pipesIt can happen to anyone: Water damage at home is one of the most common causes for homeowner insurance claims. It doesn’t have to be caused by a major natural disaster, either. Minor leaks, a ruptured pipe or faulty appliances can all cause problems and make you feel like you’ve gone into the deep end.

Don’t let a minor trickle turn into a flood of problems. Get prepared to pull the plug as soon as trouble starts by knowing how to shut-off the water to any area in your home. Ready to take the plunge? First, start small by finding the shutoff valves long before you need to. For example, an easy way to head off a stinky situation in the bathroom is to find the toilet shut-off. This valve can be used when plunging isn’t working on clogs. You can turn off the valve to stop the water – and other waste – from flooding your bathroom should the toilet get backed up.

Next, find your sink and dishwasher shutoff valves. Both are usually under the kitchen sink, where you’ll find a reducer coupling and shutoff valve from the supply line between the sink and your appliance.

After that, head to your basement if you have one. Find the shutoff valve to the clothes washer – washer hoses are notoriously weak, so you’ll want to always close the valves when going on vacation. Then look for the valve to the hot-water outlet on your water heater. The valve should control hot water flow to the whole house and can be used when you have dripping faucets (think tub and shower) and can’t immediately find the problem.

For the worst-case scenario, find the whole-house shutoff valve. It’s usually outside near the water meter mounted on the side of most homes, but sometimes you’ll find the meter mounted to a wall inside the basement. There might even be a “meter pit” where the household feed line meets the main utility, so it’s a good thing to locate in advance unless you want to be running around during the crisis.

Can’t find one of the valves? Read this article from This Old House with more information on your water valves and how to shut them off.