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How To Shut Off Your Main Water Valve: Explained by a New York City Plumber

March 18, 2021


If you own a home, it’s very likely that at some point you’ll need to shut off your main water valve. Whether you’re preparing for a plumbing repair, have a burst pipe or going on vacation and want to shut off your water, knowing where the shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off can prevent costly water damage in some situations.

Don’t worry—we’ll show you how to shut off your home’s main water valve in this blog.

But beware, not all plumbing mishaps require you to shut off the water supply throughout the entire house. Sometimes, all you need to do is shut off the flow of water to an isolated appliance, fixture or faucet.

That said, we’ll show you how to shut off various types of valves in your home, including the:

  • Main water valve
  • Sink valve(s)
  • Toilet valve
  • Bath/shower valve(s)
  • Water heater valves
  • Washing machine valve

Shutting off water is just the first step when you have a plumbing issue. The next step is to ensure that you get the issue resolved quickly and correctly. For quick plumbing repairs done right the first time, call Ranshaw.

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Water Main Valve

How to shut off your home’s main water supply

First, you’ll need to locate your main water shutoff valve.

In most NYC homes, the main water shut off valve will be below ground level. It’s usually located in the basement, near the front side of the house, closest to the nearest public roadway.

Once you locate your main water line, you should see a valve on that line. Most homes in NYC have water meters installed, which means that you might see multiple valves on the line. If you see multiple valves, you’ll want to close the one closest to the inside of your home. Some valves can be difficult to operate. If you have an issue closing this valve and or it breaks, you can still shut off water using the next valve closest to the street side.

There are two main types of water shutoff valves:

Ball type valve


  1. A ball type is the more reliable valve type and is found in many NYC homes. This valve type has a long handle that rotates 90° to turn on/off the water supply. If you have this type of valve, you just need to push the handle until it is perpendicular to the pipe. This will equate to a one quarter turn from its current ON position.

Wheel type valve


2. A gate type valve (also called a “wheel” valve) is an older type of valve with a round handle that must be rotated numerous times to shut off the water supply. If you have this type of valve, be gentle rotating the handle as it can easily break off with too much force.

After you’ve shut off the main water valve, be sure to turn on one of the faucets in your home (if you have multiple stories, it’s best to turn on an upstairs faucet) and let the water run until it stops. This will release pressure in your home’s pipes.

Isolation Valves

If you only want to shut off water flow to a specific fixture or appliance, but want to keep water flowing throughout the rest of your home, this can be controlled with isolation valves.

Typically, you can expect to find separate shut off valves at most plumbing fixtures throughout your home.

How to shut off the water supply to your sink

Sink shutoff valves

Most sink shutoff valves can be found directly under the sink. You’ll notice two pipes connected to the sink faucet—one pipe for hot water and one for cold. Both pipes will have separate valves.

The shut off valve to the sink is usually a speedy valve (football shaped). Turn right to close the valve, turn left to open the valve.

Once the valves are closed, turn on the sink faucet and let the water run until it stops.

How to shut off the water supply to your toilet

First, beware that some older toilets may not have their own shutoff valve. If that is the case, you’ll need to follow the instructions to shut off your home’s main water supply.

If your toilet does have its own water shutoff valve, it will be located on the pipe behind your toilet. Since there is only cold water going to your toilet, there will be one shut off valve. Most toilets have a speedy valve that you’ll need to turn clockwise. Once you can’t turn the valve clockwise anymore, the water supply to the toilet should be shut off.

How to shut off the water supply to your bath or shower

Some bath/shower shutoff valves may be located underneath the bathroom sink. If this is the case for your bath/shower, look for a pipe(s) that does not feed directly to the sink faucet. From there, follow the directions above in “How to shut off the water supply to your sink” to turn the valve to the OFF position.

However, some homes may not have a shutoff valve to the tub/shower. If there is a valve that can shut off water to just the shower, it might be located behind a wall or in another area (i.e. a basement or crawl space). In this scenario, you’ll want a plumber to determine if there is a need to access the valve or if shutting off the water supply to the main house would be a better solution.

Water heater valves

How to shut off the water supply to your water heater

If your water heater is leaking or needs repair, you’ll want to first shut off the water supply to the water heater.

To do this, you’ll want to locate the shutoff valve on the cold water inlet pipe. This is a pipe that will be connected to the top of the water heater. You’ll see two pipes attached to the top of your water heater (one for hot water leaving the heater and one for cold water entering the heater). However, in most cases, only one will have a shutoff valve (the cold water inlet pipe). Once you’ve located the valve, follow the instructions below.

  • If you have a ball type valve (long handle), turn the handle 90° until it is perpendicular to the pipe.
  • If you have a gate or wheel type valve, turn the knob clockwise until tight.

How to shut off the water supply to your washing machine

Washing machine valves

Your washing machine is connected to hot and cold water. You should have 2 shut off valves, one for each, located behind the washing machine. The hot water line is usually on the left side (may be a red colored handle) and the cold water line is usually on the right side (may be blue colored handle). Turn the valve to the right to close. In its closed position, the valve handle should be perpendicular to the hose it’s connected to. To open the valve, turn it one quarter to the left so the valve is in line with the hose.

In some cases, there is a single lever valve that operates both the hot and cold water supply. If you have a single lever valve, the up position is open and the down position is closed.

Remember, turning off the water supply is just the first step…

Once you’ve successfully turned off the water supply to your home (or to an individual fixture/appliance), you’ll still want to contact a professional to resolve your plumbing issue and address the reason for the leak.

If you’re in need of reliable plumbers who know how to get the job done right the first time around, call Ranshaw. We’ve been serving New York City homeowners for over 50 years and provide timely service, upfront pricing and highly-skilled plumbers.

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