Every home connected to a municipal water supply has a main feed. This line also has a primary shutoff and, in newer homes, a secondary shutoff valve as well. The secondary tends to be obvious and seen as a pipe leading into the house. The primary, however, is usually in the front lawn in a utility box and requires a special tool to activate or close. Knowing where these two valves are and how they work can be valuable knowledge for a homeowner.

However, not every home is designed so straightforward. Older homes in particular may have their water main connected differently as well as have multiple feeds, one from municipal and the other from a well, for example. Mains should be shut off for any kind of plumbing work on a feed line that has not shut off, or water could flow without restriction, creating a mess.

Complications With Older Homes

The biggest problem that most people have with water mains involves leaking. The older the system, the more likely the control valve doesn’t work as well anymore. This can be a problem with trying to replace a shower head or similar as the water just seems to keep running, even if in a smaller amount. If a shut-off valve is not closing properly, then it’s time to bring in the services of a professional plumber.

Water shut off valve services are critical, both for doing the job right and avoiding making a bigger problem with water source that is under pressure. Where the secondary valve isn’t working properly. A professional plumber can cut off the source with the primary shut off valve, allowing the ability to work on the secondary and replace it if needed.

Where the primary valve is failing, the plumber can coordinate with the utility on what needs to be fixed, and the utility make take care of the junction if the problem is on their end of the line versus the homeowner. In any case, a do it yourself approach should be avoided. If a main line is broken, damaged or left in permanent leak status, the homeowner could be on the hook for all the escaped water as well as dealing with property damage.

Don’t Forget In-Home Shut Off Valves

If you’re just working on a sink or toilet, many of these fixtures have their own dedicated shut off valve for the feed line to that unit. These are smaller items, usually underneath the fixtures and connected to the feed hoses for the fixture. Normally, these operate very tight and snug, but if there is a leak, and plumber can help with the replacement of the related hose or, more importantly, repairing the feed socket the hose connects to that is part of the house’s plumbing grid.

It’s important to keep an eye on these valves as they are more prone to leaking than the house main or secondary main valve outside. Many times, its corrosion that creates the problem and the smaller, thinner metal involved makes internal fixture valves more vulnerable to failing.

Definitely don’t ignore a slow leak on a fixture shut-off valve. Even a small drip can add up over time. Worse, these valves are in close proximity to flooring and internal walls, all of which can absorb water swell and distort quickly. That ends up increasing the cost of repair when discovered.

Shut off valves are sensitive features of any home plumbing. Always call a plumber before starting any work on them. There’s no reason to end up with a big water mess when it can be avoided.

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