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Whole House Water Shutoff


President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC
It’s 4 AM in January. It’s dark in the house and outside. Outside it’s windy and cold, real cold, like 10 degrees F. You wake up to the sound of running water. Lots of running water. The noise is coming from the kitchen. Do you know where your whole-house water shutoff is located?

This scenario has played itself out many times before. It is funny how plumbing problems like this seldom show up on a warm and sunny day. They seem to save themselves for a time when it is cold and dark and you are asleep. It is bad enough that you have a serious plumbing problem. But why now? It’s not fair, but that’s life. So what are you going to do about it?

At this point it would really be helpful if you knew where your whole-house water shut-off is located. The whole-house water shutoff should be a round rotary handle device or a flat quarter-turn handle in line with the main water line. An example of a round rotary handled shutoff is shown in the picture on the right. This is also a basement location in an older home with a stone foundation. As a Home Inspector at HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC, I have seen these devices located in many places. Some locations are not too accessible, like in the crawl space. Hopefully yours is in a location that is readily accessible. You may have one out in the yard at the utility service shutoff but you’ll need a special wrench for that. Your home should have a shutoff valve in addition to the utility shutoff.

The whole-house shutoff is often located in the crawl space if your house has a crawl space. Crawl space locations can be problematic because many people are unfamiliar with their crawl space and uncomfortable going in there. Combine this with a shutoff location that is not near the crawl space access and you have a shutoff location that is difficult to reach.

Another common location is in the garage. See the picture to the right. It may be located near your hot water heater. But don’t be fooled by that. Often there are two valves, a whole-house valve and a separate valve at the hot water heater just for that appliance. The yellow flat-handled valve in the picture on the right is the whole house shutoff valve you need to know about. Notice the pressure regulator in the plumbing line and above the shutoff valve. That puts the pressure regulator downstream of the shutoff valve and in a position to control system pressure throughout the house that is beyond this point.

In the scenario above the ruptured pipe is in the kitchen but the whole-house shutoff is in the garage. Regardless where it is, you need to be know the location before it is 4 AM on a cold and dark January morning. If you are not sure, hire a Home Inspector to locate the shutoff for you. While he’s at it, have him identify your electrical master disconnect and your gas shutoff as well. This information is part of a Home Inspector Review that is offered by HABITEC. Please see details at

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Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this article are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC, and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings. HABITEC Inspectors are not specialists licensed in the construction of a home or building. HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill and more! In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis. Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at, or call 615-376-2753.

Richard Acree is the author of the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections Blog and founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors. All are welcome to join and see more blogs like this one.

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