Main Cold Water Shutoff Won't Turn Back On!

Hi folks,

I am in the middle of replacing a kitchen sink and faucet in my house. I decided to turn the main cold water shutoff valve and drain the system because the hot and cold water shutoffs (multi-turn) under the sink are bad. Well, after replacing the sink, faucet and the bad multi-turn shutoffs (1/4-turn units)with new parts, I attempted to turn on the main cold water valve.

To my horror, the valve won’t turn back on. The handle and shaft of the shutoff valve rotate CCW nicely but the valve inside the body doesn’t seem to work. Is the valve itself a separate part from the shaft of the valve? Is there any thing I can do save calling a plumber out to replace the valve after shutting the water off at the street???

I tried lightly banging on the valve with a brass hammer but no joy? I wonder if lightly heating the valve with a heat shrink blower or a torch would help?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!

You’ll probably need to replace the valve. They do fail from time to time.

If you can replace a sink and its accompanying shutoffs you can probably replace a main shutoff valve. What kind of pipe is it? Cutting and soldering copper is pretty easy if you get the right supplies.

Does the main valve belong to the water utility?

It’s probably an old gate valve.
I had one of these fail in the same way - basically, when you tightened it down all the way, the threads on the shaft were worn enough that the valve itself more-or-less fell off the end of the shaft.

I learned (the hard way), to not use that valve, and just use the one at the meter.

The only practical way to fix it is to replace the whole valve (ball valve, only, please!).

Yep. Replace the valve. I called a plumber.

He’d have to be able to shut off the water upstream of the main valve to the house, otherwise as soon as he cuts the pipe and takes out the existing valve it’ll look like a scene from “Das Boot” :smiley:

Well, yeah. Usually you have to call the water company to get them to shutoff water at the street (which may also affect your neighbors temporarily.) If the valve is before the water meter then it may be the water company’s responsibility to fix it.

No need to pay the water company - just get some freezer spray like this -

I am sure it must be available over there. Just make sure you have everything to hand before you start.

I can’t help but think I’d get a plug of ice in the eye. :slight_smile:

If anything goes wrong, and you can’t get the pipe back together, that would be a huge disaster.

If you have access to the outside shutoff, go ahead and shut it off and replace the broken inside valve. It’s no harder than what you’ve already done.

HOWEVER, if the outside shutoff actually belongs to the water utility company as most do, have THEM shut it off. Just in case it also breaks!

It sounds like a gate valve. Go to your water meter box. There should be a valve just before the meter. If you can turn that valve off, turn it off. Now go to your houses main shut off with two wrenches. One wrench on the bonnet (the top) of the valve to turn the bonnet CW. The other wrench on the body of the valve the opposite direction. Take the bonnet off. See if you can remove the valve disk. If you can remove the disk and put the bonnet back on. open the valve at the meter.

You now have a nonfunctioning valve that will not close. And if you need to ever shut the water off in the house again call a plumber and get a new valve. I would not close the valve before the meter often. If you cause that valve to fail it will be your dime and you will not get to chose the plumber. Also if the water company has to shut the main off you will get billed for that also.

The other caution I have is taking the main shut off apart may mean not getting it back together and calling a plumber to replace it now.

The reason to use the ball valve is reliability - they are dirt simple, but do require precise machining.

IOW, The reasons directly opposite why builder’s use gate valves - dirt cheap. slop works (for a while).

I have the opposite problem - a gate valve which has failed in the ‘OPEN’ position Snnipe 70E’s solution.

My problem is not the replacement (this is 1 1/4 copper - only 1/4" larger than what I’ve done several times before).


This house was built so that anyone walking down the street can shut off not only water, but the electrical as well.
Yes, incredible - there are stories of folks running down the street late Dec 24 and shutting off the elec in every house. then returning the following night and looking for lights if the power is still off, the place is empty. Help yourselves, kids!.

Does any one know of a box that can be bolted and padlocked around a ball valve?

Turning the water off would give you all night to check the neighborhood - the open/closed position is obvious from the street.

Until I can find one, I’m thinking of gate valve - it will at least out-live me, anyway.

usedtobe, if you google “Locking ball valve” you’ll find plenty of ball valves that you can put a padlock on to prevent this kind of mischief. If you’re replacing your main shutoff valve just use one of those, I saw a 1 1/4" locking ball valve for about $55.

As far as the electric service goes, all of the outdoor load panels I’ve seen have a lug so that you can padlock them shut. I’ve got one on my house - I locked it not because I’m worried about a thief but because I don’t want some random kid putting his fingers in there and getting fried.

You dont need to call the water co. to shut off your buffalo valve. For something this big Id hire a plumber though. It’ll be a lot cheaper and quicker to replace it than to attempt to repIr it then replace it when the attempt inevitably fails.

Look for lock out tag out valve locks.

These tract boxes doesn’t stop with stupid - in addition to the public shut-offs, not only do these use Zinsco breakers (betcha never heard of of them. but use a 2-compartment box - the meter is on one side and the breakers are on the other. The breaker section can be locked, but the meter cannot, and, no, they don’t they don’t use locking meter mount rings.

without giving away bad-guy tips and tricks, getting to the meter is all that is required to shut off (or, in most cases, restore :smiley: ) power.

I’m sitting here using the meter shut-off valve (which, it just so happens is a locking ball valve) without it occurring to me to get such a valve for myself.

Did find the reason for the leak in the sprinkler - theses idiots used cement-type Sch 40 PVC - by wiping primer lightly around the fittings and pipers - and then assembling the whole mess at the base of a sapling - allowing the roots to separate the various bits.

While we are here - with a 1 1/4 coming out of the ground, what gas/torch will be required to sweat this stuff.
I did 1" with propane, but that was indoors. I have an old brazing O[sub]2[/sub] and something in a black tank, but suspect that would be overkill. Was told “the yellow stuff” by one person.
Any ideas?

use caution when putting a lock on utility shutoffs. you don’t want to have an emergency need to shut off and not have a key immediately available.

I always have 2 ways to unlock critical things:

1.Color-coded (4" cable ties) on the lock and its key (always kept near the frame just inside the nearest door).

  1. a Set of back-up keys for everything in the nightstand I don’t use (things not used rarely wander).

I’m seeing a meet-you-halfway approach to locking the valve - there is a ring around the handle which must be slid “up” to move the handle.
Or, use a wrench to remove the handle, slid off that blocking tad, and re-install with the blocking tag pointing up (where it won’t interfere with operation).

For how long have you been without water and a plumber?