Why Don't Showers Have Shutoff Valves?

Can’t swear that none do, but it’s certainly very uncommon. While sinks and toilets have their own shutoff valves, such that water can be disconnected to them specifically, if you want to shut off water to the shower you generally need to shut off water to the whole house. This can be very inconvenient when things break or you’re doing repairs. While on a practical level it doesn’t seem that it would be quite as convenient to install them as in the case of sinks and toilets, it doesn’t seem like something that should be that big of a deal, and I would think would be very worthwhile.

[I fell to pondering about this the other night when I was replacing a cartridge in my shower and it wouldn’t come out all the way - or go fully back in. I managed to get it done the next day, but until then the water for the entire house had to be left off.

And a couple of months back, a woman down the block had some sort of shower malfunction involving water gushing uncontrollably out of the fixture. She called my wife in a panic and I went over and hunted down and shut off the main valve until her BIL came over and fixed the underlying problem, but had there been a shower valve it would have been much more convenient for her and her tenant.]

We have shut off valves to both of our showers,

I have worked on plumbing in dozens of old houses and have literally never seen a tub/shower that did not have shutoff valves for the hot and cold lines. The most recent one I worked on had those valves hidden inside a drywall partition that was built to enclose the tub. I cut the drywall to replace the faucet assembly and found the valves inside. It is more typical that an access panel would be created when the partition was built. In this case, I added an access door after I completed my plumbing.

I’m a bit surprised at these responses. A quick look around shows I’m not alone in this. http://ask.metafilter.com/188121/Where-are-cutoff-valves-for-shower

It really is mostly a matter of convention, expense and convenience. I see a good number of homes without shutoffs on the sinks either, one of the cheaper builders in town has been hooking sink faucets directly up to pex line even (we have done the insurance claims). As long as the main shutoff works it shouldn’t be an issue with the shower, it makes little difference for maintenance. Toilets and appliances will create a flood if they fail so it is a good idea to isolate them.

If the main shut off does not work it needs to be changed out either way, whether there are shut offs at the fixtures/fittings or not. Modern ceramic ball valve shutoffs are more reliable than old stem valves; the old stem valves often used to fail by the time you needed to change out a fitting, making them not that useful anyway.

If you are building for yourself you can load up on shutoffs, but they do reduce flow.

Just wanted to ad that push-on end caps make renovations very easy now. You can remove a fitting or fixture, close off the lines and have the water to the rest of the house back on in minutes.

The cutoff valves are rarely in the shower itself. Is this what you meant?

The are typically below in the basement/crawlspace or in an access panel behind the shower. I have seen houses though where you need to effectively shut off the house or at least the bathroom in question to shutoff the shower.

All I know is what I have seen. In most old houses I have worked on, at some point a free-standing claw-foot tub was replaced by a built-in modern tub and shower. In most cases , whoever installed that tub installed shutoff valves and an access panel to reach them. The one exception is the house I’m working on right now, where I discovered the valves inside a wall with no panel.

I have reached the point in my DIY adventures where I don’t make assumptions or get surprised by much. The next tub I work on may lack valves, and it wouldn’t surprise me.

As a weekend warrior who can’t always start and finish a plumbing job in one session, turning off the water to the whole dwelling is not usually a good option.

^ Same here. We have two houses and three showers between them, and they all have shutoff valves at the access panel behind them.

I’m remodeling the guest bathroom and the shower supply lines didn’t have shut-off valves. I just added them to the lines. Annoying when the pipe broke while trying to remove the bathtub :frowning:

My only experience is in 1960s through 2000s USA tract or high-rise construction using iron or copper feed lines. I have never seen nor heard of a shutoff valve for a shower or tub. Neither have I ever seen nor heard of the absence of a shutoff valve for a sink or toilet or dishwasher or clothes washer. In the type of construction I’m talking about; I make no claims about others.

ISTM the lack of shutoffs on tubs & showers is simply the difficulty in many cases of finding a place to put them and have them be accessible.

The advent of PEX makes it practical to put all the shutoff valves back at the central manifold, rather than at the point of delivery. At which point IMO everything should have a shutoff valve.

I question most of this.

The result of a failure in the soft feed line leading to a sink faucet is exactly the same as the failure of the soft feed line leading to a toilet, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc.: a flood.

The failure of a valve cartridge or seal in a sink, tub, or shower valve is exactly the same as the failure of a valve in a dishwasher, clothes washer, etc.: a flood. Which in the case of tubs or showers will be an in-wall flood and potentially much less obvious until catastrophic. Yes, maybe some of the flood waters will end up in the sink, tub, or shower basin and go safely down a drain. But far short of all.

At least with a toilet, any valve failure inside the tank will simply run down the overflow tube and safely into the drain system.

