• Laura Redd

Wait, where do I shut that off? Ugly design strikes again

With everything going on in our homes and of course being at home more than before, knowing where things are and how to shut off your emergency cutoffs, like your water and electrical breakers, are a good thing to know.

I recently went to a project for a bath remodel and my homeowner had no idea where the water shutoff was located. This is really important, not only for a remodeling project, but in general if you have a water or electrical issue and you need to quickly turn things off. For me, water is so destructive. It can really create havoc in a short period of time. Think about your washing machine or your dishwasher overflowing and you can’t get the water to turn off? Or a pipe breaks or becomes separated in your shower. You’re going to want to turn the water off as quickly as possible to reduce the damage.


Your water shutoff is typically located within 3 to 5 feet of where the water main enters the home. If you do not find it on the front wall, check for a mechanical room, or near the water heater or furnace. In a crawlspace, the shutoff valve may be right inside the crawlspace. If your home is built on a slab, check in the garage or near the water heater for the shutoff valve.

The story is, it can be located anywhere, so finding it before you need it is the key. Store this information in your phone or house information file so you can find it quickly when needed.

The shutoff usually looks like a lever that can be easily turned to shut off the water to the whole house, or a circular valve similar to what you find on an outdoor spigot. Another option is at the street level, but that really needs a special wrench and if you don’t have to go that route the better.



The electrical shutoff is our next “seek and find.” You need to locate the fuse box, and there can be more than one. You can have an interior fuse box or an exterior fuse box or both. This is where all your breakers are and should be labeled to tell you what they all control. If they are not labeled, get a friend or family member, and play the game of “Did it turn off?'' This will allow you to identify where they all are and what they do. Additionally, there is one main breaker switch that controls all of the breakers and will cut the power to the entire house.

You can tell which breaker is tripped because it will be moved to the off position. You simply have to move it back to get the breaker to re engage, if it does not, the breaker could have failed and this will require an electrician to repair it or replace it. If your breaker box is more than 20 years old, you should have it looked at by an electrician to determine if it needs replacing. Remember everything becomes outdated, even your electrical panel, so plan for this replacement if it’s old and needs upgrading. Cost can be anywhere from $1,400-1,900 and will be needed when doing a remodel since typically new breakers need to be added.


Many kitchen and bath projects will require you to bring your electrical and breakers to current standards to allow new appliances and bath fixtures to be used. The breakers are just too old to communicate and carry the load of the new appliance.

I know this is not the pretty stuff we all usually think of with design, and we would all rather talk about things we see and give us joy everyday. However, if we do not support the other stuff, the pretty things will get ruined really quickly! So… embrace the times of ugly design!

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