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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
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AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
ANTIFREEZE for BOILERS
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BACKUP PREVENTION, SEPTIC
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BATH & KITCHEN DESIGN GUIDE
BOD WASTEWATER TEST
BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, DIAGNOSIS
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, REPAIR
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, HOT WATER
CONDENSATION or SWEATING PIPES, TANKS
CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRINKING WATER - EMERGENCY PURIFICATION
DRINKING WATER - EMERGENCY SOURCES
ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED SEPTIC SYSTEMS, REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GAS FIRED WATER HEATERS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GALVANIZED STEEL PIPING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
HOT WATER HEATERS
KITCHEN & BATH DESIGN GUIDE
LEAD in WATER, ACTION LEVEL & REMEDIES
LEAK TYPES, Water Supply/Drain Pipe
MANUALS & PARTS GUIDES - HVAC
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
MOLD INFORMATION CENTER
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS & SMELLS DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL FIRED WATER HEATERS
OIL-FIRED BOILERS, HEATING
OIL & GAS PIPING
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
Plumbing Materials & Fixtures, Age, Types
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
SEPTIC TANK INSPECTION PROCEDURE
SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TANK TYPES: WATER, OIL, EXPANSION, ALL
TANKLESS WATER HEATERS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER PIPES, Clogs Leaks Types
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE
WATER PRESSURE PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PUMP TYPES & LIFE EXPECTANCY
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK REPAIRS
WATER TANK REPLACEMENT
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELL PUMP PRIMING PROCEDURE
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article explains how to find the main water shutoff valve in a building and how to turn the building municipal water supply off. We also illustrate typical outdoor and indoor municipal and well water shutoff valves and explain their use.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
If your water supply is by private pump and well and you need to turn off the water, details are at WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP. The articles at this website will answer most questions about freeze protection for piping and other building plumbing and heating system components: how to winterize a building to avoid frozen pipes, and how to thaw frozen water supply & drain piping, wells, & water tanks.
As Carson Dunlop Associates point out in the Home Reference Book, the main shut-off valve controls all the house water. The valve should be readily accessible and easy to operate.
Some main shut-off valves have bleed valves to drain the system once the valve is closed. Some of these bleed valves can be shut off, although others discharge automatically, as the main valve is closed.
This discharge of water can be disconcerting if one is not familiar with the bleed valve function.
Common Problems with Main Shutoff Valves
Inaccessible main water shutoff - you have to be able to turn off water in an emergency to avoid costly building flooding and damage
Leaking main water shutoff valve - should be repaired or replaced
Partly-closed main water shutoff valve - may result in poor building water pressure or flow.
Inoperative main water shutoff valve - is perhaps the most common problem: Since these valves are not used regularly, it is common for them to be stiff. They often leak when operated. If you cannot turn the main shutoff valve with a modest force, don't force it - if you break the valve a horrible plumbing leak may ensue. For this reason, they are not tested during a home inspection. Try turning the valve in the opposite direction gently to see if you can free the valve.
Which Way to Turn the Main House Water Shutoff Valve?
Turning water off: Turning the main water shutoff valve "down" or "in" or "clockwise" or "to the right" (rightie tightie) closes the valve - turns off the water.
Turning water on: Turning the main water shutoff valve "up" or "out" or "counterclockwise" or "to the left" (leftie loosie) opens the valve - turns on the water supply.
Readers should also see FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING for an explanation of how to protect a building from leaks, water damage, or freezing pipe problems.
Where to Find & How to Turn Off Water in buildings Served by Municipal Water Supply
In some cities or towns that provide municipal water supply to buildings, an outdoor water main shutoff valve will be found between the street and the building,marked by a large valve, often embossed "water". (Photo, above left.)
Our photo (above, left) shows an outdoor main water shutoff valve on the Vassar College Campus in Poughkeepsie, New York - an area of freezing weather. Shown is just the valve handle, below which a long iron rod extends to the actual valve itself. In this case the installer thoughtfully painted the valve blue so it could be easily found in the grass, and s/he kept the installation low enough above ground level that the valve will not be damaged by mowing.
Our second main water shutoff valve photograph (above right) shows the actual main water valve, below ground, during installation. In some areas not exposed to freezing weather, such as Southern Arizona, an outdoor main water shutoff valve may be located in a below-ground box near the street (photo at left). You may find that the water meter is located in this same compartment.
Don't mess with the outdoor water main shutoff valve unless it's in an emergency such as a burst incoming water pipe inside the building which the leak is before the indoor main water shutoff valve (the piping to the left of the red handled valve in our above photo of an indoor municipal water shutoff valve).
Your municipal water company employees will have and use a special T-wrench to turn this outdoor valve in order to open or shut the outdoor water main buried below.
