She CAN Manage: Shut up, Pipe down!

Ladies, I know you are ready to take charge of your home, roll up your sleeves and get to work.  Awesome! Before you start pulling out your tool box and conquering those projects, I have some advice for you; Shut up and pipe down!  Wait, what??

Many homeowners and tenants do not know how to shut off the water to their residence or an individual fixture to prevent major leaks and property damage in an emergency.  When you purchase or move into a new home, you should make yourself familiar with the shut off valves and practice opening and closing them so you’re prepared for an emergency.  And emergencies do happen!

I learned this lesson after purchasing a home; within days of owning it, a pipe burst.  Water was gushing EVERYWHERE!

I confidently head to the basement to shut off the water but the water kept flowing and flowing and flowing.  I found out there was a secondary valve for the well in a completely different (frog and spider infested) location!  Lesson learned.  Had I known beforehand where each main shut off valve was, much time would have been saved and I would have been thinking much more clearly…next time someone else will dodge the frog and spider obstacle course in the dark!

There will be a main shut off valve located near your pump and, if you have well water, locate that valve too!  If you are unsure which valve is which, have a knowledgeable friend or a plumber come and identify and label these valves for you.  In addition to the main shut off valves, individual water fixtures like toilets and sinks will have their own shut off valve. This is useful when you only need to prevent the flow of water to one fixture and not impact your entire home.

So where are these individual shut off valves?  Typically, they are hidden away from public view so you have to know where to look:

  • Sinks – under each sink you should find two shut off valves, one for hot water and one for cold.  This doesn’t just apply to your kitchen and bathroom sinks. Don’t forget other sinks like bar sinks, laundry room sinks or sinks in the basement or garage.
  • Toilet – toilets have a single shut off valve, typically on the left-hand side.  Also locate the valves for your bidet.
  • Bathtubs/Showers – these often do not have individual shut off valves because their controls provide that function.  Jacuzzi style tubs may have a shut off located behind a small access hatch nearby.
  • Hot Water Heater – you should find a valve on the cold-water pipe coming into the top of your water heater.
  • Refrigerator Ice Makers/Dishwashers – these are often connected to the water line under the kitchen sink.  If you shut off the cold-water supply to the sink, if connected, they will shut off as well.
  • Washing Machine – typically there are valves immediately behind the machine.
  • Exterior Faucets – these may not have an individual shut off and will need to be shut off at the main shut off valve.

What do these shut off valves look like and how do I turn them off?  There are a variety of valve styles. Some of the most popular styles are shown here.  To turn off the first two styles shown, turn the handle 90 degrees clockwise. To turn them back on, turn the handle 90 degrees counterclockwise.  Remember, if the handle is in line with, or parallel to the pipes, water is flowing, if the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, the water supply is off.  To turn off the second two styles shown, turn the handle clockwise until it stops. It often requires several rotations to shut off completely. To turn the water back on, turn the handle counterclockwise until it is fully open. Turning these shut off valves should be part of your routine maintenance schedule to ensure they do not get stuck when you actually need them.  Remember to teach everyone in your home how to turn the valves off themselves as well. Time to shut up and pipe down!

Sharika Tucci is the managing director, lead property manager and broker at Masterkey Management Ltd. She offers her clients over a decade of real estate and property management experience spanning various property types including commercial, residential, condominium, arable, recreational and social use properties.  

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