Plumbing Questions - New House

I bought this house in September 2013. It’s about three years old. I’m in the U.S. (for clarification.) I admit then when I bought it I was in a bit of a rush due to my personal situation, and there are a few things I did not take the time to ask about during my home inspection.

The main one is that I’m not sure where the main water shut off valve is for the house. It is on a slab. Two-story. The water heater is in the garage. It’s a gas water heater. I see two water pipes leading into/out of the WH from the top of the unit into the wall. I guess I was expecting to see an obvious main shut off valve, but I don’t. All my previous homes had the shut off pretty accessible and obvious. Here is a picture of the top of the unit. I see one shut off lever on one of the pipes, but this is not very accessible for a main.

Here is a picture of another pipe that is set off on its own about 2 feet from the WH. There is also a lever on it, and it is more accessible, but I am not familiar with a lever like that being the main shut off. I could just try to shut it off, but I’d prefer to have an idea what it is first. :smiley:

If it’s not one of those levers, any ideas where else to look? Could it possible be outside?
Question 2: The toilets in this house don’t have standard shut off valves on their supply lines. They have these things:

They turn, but do not shut off the water. They just spin and spin. WTH? Am I missing the method of turning the water off at the toilet?

Thanks for any information!

That valve you pictured looks like a shut off, but from your description it would be to isolate the hot water tank, not the whole house.
Do you have any sort of crawl space? I think you might have to go under and trace back.
It’s also possible you only have a curb side shut off.
As for the toilet valves, did you check to see if the set screws in the middle are loose?

No crawlspace, I’m on a slab.

Yes, I used a screwdriver on the toilet valve and it did not tighten in either direction.

IANAP, but the OP says there is a shut off lever on top of the water heater so that is probably to cut the water to the heater. My guess is that the second picture is the main shut off. That type of valve is a ball valve and looks like the the one used in my house on the main water line. I believe they are less prone to breaking than a gate valve. It is kind of hard to tell with the insulation but the pipe in the second photo also looks like it’s a larger diameter, which would be consistent with it being the main, in my experience. What’s on the other side of the the wall in the second photo? Are you on city water and if so, where is the meter?

Re the toilet: have you tried pushing on it? It almost looks like some kind of plunger. Maybe pushing it in cuts off the water. I’ve never seen anything like that, though.

With the insulation on it I would guess hot water.

Find your meter outside you shut off should be there.

The valve lever in the second picture is fairly typical of ball valves that are now used for shut-offs. You are probably used to the old stem and seat type stop valves, ball valves are more reliable and have no washer to be ruined by age and over tightening. I doubt you can hurt anything by shutting it off.

You have to follow the cold water line(s) back as far as you can. I am not used to slab construction (residential carpenter - not plumber) as we don’t use it for homes here in the cold north, but I expect it has to come up through the slab near an exterior wall. It could be hidden behind an access panel in the slab or wall.

Not familiar with the toilet shut off. It looks like a plunge mechanism, have you tried simply pushing or pulling it?

When I lived in California, in the Bay area, the water shut-off was outside. Here in Michigan, they have to be inside. You don’t say how far North you are, or if it gets below freezing in winter, so it’s hard to say if the water shutoff could be outside. That said, the second picture sure looks like a water shutoff to me. It wouldn’t be natural gas, since there would be no need to insulate it. I’m guessing that it’s insulated to help prevent freezing if the garage gets cold in winter.

That is a typical, and better quality, shutoff valve than the ones that make several revolutions to open and close. Turn it off (rotate 90 degrees), and see if the whole house loses water pressure.

Never seen a shutoff like on your toilet. I’d agree to try pushing it. Being all plastic, it looks like a break-and-leak waiting to happen, though. I’d at least investigate, to see if other people report problems with them.

Missed edit window. With out insight from more knowledgeable, faster typists I would never have guessed an exterior valve. Must be nice and warm there in the winter.:dubious:

Try looking outside. In my neck of the woods (central valley, CA) the main cutoff is outside near the house. Look for a lever on a pipe entering the house, maybe near the meter.

I think the toilet shut off pic is just that, but broken. I’m a handyman and I have to replace these a lot.

I thought so, too, regarding the insulation. But both lines are insulated on the water heater so maybe someone just went crazy with the insulation. Maybe did the cold lines to keep them from freezing.

Thanks all. Some more info if it helps. I’m outside of Charlotte, NC. Typically mild weather, but we are in the middle of a snowstorm right now, so I don’t know if it would be outside. I’ll look when I can.

As for the toilets, I don’t think it’s broken. All 3 toilets in the house have the same device. It does not push or pull. Here’s a slightly different view, more from the top.

I will try the main shut off and see what it does. It makes sense from the location. I’m just not used to new construction I guess and was looking for the older style.

My garage is not insulated on the exterior walls so it does get cold in there. They may have wrapped the cold water pipes.

Those toilet valves are the most utterly cheap and terrible things the builder could have used. As mentioned above, they either push or pull to cut off the water. If you look close, the “handle” should say how to use it.

Be gentle with them. They have an ugly habit of snapping off if abused. At three years old, they’re probably OK, but if you plan on having the house for a long time, plan on replacing them with normal cutoffs.

Ok, so the valve in the garage from picture 2 is my main. Thanks! This whole thing came up when I was replacing the flapper on one of the toilets and tried to cut the water off. When I couldn’t, I realized I didn’t know where the main was. So, that’s good.

You’re right! I looked closely with a flashlight (tight quarters) and it does say “Pull to close” on it. I had tried to pull it previously, but it takes more pressure than I had used before.

I knew I’d get my answers here. Thanks everyone!

don’t play with toilet or other valves until you have found the whole house shut off valve and found it to be working. you wouldn’t want one of those valves to break and not be able to shut off the whole house water.

QFT. The first time I tried to turn off the water under our sink using the shutoff valve, it started leaking.

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture but assuming those crappy shutoffs are screwed onto a normal stubout from the wall, one of the first things I would do after I found the main cutoff to the house would be to shut off the water, empty all of the toilets and replace the white vinyl hoses and plastic shutoffs with stainless hoses and proper quarter-turn shutoffs. Probably cost you in the neighborhood of $15 or $20 per toilet and will save you some problems down the road.

It’s on my list. Thanks.

In case it hasn’t already been mentioned:

The main should be one size larger (pipe diameter) than the line to the hot.

Tjere will be a split somewhere in which the main is diverted into 2 smaller pipers - thus giving you equal supply to hot and cold,

The lever handle is probably a ball valve - which is superior to the traditional gate valve (which tend to break - ask me how I know…)