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Basics of Indoor Plumbing
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Drawing of a main water shutoff

The very first thing you need to know in your pursuit of your "Bachelor of Toilets Degree" is how to turn off your water supply. The main water shutoff for single family homes is usually in the basement; most often on the wall facing the street, but that's not alway the case. You need to explore your home and find it. Once found, hang a tag on it so everyone in your household knows what it is and where it is. The MAIN SHUT-OFF turns off all the water to your entire house; MAKE SURE IT WORKS. You will need it in an emergency AND/OR when you don't have an individual shutoff under fixtures. If the handle is hard to turn, apply a penetrating lubricant spray such as LPS-1 or WD-40 to the stem behind the handle. Give it time to soak in and then try to turn the valve by using pliers on the stem behind the handle. I urge you to be careful with this valve, you need to be aware that if something breaks and the valve is turned on, you will have a mess on your hands very quickly. Better to have a professional take care of this valve. To repair this valve, the water supply must be turned off at the street and usually requires a special tool only available from the water company.

A water heater located in a basement or garage can do a lot of damage if it ruptures, but the damage can be catastrophic when a water heater is located on the living level of a home. Make certain the shut-off valve is always operating; test it once in awhile. If the shut-off valve is overhead and not easy to reach, turn the water off at the main water shut-off valve immediately, and then get a ladder to shut-off the valve that controls the water heater. The main shut-off will turn both the hot and cold water off to the entire house, whereas the valve for the water heater will only turn off the hot water; you will still have cold drinking water and be able to use the toilets until you can have the water heater replaced.

HINT: While we are on the topic of shut-off valves, now is as good a time as any to mention that when you have used one of the small shut-off valves under a toilet and go to turn it back on, it is best to leave it about a half turn from fully open.

Shut-off valves are seldom used, and when left in the same position for long periods of time tend to become stiff. By leaving the valve not fully open, the next time you go to use it you will be able to more easily free it up by turning it in both directions.

For more on shut-off valves visit: Mr. Rooter® Plumbing .

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