Avert Disaster by Knowing How to Shut Off Your Home’s Water Supply

February 05, 2011

You probably know how to replace your furnace filters and operate the circuit breakers on your electrical panel. But do you know where to find and how to shut off your home’s main water supply in an emergency? A little knowledge could avoid a serious mess and save thousands in repair bills, say the experts.

Just ask Bryan Nooner, Chairman of Orland Park-based Distinctive Remodelers, a home improvement and maintenance provider. He’ll tell you a cautionary tale of a crony whose family didn’t know where the water main shut-off valve was or how to turn it off. The soggy, sorry aftermath was inevitable.

“A friend recently called me in a panic when I was out to dinner on a Friday night,” Nooner recalled. “A pipe in his garage had frozen and was flooding his kitchen and basement. The family members who were home had no idea even where to look for the water main shut-off valve.”

Nooner hurriedly tried explaining what to do over the phone, but quickly decided that actions speak louder than words. He and his brother-in-law, a plumber by trade, abruptly left their wives behind at the restaurant and raced off to meet the homeowner at his abode.

“Although we arrived within 10 minutes of ending our phone conversation, a neighbor had beaten us to the punch and already shut off the water. But not before our friend had incurred many thousands of dollars of damage to his home,” said Nooner. “If only his family members had known how to turn off the water supply, a lot of expense and inconvenience could have been avoided.”

Such knowledge can be extremely important if you ever have a frozen, leaky or burst pipe, which can cause significant damage to your home. But the truth is, not enough homeowners are aware of the location of the valve that controls the water entering their residences.

Actually, Nooner noted, most homes commonly have numerous shut-off valves located in close proximity to one another and each serving a different purpose. Some are for lawn irrigation, some for water meters, etc.

“When you are in a hurried or “panicked” situation and need to shut the water off quickly, you can easily get confused unless you know what to look for,” he said. “The valves are typically located indoors close to an exterior wall, near the water meter itself close to the floor, or in the basement.”

•       One type of valve is round-handled, similar in appearance and control to an outdoor sprinkler valve that controls your garden hose. This rotary valve needs to be turned clockwise until tight to shut off the water supply.
•       The other type of valve is a lever that typically needs to be pulled downward (until it is parallel to the floor) to turn off the supply; in the “on” position, the lever is pointed up toward the ceiling. Note that, depending upon the installer, the orientation of the valve(s) in your home may be different.

It’s not enough for only one occupant to know where these valves are. Be sure to show the rest of your family their location and how to operate them in an emergency. A quick family meeting showing everyone where and how the water main shut-off valve works is a great idea.

“Also, put a label on the main shut off valve so everyone knows exactly which one to turn off in an emergency,” added Nooner.

If you notice any leaking around these valves, they may need to be tightened or replaced by an expert like Distinctive Remodelers, who can inspect your equipment and repair or replace them as needed.

“If it’s extremely cold, you also run the risk of your water pipes freezing and bursting, which can lead to very expensive repairs,” said Nooner.

Consider that approximately 250,000 families suffer damaged homes every winter because of frozen water pipes that burst, according to State Farm Insurance statistics. A pipe with only a 3-millimeter crack can emit as much as 250 gallons of water per day.

To prevent frozen pipes during a bitter cold spell, turn on the hot water to a trickle and let it run continuously from a faucet nearest an outside wall. Wrap and insulate pipes in your home’s attic and crawl space/basement. Caulk and insulate any air leaks in areas where pipes are situated. Open cabinet doors to enable warm air to reach any uninsulated pipes beneath appliances and sinks. And if you turn on your faucets and no water comes out, leave the faucets on, shut off the water main valve and immediately call an expert plumbing resource like Distinctive Remodelers.

To learn more helpful tips or to schedule an in-home evaluation of your plumbing or other important system or component in your home, contact Distinctive Remodelers at (708) 479-7700. For more information, visit www.DistinctiveRemodelers.com.

Categories: Education

About The Author

Read All Stories By Walsh Communications

Lynn Walsh is the President at Walsh Communications, LLC. Walsh Communications is a full-service public relations, marketing and advertising agency for home builders and real estate-related industries.

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