How Do I Find My Water Shut-Off Valve?

Updated May 26, 2022
Detailed shot of a shut-off water valve
Photo: glebchik / Adobe Stock

When a pipe bursts, you've got to act fast

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Swimming is great, but you probably don’t want to do it in your living room. But water pipes can burst at any time—and usually it’s at the worst possible moment (imagine greeting the in-laws at the front door with an umbrella and galoshes).

So if you want to save the house, you need to know where to find your home’s main shut-off valve in a hurry. The biggest clue: your home’s foundation.

If Your Home Is Built on a Slab

If your house is on a slab, your main water shut-off valve should be found near your water heater tank, either under it or at the top.

If Your Home Has a Basement

If you have a basement, that’s probably where you’ll find your shut-off valve. Most water basement-dwelling valves will be in the same place as your outdoor hose bib, just on the other side of the wall.

The easiest way to find the valve is to picture where the hose attachment is on the outside of the house. Then find the corresponding spot on the wall inside the house. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

Even if you’re just leaving for a weekend getaway, it’s a good idea to shut off the water to your home

If Your Home Has a Crawl Space

Your main water shut-off valve might be under the crawl space. Usually you can find it along the front wall of the house.

  • With basement: The shut-off valve is wherever water enters your basement.

  • Without basement: The shut-off valve is near the water heater or under the kitchen sink.

If You Still Can’t Find Your Shut-Off Valve

Sometimes, looking for your shut-off valve can feel like a not-so-fun scavenger hunt, especially if your home is rapidly filling with water. If you still can’t find the main water shut-off valve in an emergency, you or an emergency team can shut off the water at the main city water line. This is usually at the front of the house in a covered box.

How to Turn Off Your Type of Water Valve

Depending on the type of water valve you have, you’ll turn it off a little bit differently. 

Ball Valve

A ball valve contains a ball with a hole through the middle of it. When you turn the long, lever handle to turn the valve on, the hole in the ball aligns with the water pipe and allows water to flow. When the valve is closed, the ball turns and blocks the pipe. 

Turn the handle 90 degrees to the right to shut off the valve, or turn it 90 degrees to the left to open it. 

Gate Valve

Gate valves have round handles that control a gate that moves up and down inside the valve to allow or block the flow of water. You can adjust the flow of water or completely turn it off. Turn the handle counterclockwise as far as possible to open it, and turn it clockwise to close it. Never force it as you could damage the handle and valve. 

Streetside Ground-Level Utility Box

If you still aren’t able to find and turn off your water shut-off valve, you may be able to locate and turn off the valve in the streetside ground-level utility box. The valve in this box, also known as a curb valve, is at the beginning of your water main. You should see a plastic or metal door at the top of the box. 

There’s usually a phone number on the door for emergency services at your water company. You can call and ask how to shut off the valve, or they can send an emergency team to assist you. 

The Takeaway

As a homeowner, learning how to find and turn off your main water valve might feel pretty low on your list of priorities. But in an emergency, knowing how to quickly cut the water supply can not only help keep your family safe, but it can also shield you from costly water damage and repairs.

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