Three Common Problems with Supply Shutoff Valves
Water shutoff valves are located throughout your home. The most important is the main shutoff valve, which can turn off the water supply to your entire home. This valve is located either in the basement, on an exterior wall of the home, or in an underground box outside the home. Individual fixtures like toilets, sinks, and water heaters also have individual shutoff valves located near them. These valves are useful when plumbing repairs are necessary or when an emergency occurs, but they can also create their own problems. There are a few common problems that plumbers see year after year.
If you leave a valve turned off for a long period of time and finally switch it back on, it is common for the valve to start dripping. To fix this drip you can try tightening the packing nut and turning the valve off and back on again a few times for the dripping to stop. If you still can’t stop the dripping, you’ll have to turn off the main valve and replace the drippy one completely. If the main valve is the one that’s dripping, you’ll need to turn off the street side valve before replacing it. If the street side valve needs replacement as well, you’ll have to call your water utility company to shut off the water supply at the curb.
It is common for homeowners to shut off their water if their homes won’t be in use for an extended period of time in the winter. This way, they don’t have to worry about pipes freezing. Unfortunately, the water between the spigot and supply shutoff valve frequently freezes in these scenarios, and the pipe can burst. This won’t leak, or even be noticeable, until the water is turned back on, so when you turn the water back on be sure to check for burst pipes or leaking around the valve.
Some old homes and plumbing fixtures may have saddle valves instead of regular shutoff valves. These T-handled devices are especially prone to leaks, and should be replaced with regular shutoff valves as soon as possible to prevent serious water damage.
With all these problems that can occur with shutoff valves, you may be tempted to just leave them alone for fear of making things worse, but this is a bad idea. You should always be familiar with your plumbing and know where your valves are in case an emergency happens and you need to access them.