How to Turn Off the Water in buildings with a Private Well and Water Pump - Which Way to Turn the Water Shutoff Valve
Details about turning off water when the source is a private well and pump system are at WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP. An excerpt is below.
Guide to Turning Off Other Plumbing Fixtures in a Winterized "Heat-On" Building
Before moving on to the other Heat-On winterizing Steps (Winterize Water Softener & Treatment Equip. and Find & Fix Water Pipe Freeze-Up Points and Heat tapes, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up and Freeze Protect Drains) here are a few basic suggestions:
At FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING we discussed property management basics like turning off and unplugging electrical items, notifying neighbors and insurance company, etc. You should also:
These and similar individual water supply valve turn-offs that you may identify reduce the chances of a flood in an unattended building should an individual fixture or pipe break during the winter.
Of course if you are turning the heat off for the winter, a different set of drain-down and other steps are needed, and are discussed beginning at Winterize- Heat Off Procedure.
This sketch of a gas-fired water heater and its control valves is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Additional Optional Steps to Turn Off Building Water to Protect from Freezing
Some building managers also open each plumbing fixture to remove pressure from the piping system. We don't go beyond this step in winterizing a building unless the building heat is to be left off. If heat is to be turned off and the building completely winterized, see the procedure at: Winterize- Heat Off.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about About Trouble with Water Shutoff Valves
Question: Our Main Water Shutoff Has Failed? Flushing the Water Line vs. Relieving Pressure
We have a problem with our outside water main ball shut-off valve, it does not turn off the water in the house. Since the home lies approximately 20 degrees below the water company's main water valve, it might be that we have a similar problem our former owners had experienced. We would appreciate your opinion if it is possible that the pressure regulator valve, which the water company replaced in 2006 after a problem occurred, can cause the home's water main ball shut-off valve to fail/get damaged.
Today we saw that a truck from the water company up there next to our drive way released for 10 minutes a very high strong stream of water, which certainly looked like they tried to relieve water pressure in our neighborhood. In all of our six years living here we never had seen the water company do that, but when I asked the man doing it, he answered that they are just doing regular maintenance of flushing the pipes.
If there is the possibility that water pressure from above/the street can damage our water pressure regulator valve, which was replaced in 2006, and, maybe also our main water ball shut-off valve, we would like to know that in order to take appropriate steps of prevention for the future.
We appreciate in advance your expert response. - Seniors Chris and Noel
Reply: Flushing a municipal water supply line won't change its normal operating pressure
Your water truck driver's answer makes sense. Municipalities do flush water mains on occasion for various reasons such as having done work on the line and the need to flush out debris, or on occasion to assure that a water quality test is properly performed.
Flushing the line wouldn't change the delivery pressure in the municipal water system except during the brief interval that the line is being flushed. As soon as the municipal water line flushing operation stops, the water pressure in the water mains will return to its usual pressure. So flushing the water main also won't fix your balky or broken municipal water shutoff valve. It may need replacement.
Question: Our Outside Municipal Water Shutoff Seems Not to Work
May I please request your opinion about a problem we discovered a few days ago with our attempt to turn the water main ball valve outside our home off, because we wanted to repair something inside the house - a toilet.
The water did NOT turn off. Six years ago there was a problem with too high pressure outside this house and the water pressure valve was finally replaced by the water company.
Is it possible that the water main ball valve got damaged because the water pressure valve failed again?
Our home sits approximately 20 degrees below the water company’s water meter/main valve; there is quite a steep drive way before reaching our house main water shut-off ball valve.
Reply: The shutoff valve may need replacement, but first check that the ground-surface control is actually connected to the valve.
I'm just speculating because we don't know the details of your installation. But if your water shutoff valve looks like the blue disc in our photo above (and discussed earlier on this page) then your municipal water shutoff valve is buried.
A steel shaft connects the ground level control to the buried valve. On occasion the shaft or its tip are damaged or disconnected. Unfortunately if turning the valve at ground level doesn't work, it will be necessary to excavate to find, diagnose, and fix the problem.
If your water shutoff valve is at ground level under a cover such as we show at left, you live in a climate where freezing is not a concern and the main water shutoff is at ground level too.
If this valve won't shut off the water:
You still need to have the broken main water shutoff fixed, but it will be less of an emergency if your toilet repair can go ahead.
You are getting a bit higher water pressure if your home is downhill from the main water supply line but that should not be the cause of a failed valve. If the valve was replaced recently and it's failed again, the replacement part (or its installation) could have been faulty.
When a recent repair part appears to have failed, when making the repair a second time we try to make sure that the new repair part is from a different source, brand, or manufacturing date in order to avoid the chances of getting a second defective part from the same manufacturing run.
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