ted & pamela

Replacing the main water shutoff valve

May 23rd, 2010 by Ted

About a month or two ago, I finally got around to replacing the angle stops underneath the sink in our den, since they were corroded to the point that you couldn’t turn them by hand.  Naturally, the first thing I did before starting to work on them was to go outside an turn off the main water supply.

This must have been my first attempt at doing so, because I quickly discovered that it… didn’t work.  The valve turned, all right, but apparently it wasn’t attached to anything because it came right out.  That’s right, the handle of the valve came out, along with the stem attached to the handle, and water started flowing out from where the stem used to be.

After discussing the problem with Pamela’s father, who used to work as a plumber, we determined that the valve needed to be replaced.  I decided that I was too n00b to attempt a main water valve replacement, so I turned to Redbeacon for help.  I’d never used the site before, but it worked pretty much as promised.  Within 48 hours, I found a reputable plumber willing to do the job for the flat rate of $100 (including parts).

I’m *really* glad I didn’t try to do it myself.  He first stripped the paint off the existing pipe and found that it was copper – I had told him that the pipe was probably galvanized, because all of the plumbing inside the house is galvanized.  Since it turned out to be copper, this meant that he had to take a blowtorch (or something that looked like a blowtorch at least) and de-solder the existing valve from its surrounding pipes.  He then had to cut new copper pipe to the correct length, sweat the joints and solder them – all tasks I’ve never seen done before, much less performed myself.

Anyway, it looks like he did a good job, because the main water shutoff valve works now!  Perhaps now that I’ve seen it done, I’ll be brave enough to attempt a similar repair in the future.

Afterwards, I managed to replace the angle stops in the den as I originally intended… but that will be an adventure story for another time.

Stuff I learned:

  • Our exterior plumbing is copper
  • Pipe sizes are usually printed on the side of joints and other plumbing fixtures
  • What a copper pipe soldering job looks like

I still don’t know:

  • Where the copper plumbing changes to galvanized iron
  • What the pipe size numbers are actually measuring – they don’t seem to correspond to inner diameter, outside diameter, etc.
  • Why our house inspector didn’t check the main water shutoff valve before we bought the property

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