Homeowner Basics: How to Turn Off Water to Your House

No one ever wants to see water from a burst pipe filling your home, but sometimes this nerve-wracking event can happen. That’s why it’s important to learn how to turn off the water to your house to limit the damage.

Bursting pipe

Sure, “Where is the water shut-off valve?” may not be the first question you ask when you purchase a new home. However, it could prove to be one of the most important questions, considering how much money—and how many headaches—the knowledge could end up saving you if your pipes are leaking.

Read on to find out what you need to know about your home’s main water shut-off valve.

What is a main water shut-off valve?

As you know, your home is full of plumbing. There are pipes running behind your walls and under your floors that direct water to and from your plumbing accessories, such as faucets, toilets, and bathtubs. Although most, if not all, of your accessories have their own shut-off valves located close to them (such as your water heater’s shut-off valve), there is a way to ensure all the house’s plumbing is turned off at one time. The main valve turns off water to the house, so you don’t need to adjust each accessory individually.

Why is my water valve’s location important?

Imagine this scenario: You’ve just walked in from a long day at work only to be greeted with the sound of running water and squishing beneath your feet. You have a burst pipe. And, therefore, you have a big problem on your hands. Rather than let the water continue spewing out and making the damage—and your cost to fix it—worse while you wait for the plumber to come, you’ll want to close your inside main water valve to ensure the water stops flowing.

Likewise, if you plan to do any remodeling to your home or dive into any plumbing ventures, such as replacing old pipes, you’ll want to make sure to turn off water to the house during the projects. This way, water buildup won’t occur as the result of a burst pipe during demolition or construction.

So, where is my water shut-off valve?

There are two types of water shut-off valves for typical city dwellings: the outside water shut-off valve controlled by the city and the one that you can control inside the house. The city’s valve is always located on the streetside of your water meter, often near the edge of your yard. Since it is not advisable to tamper with the city’s valve, we’ll only focus on locating your indoor valve.

Locating water shut-off valves indoors can be a bit tricky. Hopefully, locating yours is simple, and you can easily find the knob or lever on a border wall. However, if it’s not so easy to locate, you’ll need to play “plumbing detective.” (Note that it won’t be under a sink or next to the water heater.) Your valve is likely in one of these places:

  • On a perimeter wall of your house
  • At ground level, so you’ll be looking for it at eye level or above in a basement or lower on the wall if you’re on the ground level floor
  • In a straight line from your outdoor water meter
  • Noted on your property inspection report from when you purchased the house
  • Behind an access panel

If you still can’t find the main water shut-off valve, it should be listed on your property inspection report from when you purchased the house. Also, builders often place the valves in or around main, ground-level bathrooms, which could mean that it’s not necessarily on an outside wall but could be in a closet near the bathroom.

Although the valves are supposed to be visible, a previous owner may not have thought about the shut-off valves for water pipes when they performed DIY renovations. If that’s the case, be sure to have the city’s phone number on hand, so a technician can quickly come turn the water valve off at the street during an emergency.


In addition to understanding how to turn off the water to your house in an emergency, you can also learn more about fixing common toilet problems or what to do if you're dealing with frozen pipes.

Keep the rest of your home covered by an American Home Shield home warranty. Get plumbing warranty coverage, as well as water heater coverage, with one of our affordable home warranty plans.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.