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Thread: whole house water shutoff

  1. #1

    Default whole house water shutoff

    So today I had a pipe break out in the back yard that leads to a free standing hose bib. I have only lived in this house a few months and have not had to shut the water to the entire house off yet. Anyway I run to the laundry room which houses the water heater. This was the logical place for the shut off in my mind. Nothing. So I grab a wrench and head down to the street to turn it off there. Won't budge. I call the water company and they make it there 30 mins later. Who knows how much water was wasted. Guess I will know on next month's bill. The response time was really pretty good IMO since it was a Sat and all. No charge either. The guy gave me his home number and came back out at 9pm to turn it back on, really nice guy. Anyway now on to the questions:

    1. How common is it to not have an easily accesible cut off valve (house built in 1957)? The only place it might be is in the crawl space, but the street is more convienient than that
    2. The guy from the water company had some kind of T wrench that he used with very little effort. He said that if I had the tool it wouldn't be a problem to turn it off and on by myself, but trying to use a normal wrench is risking damage to the main and meter which I would be liable for. Anyone know what the tool is called or where I can find one? I have attached a crude drawing of what it looked like. It was maybe 2-3 feet long.

    I have other plumbing projects down the line that will prbably be done on the weekend and don't think the water company will shut off the water for nonemergencies. Thanks for the help, Erik
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  2. #2

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    I call this a "curb key" or "curb shutoff key".Most commonly seen as about 5 feet long,but I know there are shorter ones ot there.Purchase at plumbing supply house.
    Last edited by Lancaster; 07-22-2006 at 09:47 PM.

  3. #3
    DIY Senior Member Mike Swearingen's Avatar
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    AKA "meter key". You should be able to find one for less than $5 bucks at most any hardware store or plumbing supply. One with a 2' handle will do.
    Mike

  4. #4

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    Thanks Lancaster and Mike. Exactly what I was looking for. Does anyone know how common it is not to have a cutoff in the house?

  5. #5
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Here in So.Cal. where freezing is not an issse, the curb box has two stops, one on each side of the meter. This is less than a foot deep. The one on the house side is yours. You are liable if you try to close the one on the street side and mess it up. Water Dept. will come on short notice to do it, though , as in your case.

    Now, it would also be rare for there not to be a stop at the house. On older construction, it is usually right on the front of the house. Follow a straigt line from the meter to the house. More recent construction usually has the PRV and the stop inside the garage.
    Last edited by jimbo; 07-23-2006 at 06:22 AM. Reason: spelling

  6. #6

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    thanks jimbo. The guy from the water dept said the same thing as you. The only thing I see is a hose bib coming out of the brick. I just recently moved to SC but freezing must not be an issue here either. The meter is about a foot down but only one stop. Since they are so cheap I may just pick up a curb key to not have to rely on the water dept. I am still puzzled not being able to find this cutoff though.

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default valve

    In this area since freezing is not an issue, the water line comes out of the ground outside the building and the house shutoff is on that portion of the line.

  8. #8
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    In my city, the meter as in a manhole at the curb. There is a stop-and-waste valve that requires a key that is not available commercially. Inside the house there is a valve to shut off the house, but once on a week-end, that valve broke off, and being unable to shut the water off at the meter, I had to wait until the one emergency man on duty finished a call on the far side of town. Meanwhile, I had water coming from a 1" pipe under 80 psi pouring into my basement! Within a week, I had a key made for the meter valve. Freezing is a factor here, so the meter valves are deep. Mine is 5 feet, but I don't know if that is a standard depth here or not. You definitely need to be able to shut the water off in case of an emergency.

  9. #9
    Software Engineer Gouranga's Avatar
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    I live in NC and our meter/cutoff is about 1 foot down. It is the only cut-off for the entire house. i have a couple other places where I can shut down about 99% of the water in my home but I have one outside hose that actually comes off the line BEFORE the pressure reduction valve that does not have any cutoff point besides the main at the street.

  10. #10

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    If you indeed have plumbing projects for the future, I suggest making first of them the installation of a convenient whole-house shut-off valve.

    By the way, water heater location is generally determined not by where service entrance is, but rather a number of other factors:
    1. You want to keep hot water piping length minimal. If you have to bring cold water from far side of house, who cares. But if you have to run hot pipes across entire house, you'll be waiting for 10 minutes every time you want hot water out of a faucet.
    2. On gas heaters, you need to put them where they are easy to vent, and where they have enough combustion air.
    3. On indirect heaters, you want them as close to boiler as possible.

    Also a good idea to take a notepad and go and trace all your plumbin, making notes where valves are and what they control.

    Giouranga - you should get that fixed ASAP.

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member coach606's Avatar
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    Default install one...

    Yeah, I had one put in in a more convenient place, but mine is right off the meter just above the concrete floor. I actually made sure to find out where all the valves were when the house was inspected.

  12. #12

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    I just bought a curb key. It isnt that much harder to run down to the curb in case of an emergency than it would to go out to the laundry room and quicker if it needed to be in the crawl space. I actually have done one plumbing project. I replaced a tub/shower valve, and I just went down to the curb and had my buddy call my cell phone from inside if there were leaks. Not the most ideal setup, but for $8 at HD it was the way to go for me.

  13. #13
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Does anyone know how common it is not to have a cutoff in the house

    Around here it is almost unheard of except for some very old houses. Yours is probably in the crawl space where the pipe comes out of the ground.

  14. #14

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    I actually just replaced my service line from the meter to my house. I had moved into my house about a year ago and had not been able to find a main shut-off besides the curb. Then, while I was digging, I found a 6" ABS pipe about 2" under ground that was vertical and supposed to be providing access to a main shut-off below. Only problem was it was full of dirt and the shut-off pieces were rusted away. I have no clue what all the previous owners were thinking. I also broke a pipe in the process and since my meter hadn't been turned on/off for such a long time, we too had to call the water company and it took him about 5 minutes to finally get it to close. The good news was he put on a new riser and put in a work order to have the galvanized line from the main to the meter replaced.

    Brian

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member Pewterpower's Avatar
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    I really need to do that also.
    I was working on something and the whole-house-shut-off was still allowing a teeny bit of water thru. So I went to the curb, and the service box was full of mud, sand, gunk....... I cleaned it out, but the valve wouldn't budge. I thought I was gonna break the street side main. Boy that would have pissed off a few neighbors.

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