Water is gushing out of a broken shower handle in the upstairs bathroom! A small flood is beginning to build in the kitchen as the water collects with nowhere to go. Or a leaking toilet is starting to drip into your entry hall. It’s a plumbing emergency! Do you know how to turn off the water to your house while waiting for the plumber to come have a look?
One way to halt the flow before more damage is done is to get yourself to your home’s shut off valve armed with an essential tool called a water shut off key. It’s an essential tool that should come with every home, like gutters and garage door openers.
Where is this valve that will prevent flood damage in my home? Water meters can be located in a variety of locations depending on the age and design of the house and how property lines are drawn.
Usually homes are connected to city water lines in a small enclosure near the street that serves the neighborhood. The most common types of meter enclosures are a small round plate that says “water meter” on it, or a rectangular box made of plastic and concrete that has a similar lid with a small hole you can use to insert a screwdriver or other prying device that will open it up. Sometimes the round ones have a nut that must be loosened to get it open.
They may be buried or full of dirt or debris, so do a little maintenance once you find your meter. If you can’t find it, ask a neighbor where theirs is (yours should be in a similar spot on your property) or call your water utility. There should be a valve on either side of the metering device- you can turn off either one. It can’t be done by hand, so here’s our strong advice.
Get a Water Shut-Off Key
It goes by a few names: water shut off tool, curb key or curb box key. It’s a simple thing and only sets you back a few bucks, possibly saving you thousands later! It consists of a handle with two prongs at the end, or a slot that fits over the “fin” on the meter valve. Once you’ve got the tool in place, you can rotate it until it stops to shut off all water to your house.
It’s one of those things you’ll rarely use so hang it up in the garage. Just a note in colder climates, shutting off water to the house is done inside, usually in the basement or the room closest to where the plumbing enters the home. Being inside reduces the risk of freezing the meter, and with newer electronic means of gathering meter data, it doesn’t have to be accessible outside. In warmer climates like ours, it’s more likely you’ll have to go outside to access the meter/valve box.
So go out and get yourself a gift this Christmas – one that could pay off for you later – a Water Shut-Off Key. They range in price from less than $10 up to $30 for a super nice one. They come in shorter hand versions and taller iterations from two to five feet in length (depends on how far below grade your meter is). Your favorite home improvement store should have a few choices, or you can order one online.