank refilling then it is a confirmation that the valve is fully closed.

Due to the fact that this valve is hardly used, it may be stuck in the open position (usually due to mineral deposits and closing it will be almost impossible.

What you can do in that case is remove the toilet tank lid and lift the toilet float (connected to the fill valve) all the way up. You can use a piece of wood to support the float in that position.

With the toilet float up, the fill valve is closed and the toilet will not fill with water. This will only work if you are working on the other parts and not replacing the fill valve or the toilet itself. In that case you will have to turn off water to the entire house.

How to Turn off Water to a Dishwasher

Dishwashers are supplied with water by the same pipes as the kitchen sink faucets. They however have separate shut off valves and water supply houses from the sink faucets.

To make this possible, 2 tees are installed on both the cold and hot water supply pipes. This enables both cold and hot water to flow to the faucet as well as dishwashers.

To turn off water to a dishwasher, look for shut off valves on the horizontal pipes under the kitchen sink. Turn the valves clockwise.

How to Turn off Water to a Refrigerator Ice Maker or Water Dispenser

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Your refrigerator’s shut off valve will be located on the wall behind the refrigerator or underneath the kitchen sink. Sometimes it will also be in the basement or crawl space. The refrigerator’s water supply hose should guide you to where the shut off valve is.

If the shut off valve is on the wall behind the refrigerator, pull the refrigerator forward gently to access the shut off valve and turn it clockwise. For a refrigerator with a shut off valve under the kitchen sink, take your time to locate the right valve and turn it clockwise as well.

How to Turn off Water to a Washing Machine

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Your washing machine will most likely be located on the wall behind the washer. It is also where washer drains from. The valves may also be located in a utility sink if your washing machine has one.

To turn off water to the washing machine, pull it slightly and gently forward to access the valves. There will be a cold and hot water supply hose and valve. Turn both the valves clockwise.

How to Turn off Water to Shower/Bathtub

If you need to perform repairs on your shower/bathtub faucet or valve, turning off water to the to the faucet is not always easy.

To turn off the water to your shower/bathtub, look for shut off valves from an access panel behind the shower wall. If there is no access panel, you need to remove the faucet handle and escutcheon and check if the shower valve has shut off valves. Turn off water to the whole house if there are no valves on the shower valve.

If you are lucky, there will be an access panel on the wall behind the shower which you can remove and shut off water to the tub/shower faucet. The panel may also be found on the basement or ceiling of the underneath floor.

If you can’t see any access panels, there is one thing you can do before turning off water to the entire house. Remove the shower faucet handle and escutcheon.

  • If you have a single-lever shower faucet handle, look for a hex screw underneath the lever. Remove it with an Allen wrench and pull out the handle.
  • For a knob-type handle, remove the small cover at the tip of the handle and remove the screw connecting the handle with a Philips screwdriver.
  • Remove the escutcheon. An escutcheon is the trim plate which is purely for cosmetic purposes. It will either be installed using screws or it could be threaded on the faucet. Also, check if it is caulked to the wall and cut the caulk with a knife.
  • With the handle and escutcheon out, you can see the shower valve. Check if there are 2 screws on each side of the shower valve. Those are the cold and hot water shut off valves. They are closed and opened using a screwdriver.

If your shower valve has no shut off valves you will need to turn off your main house shut off valve.

Turning off Water at the Water Heater

A water heater has 2 water pipes connected to it. The cold water pipe supplies it with cold water while the hot water pipe supplies it with hot water. Each of the 2 pipes has a shut off valve.

If you want to turn off hot water to your house you simply turn off the valve on the hot water pipe. To turn off cold water supply to the water heater you will need to turn the valve on the cold water line.

The types of valves used here are the lever-type valves. To turn the valve off, position the lever at 90 degrees to the water pipe. When the lever is aligned with the water pipe the valve is opened.

Whenever you are repairing the water heater it is always advisable to first turn off power or gas supply to the water heater. You will also need to drain off some water from the tank to make the water heater safe to work on.

How to Turn off Water at the Main House Shut off Valve

If you have a leak in your water pipes, you will need to shut off your main house shut off valve. This valve cuts off the water supply to your entire house making it safe in preventing water damages especially in the case of a burst pipes.

Main shut off valves will either be located inside the house or outside the house on the street side. Start by looking inside utility areas like garage, basement, crawlspace, laundry room etc.

Shut off valves will be located very close to the water heater in the basement. The main water pipes where the valve is will be high (eye-level or higher) while on main floors it will be lower.

If you live in a warmer area, the shut off valve will be located on external wall, usually where the main water line enters the building.

For a gate valve (looks like a knob) you will need to turn the knob clockwise. The valve is always open so you will need to apply more force to turn it off.

If you have a ball valve, you will need to move the lever perpendicular (90 degrees) to the supply pipe to turn it off.

Once you have turned off the main shut off valve, open all the faucets to drain the water still left in the pipes. When you are done with the repairs you need to be methodical when turning back the water supply to prevent airlock in the pipes.

Note: When turning off the main shut off valve, I always recommend turning off power to the water heater as well. This will prevent burning of the heating elements if hot water is drawn from the tank.

Turning off Water at the Water Meter

If you have an underground leak (especially between the water meter and the shut off valve) turning off water at the water meter makes sense. You should do this only as the last resort.

Your water meter is usually located between your house and the street, near the curb or sidewalk. It is found inside a concrete box with a metal or plastic lid with“Water” or “Water Meter” inscribed at the top.

There are usually 2 shut off valves, one on the city’s side and one on your side as the homeowner. That is the valve that you need to turn off.

And basically that is how you turn off water to your house for plumbing repairs. I hope this guide was of help to you.

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