Here we clear up everything you need to know about shutting the water off.
What is the purpose of the main water shutoff valve?
The main water shutoff valve allows you to shut off the supply of water in your home.
You may want to do this in several situations, such as:
In a plumbing emergency (such as a burst pipe)
Leaks, taps or toilets in your home are being repaired
When you are upgrading components of the water system in your home
You will be spending an extended period away from your home
When you are closing up a holiday home for the winter
This main valve is usually quite a large valve.
It should not be confused with the smaller valves (globe valves, angled fixture shutoff valves, etc.) that can shut off water to specific appliances like taps.
Note that these main water valves either turn the flow of water on or off. There is no mechanism in them to increase or decrease the flow of water.
Where is the main water shutoff valve in your home?
In most Calgary homes, the main water shutoff valve is located either where the water line enters your home or close to the water tank in the basement.
Positioning the main water shutoff in the basement prevents it from freezing in our icy winters here in Calgary.
Otherwise, you can locate the water pipe where the water enters your house. You will find the valve near that point (on an exterior wall or in an underground box) just below the water meter.
How do I know if I’ve found the water shutoff valve?
The proof is in the pudding! Turn the valve off and see if you still have water in your home.
It helps to know what type of valve you’re looking for. In Calgary homes like most others around Canada, the main water shutoff valve will be one of two designs:
A ball valve: a large metal valve usually featuring a lever handle designed for quick turn off. The actual valve below the lever handle has a bulbous section where the ball inside fits. This is most common in homes with plastic or copper main water pipes.
A gate valve: this is another large metal valve that features a circular “wheel” handle, which is turned to raise or lower a metal gate inside the valve controlling water flow.
Generally, you do not need any tools to turn off the main water valve unless they are located in an underground water meter box.
These valves are designed for rapid response in the case of an emergency, so most are very simple to close and open by hand.
For a gate valve
The wheel on a gate valve will turn all the way around. Usually, you need to turn it clockwise to close it and counter-clockwise to open it.
Make sure that you test the valve as, if left untouched for a long period of time, they can become a little difficult to turn.
For a ball valve
To turn off the water with a ball valve, turn the lever clockwise with a half turn. Note that these valves do not turn all the way.
For valves located in an underground water meter box
You may need special tools to turn off a valve located in an underground water meter box.
A pentagon socket wrench, pliers, or a meter key may be required to open the box but other lids will simply lift off.
Once the lid is off, you may need to use a crescent wrench and screwdriver to turn the knob clockwise and turn off the water. If there isn’t enough room for a wrench, you may need a meter key. It is unlikely that you will be able to turn the knob by hand.
Release pipe pressure
Once the main water has been turned off, release pressure inside the pipes to complete the job and ensure that you protect your system from damage.
You do this by turning on both the hot and cold water from any set of faucets in your house until the water no longer runs.
Your requirements as a homeowner in Calgary
In Calgary, the water shutoff valve is the responsibility of the homeowner. You must control and maintain it as per the Water Utility Bylaw.
Homeowners who fail to maintain the valve may receive a $250 fine if the valve is broken, according to the City of Calgary. This will go towards the cost of repairing the valve by a licensed plumber.
Do your homework before disaster strikes
Prevention. It really is ten times better than trying to find a cure.
Before disaster strikes and you face a flooded home or business premises costing thousands of dollars in repairs, locate where the main water shutoff valve is in your home.
Then educate your family or work colleagues about where the valve is, what it does, when they may need to turn it off, and how to do it.
As you have seen above, it is perfectly safe to turn off the main water supply yourself without the need for a plumber. It could save you a costly repair bill in the future.
If you cannot locate your valve or you have a leak or other emergency repair requirement, call Pete the Plumber at (403) 257-1766.