The moment water begins gushing from a burst pipe is not the time to start searching for your home’s main supply valve. Even 10 or 20 minutes can make a world of difference in the amount of home water damage. That’s why everyone in your household needs to know exactly where to go and what to do in a water-related emergency. Make it a family adventure if you need to, but do it today. Here’s how:
In most homes, this is a brass valve with a round handle. The main water line usually takes the shortest path into the house from the outdoor water meter and is most often located near the perimeter of a room at ground level. On the ground floor, look down. In the basement, look at eye level or higher. In warmer climates where freezing is not an issue, the main valve may be on the home exterior near the water meter. It is possible but unlikely that the valve is hidden behind an access panel, and they are rarely placed under a sink. Don’t confuse the gas shut-off to the furnace or water heater lines with water lines. If you have your home inspection report, the main water valve location is called out—probably in Section 6.1.
Once you shut off the cold-water flow into the home, the only water that remains is the small amount that was already in the pipes. In the case of flooding, that water will empty quickly. If the problem is less threatening, you can speed the drainage process by running a faucet until the flow stops.
If your home is flooded, take the safety precaution of shutting off the flow of electricity at the main breaker. Standing in water that is near electrical wiring and outlets can create bigger problems than flooding. It is always a good practice for any homeowner to keep alternative emergency lighting handy.
Turning the water back on is a cinch. Just remember that the entire time the main water valve remains closed, nothing that requires water will be functional—including commodes and faucets. Depending upon your situation and the speed of repairs, you may need a short hotel stay or the help of neighbors, family and friends.
Many Floridians have hurricane and disaster plans, but few think about their response to a home flood from a burst pipe. First, take every precaution by keeping all plumbing and hoses in top shape with regular inspections, repair and replacement. Secondly, know exactly what you need to do in the case of sudden trouble. You may only need to turn the shut-off valve to a single commode, sink, or appliance. Know where they are. At other times, you will have to stop the flow of water into the entire home. Don’t just guess that you have found the location of your main home shut-off valve. Give it a test run by turning the valve all the way off and see if the flow stops when you run a faucet or shower.
Only three things will make it necessary to shut off the flow of water from the street: The home shut-off system fails, a pipe between the house and street is leaking, or the main house valve is being replaced. The water valve at the street is designed to be difficult to access—and usually requires special tools. Always begin by contacting the water company for guidance. As part of your water-damage plan, ask your water company right now how it handles emergencies that require a street shut-off and keep that information handy.
No one can predict the future, but anyone can be aware and prepared. So often the nightmare of water damage can be completely avoided or dramatically reduced with diligence and nimble response.
Fortunately, Olympus Insurance customers have 24-hour emergency assistance at the first sign of water damage—365 days a year. Calls can be placed to the Olympus claims team at 866-281-2242.
*Please note that response times may be extended during catastrophic weather events.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not form a part of, replace, change or amend any terms, conditions, provisions or language within your Olympus Insurance policy. We encourage you to read your entire policy.