Author Topic: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber? (Read 12690 times)

webguy

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Hey guys,

I tried my hand at replacing our dishwasher this week, but discovered that the main water shut off valve in our house doesn't completely shut the water off any more. I shut off the main valve coming from the ground in our basement, turned off the hot water pipe coming from the water heater, and any other valves I could find, opened all the faucets, flushed the toilets, etc. The water pressure is a lot lower than usual but yet the water continues to flow at a slow rate. I managed to replace the dishwasher regardless by using a pan under the pipe and emptying it as it got full.

The strange thing is that we remodeled the bathroom about 2.5 years ago and when we shut the water off then it was off in all the faucets and didn't flow at all. Is it possible that between then and now the main shutoff valve became faulty? I've read that that's usually the most common reason for this issue - the shutoff valve being old or damaged or just worn out and so still lets water through. We'll be moving from this house in about 2 years, but I was talking to my wife about it and we feel it's a bit risky that we're unable to turn the water off in our house if an emergency occurred, like the dishwasher flooded or a pipe burst, or any other number of water-related disasters.

So my question is... is this something I can replace myself? I'm guessing I'd need to find the main shutoff for the water on the street or outside the house? And then need a soldering iron to sweat the new valve to the existing pipe. Or is it better just to hire a plumber? If so, does anyone know how much this might cost?

Thanks in advance.

Abe

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2016, 08:16:15 PM »
You're right, you'll need to shut the water off from the incoming city supply (or shut off the well pump if on well supply). You can probably do the valve replacement by yourself if you're familiar with soldering pipes. You may be lucky and have a PVC valve, but that's unlikely with most building codes. Make sure to review the local building code regarding replacement valve requirements. I'm not sure how much it will be, but probably a few hundred to have a plumber do it.

Jim2001

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2016, 08:17:54 PM »
Yes, they can wear out. Mine used to work, and then it didn't. There was a separate valve at the meter, but's it's in one of those "in the ground" things out by the street. So, IF you've already got the tools and some experience it can be replaced as a DIY. The tools I needed were:
  • Propane torch
  • At least two pipe wrenches
  • Solder and flux
  • wire brush and sandpaper
I went to the hardware store and pieced together the parts which included a couple of unions (I needed to be able to slide the valve assembly in and out of a straight line of pipe), a stick of copper pipe, plus fittings to connect to the valve. I've done some welding and sweated copper pipes before, but it's been a while and I screwed up one of the unions by using some old flux and then couldn't get it clean enough.

Take the time to plan it out first, measure, cut and dry fit everything prior to using any heat and it can be done. I don't have the complete parts list or priced, but I remember just the parts being surprisingly expensive (maybe around $100?), so don't be surprised if a plumber gives you a quote for a couple of hundred dollars.

Hope this helps! Let us know how it goes.
Cheers!

Jim

paddedhat

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2016, 08:21:33 PM »
If you can get the city to turn the water off at the curb box, you could cut the pipe, and install a Shark bite style ball valve, with no soldering. It's a quick, easy fix, once you get the line shut off. And your intuition on the existing valve is correct. Old style washer and seat valves tend to age poorly. The washer probably crumbled last time you turned it off, and once you opened it, a bit of the washer just washed away. Ball valves use a stainless steel ball, seated in a nylon seat, so they tend to be usable for decades.

webguy

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2016, 10:30:17 PM »
Thanks for the advice so far guys. I think I can do the replacement myself if I can get the water shut off at the street. Do I need to call the city to have them turn it off at the street? I'm guessing the shutoff is buried somewhere and they'd need to come dig it up to turn it off, and then come back again to turn it back on. I'm guessing that'll cost a bit.

If I hire a plumber to do it would they just call the city and then charge me whatever the city charges anyway or do they have another method they can use to turn it off themselves? Sorry if that's a dumb question. This is my first time dealing with this as usually I just shut the water off at this valve and haven't needed to get it turned off by the city before.

paddedhat

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2016, 06:44:04 AM »
Couple of possibilities here. First, call your water supplier and ask what their policies are? The tool is called a "curb key" and the specific key you need, and how easy I will be to access one, depends on your local water co. Some treat them like they are high security, and don't want anybody, including plumbers, to have or use one. OTOH, I have done work in places where the supplier will show up, at no charge, and turn your water off and on, and in other locations where every service plumber has a key in the back of his truck. Once you locate the valve box you might want to take a look at the valve and search for a key online. It might be a lot cheaper than calling a plumber.

lthenderson

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2016, 08:10:23 AM »
Thanks for the advice so far guys. I think I can do the replacement myself if I can get the water shut off at the street. Do I need to call the city to have them turn it off at the street? I'm guessing the shutoff is buried somewhere and they'd need to come dig it up to turn it off, and then come back again to turn it back on. I'm guessing that'll cost a bit.

