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Emergency shutoffs: Where they are and how to use them

A lot of us don’t know the exact location of our main water shut-off valves; they tend not to be in full view. However, it’s vital we ferret them out and know how to turn them off, because a leak or a burst pipe can cost thousands of dollars. The main valve will cut off the water supply to the entire house.

The main valve, which will be a gate or a ball valve, is usually in the basement, in a crawlspace, or on an outside wall. Once you’ve found it, try it: Turn it off by turning it clockwise. It will usually require a few rotations. It’s advisable to test it now to ascertain that the valve is working and will be easily useable in an emergency situation.

Often, opening and closing it will cause a bit of leaking around the stem. No worries.

If it does, gently tighten the packing nut, just enough to stop the leak. Don’t over-tighten it, though. You do want to be able to use it with ease, should the need arise.

Show the main water shut-off valve to everyone who lives in your house and teach them how to turn it off. After all, you might not be home when the need arises. And remember: a lot of Canadians shut it off when they head out on winter vacations, to be sure pipes don’t burst.

Water damage is one of the most common homeowners’ insurance claims. Make sure you understand what is and is not covered on your policy. Do your utmost to keep your home safe and dry; significant leaks and burst pipes can wreak havoc and cause huge inconvenience, with some repairs and renovations taking months to complete.