Where to find your home’s main water valve

old broken pipe spraying waterPEMCO says it's often a good idea to turn off your main water valve when you leave home for several days, in case a pipe bursts. Can you find yours?

Imagine you leave town on vacation and while you're away, your washing machine hose cracks (because you forgot to replace it) and starts gushing water. Your hardwood floors flood, the walls get soaked, and your wet wiring shorts out, risking an electrical fire. But you're clueless – you're hundreds of miles away enjoying the beach.

You can avoid most water-loss risk by turning off your main water valve whenever you leave a dwelling for an extended time. But to do that, you need to know where to find your main valve. Here are some common locations.

water meter cover in front yard of homeMost homes built since 1980 have a shut-off valve somewhere inside. Older homes may not have one at all, but there's still a valve outdoors at the city water meter. It's usually in front of the house in a covered box with a metal plate, near the street or sidewalk. Older meters need a special shut-off tool; learn more from Seattle Public Utilities.

Utility companies offer general guidelines for where to find the main water valve inside your home:

  • If your home sits on a concrete slab, the valve is often near your hot water tank.

  • If your house has a basement, the valve typically is near the front foundation wall, within a few feet of where that water line enters. The line may come through the concrete floor, or a wall. If not, look near the water heater.

  • For homes with a crawl space, the valve could be near the water heater, under the kitchen sink … or somewhere less predictable. Ours is a two-story house with a crawl space, and our main valve is in the middle of the first floor, in the laundry room. But even if I didn't know that, I could enter my crawl space, find where the main water line pokes through the foundation, and follow it to see where it enters the living space.

main water line valveMy brother-in-law Lenny is a longtime Seattle contractor (Thirteen-34 Construction) who shared the most-common locations for the main water valve, based on his experience.

"In the garage, near the garage door, in the utility room, and sometimes in a basement bathroom," Lenny said. "The best way to find it is to locate the water meter at the street, then follow a straight line to the house. The shut-off valve is generally near where the water line enters the foundation."

If you're still unsure, you can always have a plumber come show you where your main water valve is.

One final note: If you have an automatic fire sprinkler in your home or automatic irrigation that waters your yard, you should learn whether it's disabled by closing your shut-off valve. You might return from vacation to find a withered garden.

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