Water supplies are not usually too tough to shut off. If you have a cutoff near the sink or fixture that you will be working on, just cut the water to that and not to the whole house. But, if you have to turn off the whole house, here are some steps for different possibilities. First, you have to figure out what kind of water supply that you have. If it’s the old bucket of water from the spring down the hill, just don’t go down the hill. Since water never runs uphill, you have shut off your water. Yes, I know that wasn’t funny.
If you have a well, shutting off the water could be a little tricky. You start by turning off your electric pump at the breaker box. If your water system is equipped with a shutoff valve, just turn it off, and you’ve completed your task. Should you be unlucky enough that whoever installed your system lost their head and didn’t install the cutoff valve, say something ugly about his parents and go to plan B.
With the pump off, turn on the faucet at the lowest elevation in the house. This is usually the bathtub if you have one. If no bathtub, check for an outside faucet. If you have a basement, turn on a sink faucet in the basement. Let it run until no more water comes out. I suggest that you catch a pitcher or two of this in case you get thirsty before you finish the job. Remember, your pump is turned off.
Should you have some type of public water furnished to your home, then you have some more thinking to do. If you know where the water enters your home, check near that spot either inside or outside to see if a valve was installed to shut off the entire house supply. When you find it, shut it off, and you’re done. Once again if this wasn’t installed, think of something insulting about the plumber and builder before going on.
With no shutoff valve, you are forced to head out to find the water meter for your house. Make sure you find yours because neighbors aren’t too understanding when their shower quits just as they’ve finished soaping up. Remove the cover from the meter. You may need a sturdy screw driver to be able to put through the little hole in the top and lift it up. Be careful, these things were made for weight lifters and if you drop it on your hand or finger, you may have trouble writing from here on out.
After removing the 3/4 inch steel cover, you should see the meter down about 30 inches or so with a pipe coming in and one going out. On the pipe you may get lucky and see a regular faucet to turn the water off. Most likely, you will see a piece of metal sticking up out of the pipe about 1 inch high and 1 1/2 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. It will be turned parallel to the pipe. That’s on. If you have a tool from the water department, just slip it over the valve and turn the valve crosswise to the pipe. This is off.
With no cutoff tool, go to your tool box and see what you have that will fit in the hole and still be able to be moved. You need to put a crescent wrench or small pipe wrench on it. Twist it 1/4 turn to make it perpendicular to the pipe, and you’re done. Always remember to check the faucet or fixture that you will be working on to make sure there is no water before you start unscrewing or cutting through pipes.