If I hire a plumber to do it would they just call the city and then charge me whatever the city charges anyway or do they have another method they can use to turn it off themselves? Sorry if that's a dumb question. This is my first time dealing with this as usually I just shut the water off at this valve and haven't needed to get it turned off by the city before.

The water valve will be buried beneath frost line for your area and there should be a pipe with a cap somewhere between your house and the street. Almost all water valves that I have operated need a pipe key. They are actually really simple devices with a U-shaped piece of metal (connected to a long rod with a handle) that will saddle a valve cock on top of the valve. I've made a couple over the years to use. I'm guessing if you asked the city to shut it off, it wouldn't be very expensive. However, if the valve has been there awhile, they can be difficult if not impossible to open and anytime you try to turn it, you run the risk of having to dig it up and have it replaced. I had that happen on my last house and that was about a $500 process.

soupcxan

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2016, 08:20:54 PM »
Why do you not have a shutoff valve specific to the dishwasher? You should not need to turn off water to the whole house just to replace a dishwasher. Every sink, toilet, dishwasher, etc should have its own accessible shutoff valve.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2016, 02:18:40 PM »
Why do you not have a shutoff valve specific to the dishwasher? You should not need to turn off water to the whole house just to replace a dishwasher. Every sink, toilet, dishwasher, etc should have its own accessible shutoff valve.

This is my question too. It might not exactly be specific to the dishwasher, but it should be on the hot water pipe under the sink if your dishwasher tees off your kitchen sink pipes.

Arktinkerer

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2016, 07:52:42 PM »
No problems here with shutting off at the street. They only lock them if they shut you off for nonpayment or closing your account. If that valve is broken its their problem not yours. Down south here I've only seen one house with a shutoff other than the curb one. It was a house where I did the plumbing and installed one myself at an easy location that made it easy to access. Loved the plumbing in that house! I did it PVC and oversized the pipes a couple sizes above a normal small house. Had great water flow and pressure even with the tub, washer, and sink all turned on.

trammatic

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2016, 02:34:51 PM »
Or, if you get one of those fancy Sharkbite valves and the piping around your existing shutoff valve is easily accessible, you could just insert a new shutoff valve in line after the old one. Close it as much as possible, then put a pan under the pipe. Mark your cuts, cut the old pipe off, and install the new one. If the new valve is open, there wouldn't be much back pressure, and the total elapsed time between cutting the old pipe and installing the new valve would be just a couple of minutes. Keep all of the faucets closed so there's a vacuum holding more of the water in the existing pipes, but you'd get that water draining already when cutting out the old pipe.

paddedhat

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2016, 04:04:33 PM »
Or, if you get one of those fancy Sharkbite valves and the piping around your existing shutoff valve is easily accessible, you could just insert a new shutoff valve in line after the old one. Close it as much as possible, then put a pan under the pipe. Mark your cuts, cut the old pipe off, and install the new one. If the new valve is open, there wouldn't be much back pressure, and the total elapsed time between cutting the old pipe and installing the new valve would be just a couple of minutes. Keep all of the faucets closed so there's a vacuum holding more of the water in the existing pipes, but you'd get that water draining already when cutting out the old pipe.

Damn, give this guy the prize! That's one hell of a good idea, simple, clean, and easy. Good job!

jda1984

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2016, 02:29:31 PM »
Thanks for the advice so far guys. I think I can do the replacement myself if I can get the water shut off at the street. Do I need to call the city to have them turn it off at the street? I'm guessing the shutoff is buried somewhere and they'd need to come dig it up to turn it off, and then come back again to turn it back on. I'm guessing that'll cost a bit.

If I hire a plumber to do it would they just call the city and then charge me whatever the city charges anyway or do they have another method they can use to turn it off themselves? Sorry if that's a dumb question. This is my first time dealing with this as usually I just shut the water off at this valve and haven't needed to get it turned off by the city before.

In Minneapolis, it was $90 5 years ago when we bought our place to have the water turned on again (it was a foreclosure that was winterized). I believe in the city it is illegal to operate the main shuttoff (usually in the boulevard/by the street) yourself and it takes a special tool. There should be a cap/cover to access it without digging etc. The plumber would likely have the city do it, or operate it themselves illegally.

I had a colleague a few years ago whose daughter bought a place in Minneapolis and some fly by night contractor/plumber turned the water on and it started flooding the house because the meter had frozen and burst.

HipGnosis

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Re: Replace main water shutoff valve in house. DIY or hire plumber?
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2016, 02:21:21 PM »
You can only flush a (ea) toilet once after the water is shut off.
As a 'safety measure' put quite a bit of water in the tub - at least half full.
If needed, you can flush with a bucket full of water - pour it as fast as possible (ie, DUMP it) into the bowl (not the tank).
You may have to / want to pour a bit of water into the bowl for a 'water trap'.

I learned this when our neighborhood had a major water main problem and they shut off our water for a couple of days, a number of times.