Plumbing emergencies don’t give you time to go online and research what you need to do. If water is pouring out of a burst pipe, you need to know how to shut off the water immediately, not in ten minutes. That’s why you will want to take the time to learn the following plumbing basics before an emergency strikes.
Locate Water Shut Off Valves
You need to know how to shut off the water, both locally and the main shut off to the whole house.
- Local shut off valves, also called isolation valves, are located at each fixture. These shut off valves will stop the flow of water to a specific sink or toilet or appliance. You can shut off water to a toilet and still have water running to your dishwasher. Locate each of these isolation shut off valves and test them, turning them on and off. You should test them once a year to ensure they work, they stay lubricated and usable, and that the people in your house understand how they work.
- Whole house water main shut off valves are essential for burst pipes or major water line repairs. They are typically located either in your garage, outside the home by the side of your house, or in a cement or metal box by the curb. Find your shut off valve and make sure it works. If it is corroded such that it is stuck, replace the shut off valve with a newer plastic coated shut off valve that won’t corrode.
Get to Know Your Water Heater
- Learn how to turn off your water heater. You need to locate both the water source (and accompanying shut off valve) and the on/off switch. If it’s a gas heater, you can turn it off by switching to “pilot” position.
- Check your water heater for problems such as any sort of hissing or whistling noises (watch out for a leaking pressure valve – you can get scalded), and obvious damage such as corrosion, denting of the tank or leaking. Check your water heater once a year, when you drain and flush it, to make sure you stay aware of problems before they escalate.
Inspect All Other Appliances That Use Water
As a new homeowner, you’ll want to inspect your refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal and washing machine. Look for cracked hoses and any signs of leaks or damage. You need to know what’s normal and what’s not so you will catch plumbing problems before they get out of control.