Toilets and water heaters of course have the extra failure modes of tank leaks into the outside world. Which are then steadily replenished by the non-malfunctioning feed system. IOW they flood just fine.
The whole and entire point of peripheral isolation valves is to cut off supply to part of the system rather than the whole pending repairs. They don’t do anything for flood mitigation, other than saving the few seconds of running from the site of the flood when discovered to the house-wide shutoff.

With toilets, if the bowl is clogged and the flapper valve isn’t working, you’ve got a disaster in progress, as the bowl will overflow poop-water all over the floor.

With a shower, it’s a lot rarer for the drain to completely clog, and usually a failed valve just means it drips.

Also, shower valves tend to be a lot more reliable than the flapper/float/fill valve mess of a toilet’s plumbing. Like one tenth the failure rate. And it’s not an emergency and it’s not really that big a deal to have to turn off the water to the whole place.

Not to say that shutoff valves aren’t nice, and PEX is some amazing stuff to use for other reasons. I clearly see the sense in PEX and have considered replacing the plumbing in my house with PEX if it ever ages to the point that it is frequently springing leaks.

But it’s kind of a minor gripe. Major gripes would be that most houses are not really engineered for the needs of their occupants. They tend to have rooms that are rarely used (dining room), yet they also tend to never have enough storage for the cheap consumer goods that most families tend to accumulate, especially in the last few decades. And nobody who designs them seems to even consider maintenance - there’s no central utility core where you can actually get to all the plumbing easily. HVAC ducts get run through attics that hit 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and they are usually done sloppily and they leak.

Well fwiw; The ICC 2003 edition of the Residential Code says in Chapter 29 Water supply and distribution, P2903.9 Valves, P2903.9.3 Paraphrased: Shutoff valves are required at every fixture except Tubs and Showers.

I also, while working as a plumber, encountered shutoff valves at showers or tubs very rarely. I installed shutoff valves the the last time I changed my shower valve, low these many years ago.


When I put my place together I didn’t put a shut off for the shower because I didn’t see a reason to. If there is a malfunction I will know exactly where it is coming from and just shut off the entire supply until I rectify the situation. I believe similar lines of thinking probably led to many places not having them. Toilets and sinks seem to have priority since they provide potable water and get rid of bio-hazardous waste (just a WAG) and IME have more of a tendency for issues if one should arise.

I wonder if it’s different in Chicago, which is why I’ve seen them in my dwellings. Here’s the relevant code for us that I could find:

Doesn’t mention anything about baths or showers, but it does have “except one- and two-family or multiple family residential occupancies,” but I can’t quite make sense of what that means.

toilets and sinks get removed and reinstalled a heck of a lot more than a tub or shower
Some what more pressing need to have valves on them.

I have shut off valves for tub and shower in main bath and all sinks, but oddly not the tub in the 2nd bath, though there is an access panel to remove the faucet assembly
Go figure that one.

The purpose of individual shutoff valves is not (primarily) so as to identify the problem; it’s so that you can shut off water to that fixture while maintaining supply to the rest of the house. If you need to fix something with that shower and need a couple of hours with the water off, that could inconvenience people who needs sinks and toilets during that time. And if it’s overnight it’s a lot worse, and if it’s over a weekend it could make your house unlivable.

My building was constructed in the 1910s and consequently the apartments were built with exactly zero local shutoff valves for any of the fixtures. Any time there is a repair requires shutting water off to the whole building.

About 20 years ago, the co-op board in their wisdom enacted a rule that anyone renovating their bathroom or kitchen had to install local shutoff valves so as not to require shutting down the building when those fixtures needed to be repaired or replaced. So the problem is (very slowly) being mitigated, but probably about 60% of the units have not been renovated or updated since the rule went into effect, so shutdowns still happen a few times a year when something breaks. It’s a pain in the ass.

If and when I ever build my own house, I’ll definitely have shutoffs for every fixture.

I have two tubs & a shower; one tub & the shower back into a bedroom closet, so it would be easy to have a cutoff w/ access panel; however, there is only drywall. The other tub backs into the stairwell so it would be obvious & ugly to have an access panel there.
I have Moen faucets that need to be maintenanced every so often; they give away the kits of grease & washers to do this. It’s a quick thing, about 10 mins per, to do but does require shutting off water to the whole house. A couple of times I’ve put the cartridge in backwards. Everything works fine but it reverses Hot & Cold, so down to the basement again, turn off the water to pull out a piece of metal & turn it 180°.

Just out of curiosity, I removed the access panel behind my shower last night and there aren’t any shutoff valves there nor in the basement. The only way to shut off the water to the tub/shower is with the main house valve.