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Thread: Main shutoff leak

  1. #1

    Default Main shutoff leak

    I just bought a house, built circa '70s and shut off the main water shutoff valve to the house so I could do some repair work inside. When I turned it back on, it now leaks through the stem. Familiar problem I'm sure, since the valve probably had not been touched in awhile.
    Do I have to replace the whole valve or is there any hope of just stopping the leak? If so, how do I proceed? The valve itself is obviously an older type, with round handle which turns multiple times before being fully opened or closed. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    Tighten the nut around the stem...veeerrrryy carefully.
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  3. #3
    Consultant cwhyu2's Avatar
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    Turn the handel all the way untill it stops.Then tighten the packing nut just
    below the handel.very gently tighten the packing nut.And I ment to say
    to the on position.

  4. #4

    Default No luck so far

    Well, thanks or the advice so far, but tightening the nut did nothing. It tightened about 1/32 to 1/16 circumference, but had no effect on the leak. One other clue for the experts: when I gently press down on the stem, more water comes out. To Ian: since I can easily shut off the city water supply from my back alley, I'm not too concerned about trying this myself.
    I could replace the whole valve, since the setup has a coupler which should come off pretty easily. However, I have learned over the years that nothing is quite as easy at it first appears, and don't take things apart unless you absolutely have to! Thanks again. I can post a picture of the setup if that's helpful but it looks much like any shutoff I've seen over the years.

  5. #5
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    Cheech, I'd listen to Ian.
    I don't mess with a main valve, even if I have a curb key, unless I have the DPW with me...liability is my reason.
    Two winters ago I got a call for frozen/burst pipes, I got there at 8pm and the guy had a curb key...said he'd gotten it from the water dept and it was ok for us to use overnight.
    replaced his main valve, thawed and repaired the bursts...then at about 10pm we couldn't get his water back on...the curb valve was ceased shut.
    He came clean and admitted the key was from a friend...he'd never gotten their permission.
    There and then I apologised, got paid, removed my tools and myself...if the town saw fit he could've been held financially responsible for the repairs.(or me...IF I'd knowingly tampered without permission)
    I called him the next day...said he'd gotten a nasty lecture, but they fixed it without further trouble.
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  6. #6
    Commercial Plumber markts30's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Gills
    And this will cause you problems when you try to solder. My plumber had to use a straw to keep the (drops of) water back while he soldered and even then we were not sure whether the sweating would hold.

    And you may not even be able to tell whether there is a slight flow until it is too late and you have removed the old main shutoff. We couldn't. Nothing came out of any of the faucets because the pressure was so slight that the water was unable to travel up where these were. However the pressure was detectable lower down when we removed the main valve. Nothing much, just a drip but it should be really dry for soldering..
    Perfect situation to use a pro-press ball valve (they don't care if the water is flowing - just install it in the open position so pressure does not unseat the valve and then close it when you are done....)

  7. #7
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    My city water department does not want homeowners to have a curb key, but after my shut off valve in the basement broke off at night, I had to wait about 45 minutes for the emergency man to arrive and shut the meter off. A 1" meter into a 1" copper line @ 90 psi dumps a heck of a lot of water in that amount of time! Fortunately, my floor drain kept it from getting too deep. I said, "Never again", and I had a curb key made for future emergencies. It is true that meter valves often do not 100% seal the flow. We've had a couple of discussions on how to solder new valves on when that happens. It can be done if you're clever.

  8. #8
    Engineer Furd's Avatar
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    When I installed my Toto toilet I had to relocate the supply line. I didn't think it would be a big deal and I used my wet vac to suck the line dry. Trouble was, it didn't stay dry. I traced the problem to my (inside) main shut off valve.

    No problem I say to myself, I'll just shut it off at the meter.

    Nope, that valve also leaked. I had to disconnect the house line from the meter and let it drain back.

    A couple of months later I did it again when I installed a ball valve for the main shut off. The original shutoff was buried in the wall behind the water heater so I installed the new ball valve and a drain where the piping comes through the garage floor.



    Originally the piping came up and then a 90 through the joist. I had no room to install the new valve in a straight line so I did it with the sideways U arrangement. I left the original valve in place, in the wide open position, and removed the handwheel.

  9. #9
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    Why hadn't you cut the vertical piece down enough to get the valve on?
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

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