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In a plumbing emergency, you'll need to stop the flow of water quickly. To do this, you and each member of your family needs to know the location of the shutoff valve for every fixture and appliance, as well as the main shutoff valve for the house, and how they operate.
A Leaking or Broken Pipe
- If the emergency involves a specific fixture or appliance, first look for its shutoff valve and turn it clockwise to shut off the water to that fixture or appliance only.
- The valve is usually located underneath a fixture such as a sink or a toilet, or behind an appliance, such as a clothes washer, at the point where the water supply pipe (or pipes) connects to it.
- If the problem is not with a particular fixture or appliance, or if there's no shutoff valve for the fixture or appliance, use the main shutoff valve to turn off the water supply to the entire house.
- You'll find the main shutoff valve on the inside or outside of your house where the main water supply pipe enters.
- In cold climates, look just inside the foundation wall in the basement or crawl space.
- Turn the valve clockwise to shut it off.
- Professional Tip If you need a wrench to turn the valve, keep one, specially labeled near the valve so it's handy.
- If the main shutoff valve itself is defective and needs to be repaired, call your water company; they can send someone out with the special tool that's required to shut off the water at the street before it reaches the valve.
A Stopped-Up Sink
- Turn off the main shutoff valve to prevent water damage.
- Make temporary repairs to stop the leak.
- The pipe will have to be replaced as soon as it's convenient to do so.
A Faucet That Won't Shut Off
- Shut off any faucet or appliance (such as dishwasher) that's draining into the sink.
- Unclog the sink using a plunger or snake.
- DON'T use a chemical drain cleaner if the blockage is total.
A Steaming Hot Water Faucet
- Immediately turn off the water at the fixture shutoff valve underneath the sink.
- If there's no valve there, turn off the main shutoff valve.
- Repair the faucet or, if necessary, replace it.
- Open all the hot water faucets to relieve the overheated hot water heater.
- Turn off the gas or electric supply to the heater.
- Let the faucets run until cold water flows from them (this indicates the water in the heater is no longer overheated).
- Close them.
- Call in a professional to make any necessary repairs to the heater's thermostat and pressure relief valve.