Quality Plumbing Services


February 9, 2017 · No Comments


Have you ever heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” At Quality Plumbing Services Inc. we answer the phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it always amazes our on call managers how many people do not know what to do in a plumbing emergency. Knowing where your shut off valves are located could save you thousands and thousands of dollars in flood damage.


If a pipe burst in your home, or your water heater starts to leak, do you or your family members know what to do? Your plumbing emergency does not even need to be as severe as a burst pipe or leaking water heater. A supply line leak to a faucet, toilet, or ice maker line can cause severe property damage. Knowing how to stop or isolate the water could limit the damage to your home.


There are two types of valves in your home. There is the main shut off valve which will turn off all the water to the home, and then there are isolation valves or angle stops at each fixture i.e., water heater, toilets, faucets, dishwasher, ice makers, etc. Let me start by saying not all homes will have all the valves I’m describing, but this is typically what we find in most cases.


This article will deal with locating and operating the main shut off valve to your home. The main valve will turn all the water off to the entire house. Finding your main shut off valve can be difficult … it may be located in a dark corner of the basement, perhaps in the mechanical room, but typically towards the front of the basement and usually located at or near the water meter.  


So, knowing where your water meter is and what it looks like can be a good start in locating the main shut off valve. Most homes in the suburbs have water meters generally located in the basement. There may be shut off valves on both sides of the meter or only one side.


Not every water meter is in a wide open basement. In a finished basement, the water meter may be behind walls or boxed in to an enclosure (hopefully with an access panel). It is a good idea to know where your water meter is prior to needing it in a plumbing emergency.


What if your home does not have a basement? Typically water meters can be found in crawl spaces, mechanical rooms near the furnace, water heater, laundry rooms, etc. Keep in mind that water meter and main shut off valves may be behind the water heater or furnace, and not always visible. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the valves can help you avoid a disaster later.


What if your home does not have a water meter? Many older and some single family homes in Chicago do not have water meters.  If your home is on a well system, you will not have a water meter. If that is the case, you will need to find the main water supply pipe that enters the home. The incoming water supply pipe should have a shut off valve near where the pipe enters the home.


There are two types of main shut off valves. One is a gate valve which will consist of a wheel handle and requires multiple “clockwise” turns to stop the flow of water.







The other is a ball valve which have a lever style handle and only requires a quarter turn which will stop the flow of water.

Ball valve on Ball valve off



Please keep in mind the color of handle will vary based on manufacturer and the size of the valve will be based on your home's plumbing needs, but the basic operation is the same as described. Gate valves or wheel handle valves are a bit more difficult to operate (move) and require multiple clockwise turns. In addition, be aware gate valves can leak as they are being turned on and off.  Don’t let that stop you from turning it all the way off in an emergency. This type of valve may leak or drip when it is not all the way open or all the way closed.


One more word of caution … if for whatever reason you have to turn off the water to your home or an individual fixture, when opening up any valve or angle stop do it very, very slowly and open one or more faucets. This will prevent any shocks to your plumbing system, remove the air, and reduce the chance of stirring up sediment and debris in your piping.   


Don't wait until you have a plumbing emergency to try and find your water shut off valves. Minutes could seem like hours in that situation. Unfortunately, It can even take a professional plumber several minutes once we arrive at your home to locate your main shut off valve.


Please return to our site next week for isolation (angle stop) valve information.


Please call us at 630-227-0200 with all of your plumbing needs.


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