No main shut off valve


Old 10-18-11, 01:41 AM
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No main shut off valve


I have a question that has been nagging me for years. My home was built in 1949. The water pipes appear to be cast iron and seem to come up from the ground through the cement. My house does not have a basement. It sits on a cement pad.

A few years ago, I had to have the outside spigot (where I attach my garden hose) replaced. The plumber that came was annoyed because I told him there is no main shut off valve inside my house. He said there has to be. I have looked everywhere, even inside some of the walls, and I cannot find a main shut off valve. To shut off my water completely to my house, I have to go all they way down to the end of my driveway (quite a long walk) to the water meter and shut it off there.

I am familiar with what the plumber was referring to because in my parent's house which was a similar age, the water pipes when up through the attic. In the back of the house, inside a small access panel, there was a main shut off valve.

My questions are: Is it normal/possible for a house to not have a main shut off valve inside the house? Also, is it normal for the pipes to come up from the cement that way? I have looked up in my attic, but apparently there are no water pipes up there. Do pipes that go through cement under the ground freeze and potentially crack when the water freezes in the winter the same as copper pipes in the attic do? (This happened to my parents one year and caused a HUGE problem, so it is something I worry about a lot)

Thanks for any help. I find this water system very confusing since I am not at all familiar with it.

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Old 10-18-11, 09:06 AM
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One of the plumbers will be along to give you a better answer but I can say that my house, built in 1983, did not have a whole house shut off and neither did our cottage built in the 1920s. I installed a valve in our house and had a plumber install one in our cottage. IIRC he charged an hour and parts.
Old 10-18-11, 07:00 PM
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Since you do have a shutoff at the water meter, that may have passed code way back when. I'd certainly add a shutoff at the house. If you end up with a leak or broken faucet or who knows what spraying water, you don't want to have to run all the way to the front of your driveway to turn off the water.

I think it is pretty common for the pipes to come up through the cement pad. They have to get inside somehow, and if you're in a freezing zone, they have to either be below the frost line or inside a heated area. I don't see any issue with it the way it is.
Old 10-20-11, 05:58 AM
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Just about anything is possible. I once owned a house that was built in 1959. There was a whole-house shutoff valve in the basement, but no shutoff at the meter.
Old 10-21-11, 06:39 PM
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What isn't normal is having pipes in the attic as far north as you are.
Old 10-22-11, 05:33 AM
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Yeah, that is weird. There may been a tank up there at one time for water pressure. That's my only idea as to why it is like that.
Old 10-22-11, 08:38 AM
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The cast iron pipes you describe are likely outgoing drain pipes, not incoming water supply pipes. Incoming pipes would be copper and 1/2 inch diameter, outgoing are cast iron and big, like 4-6 inch diameters. Maybe you can trace the incoming pipe starting from where it enters the house from the driveway, to your kitchen and bathrooms. Having said that, I would think a plumber could shut off your water and install a valve like someone suggested previously. Get some quotes, as it doesn't sound like a big job to me. Disclaimer: I'm not a plumber.
Old 10-22-11, 08:55 AM
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What the OP is describing is probably steel pipe. It was not uncommon to have a steel water main into the home.

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