Plumbing Emergency – what to do first


Quick! Do you know how to turn your water off?

Water is going everywhere and you have to stop it before it causes damage! In an emergency, you have to stop the water fast! The most important thing to do is know where to shut off the water so you can protect your home, appliances, and fixtures. If you don’t know where to shut it off or haven’t used the valves recently, it might be wise to conduct a practice test.

You may be able to use your hand to turn some valves but if they haven’t been used in a long time or are located outside, you may need wrenches, a pair of slip jointed pliers, and some household spray oil.

Main Shut Off Valve and Water Meter

If you have municipal or city water, the water meter and shutoff valve are usually found close to each other. Located close to the street or easement, look near the edge of your property for a metal lid that looks like a small manhole cover. You may need to unscrew a bolt to remove the water meter hatch.

After removing the hatch, you should find a rotating valve that looks like an outdoor spigot or a valve with a metal flange. If it’s the latter, you may need a pipe wrench. Going clockwise, turn the valve until it stops and the water supply will be shut off.

Some homes have a water shut off valve located along the main water line that may be found in your crawl space or basement.

Protect your hot water heater

If you are just doing a practice run, you may need to turn off the water intake valves to your appliances, especially your hot water heater to keep it from being damaged. Check the manuals for instructions.

If your water heater is gas, turn the switch to pilot and check the manual to see if you need to turn off the gas entirely and how you should do it. Pressure and hot water can build up in the unit and cause it to burst or burn someone badly.

Outside spigots

Once the main water supply has been shut off, turn on any outside spigots to drain the pipes. The water will drain outside and not inside your home where it can cause damage.

Other shut off valves

Fixtures like sinks and toilets have isolation valves that stop the flow of water directly at the location. You may only need to shut the water off here instead of the whole house while making your repair. If the valve doesn’t turn by hand, using two wrenches and turning them in opposite directions (backing off) will allow the wrench to take the stress and not the plumbing. The shut off valve may need some household spray oil to loosen it.

Overflowing toilet

If your toilet is going to overflow and the water valve doesn’t easily turn by hand, quickly and carefully take off the toilet lid lift up the float ball until the refill valve shuts off. If you don’t have a float ball, look for a part that lifts with the water level and hold it up. If it did overflow, clean it up quickly before you have damage to your flooring.

More information about how to stop your toilet from overflowing can be found here.

We are a 24 hour plumbing contractor, ready to help you with all of your plumbing problems. Call us at 813-909-7418. Contact Emory Garland Plumbing, a licensed, bonded and insured Tampa plumber available for all of your plumbing problems.