I will help you stop water leaking from a pipe or the ceiling. It is most likely a water pipe emergency if there is water is dripping continuously, there is a large volume or there is water all over the place and you discovered it because you;

  • just came home
  • just woke up and heard dripping or hissing noise
  • just went downstairs
  • have water dripping from a finished ceiling

Water meter distant
A)         Find the water meter

  • It is usually at the basement wall closest to the street (front of the house)
  • The water meter is about the size of a small coffee can (4 inches in diameter and about 6 inches tall).
  • Water meter is near the floor

B)         How to turn off the water to the house

  1. First: try turning the valve AFTER the meter (the one on the right in the photo). If it has a round handle, turn it clockwise until it stops. If it has a lever handle (like this one) it will only turn one way, turn the handle until it stops and makes a “T” shape with the pipe (perpendicular to the pipe). For more information see my post “The best valve…”
  2. Turn on a basement faucet, both hot and cold, ALL of the way open and leave them open. If the water coming out of the faucet seems like normal (pressure), the valve is NOT OFF.
  3. Turn the valve on the other side of the water meter. This valve will be between where the pipe comes out of the floor and the water meter. The basement faucet will have a reduced flow or be trickling water.
  4. Open a faucet on the top-most floor of the house and LEAVE open. If you have a two handled faucet turn on both hot and cold.
  5. This drains all of the water out of the house. All of the pipes will be empty in a couple of minutes. If the water leak is above a finished ceiling, the dripping will not stop immediately because water has accumulated in the ceiling and will continue to drip out for some period of time.
  6. This will help you get through the night or weekend and avoid an extremely expensive night/week-end emergency service call. Calm down, take a break, YOU DID IT. Next look up the post about how to survive until a repair can be made.

Here is a little more background information to be able to tell the difference between a water pipe and a drain pipe?

Water pipes (also called “supply pipes”):

  • Water will drip continuously (regardless of whether a toilet or sink has been used recently).
  • Water pipes will be about 1 in. in diameter or smaller.
  • Water pipe material will be either
    • galvanized steel (threaded ends, large change in thickness where the pipe meets an elbow or tee)
    • copper (soldered, very small change in thickness at an elbow or tee)
    • Rarely; plastic (also known as “pex”).

Drain pipes (also called “waste pipes”):

  • Will only drip when a fixture (e.g. toilet or sink) has been used recently
  • The smallest size will be about 2 in. in diameter or larger.
  • There can be two distinctive types of leaks
    • Minor:
      • A leak will typically show as a minor drip on the pipe itself or the basement floor.
      • It might be a relatively small amount like a spoonful or a cupful. It might also create a stain in a finished ceiling that slowly grows over time. The most common cause is a toilet that needs to be reset (seal between toilet and waste pipe in floor has failed). The other causes: tub/tile caulking, shower pan failure, faucet stem leaking.
    • Major:
      • A bath tub trap fails or it is a hole in a pipe draining the bathroom sink and/or tub. This will obviously result in a large amount of water being deposited. This may appear to be a supply leak due to the long duration of the dripping. One suggestion; if it is dripping at more than one location, make a small hole with a screwdriver in the ceiling where the water is dripping the most and put a bucket under it. Leave the water on to the house. Keep track of the volume of water vs. time. If it is slowing down (or of course stops) it is a waste leak and you can use the rest of the house.


I have seen many exceptions to these generalizations!