Shutting Off the Water – Vancouver Plumbing Blog

While it may seem like an obvious task, shutting off the water can be a tricky job on its own. Vancouver plumbers Plumbing and Drain Rescue have seen their fair share of water valve blunders.


Most homes built within the last 40 years have separate stop valves (a.k.a. fixture shutoff valves) for each toilet, faucet and fixture. Typically, a supply tube will run from the valve to the fixture.

(Keep in mind that faucets will have two supply tubes/stop valves- one for hot water and one for cold.)

If your fixture does not have a stop valve, you will need to shut off the water to all (or at least part) of your home before you start the job. Stop valves are typically chrome in color and are made for use in emergencies and repairs. That said, be careful not to crank on the stop valve or the handle may break. Also keep in mind that some stop valves will close after only a quarter turn. In addition, be aware that some tub/shower faucets may have in-faucet stop valves, one each for hot and cold water. For in-faucet stop valves, use a large slot screwdriver to turn the valve off.

Main Water Shutoff

Every home has at least one main shutoff for the main water supply pipe, however, there are often two located on either side of your water meter— one inside the home, and another outside. If you have difficulty finding the indoor valves, note that main shutoffs inside the home are generally located at the pipe’s point of entry—in a crawlspace or below the basement floor. When you locate the main pipe, follow its path to the shutoff.

If you live in an area with mild winters, your main shutoff will likely be outside where the main supply pipe branches off from the street’s main water line. In temperate regions, outdoor shutoffs may be located inside a plastic or concrete box called a Buffalo box, which you may need to dig up to locate. In colder regions, the shutoff will be below the frost line, typically in a tube covered in cast-iron. You may need a long-handled wrench to reach down to these shutoffs; your water utility department will often lend you a key for it. If you cannot locate your main supply pipe, call your water utility department for assistance.

Intermediate Shutoffs

When looking for shutoffs, you may find additional shutoff valves on exposed pipe i.e., in your crawlspace, basement or access panel behind a bathtub. These are called intermediate shutoffs. Intermediate shutoffs are typically in pairs (for hot and cold water pipes,) and can shutoff water to just a portion of your home. To test what portion of your home’s water supply is controlled by each shut off valve, shut off a valve and then run water from each fixture in your home to see which fixtures have (and no longer have) water flowing to them. Remember to listen to see if your toilet tank refills after flushing, as you will always get one flush after the water supply gets turned off!

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