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Well it may not seem like that if you are tuning in right now regarding a current plumbing emergency. If on the other hand you are reading this and want to PREVENT or reduce the chances of a water pressure Plumbing Mishap, please listen up!

Emergencies can be a simple toilet, bathtub or floor drain overflowing to a burst water supply line for a toilet, faucet, laundry tub or maybe a strange gas smell – (rotten egg or sewer) that is happening suddenly. This Blog will focus on water line pressure emergencies. The next two installments; Parts 2 and 3 will be on sewer/drain back-ups and gas smells such as sewer, natural gas and propane leaks.

Pressure Water Line Leaks…

Saddle Valve

Saddle Valve
Not to Illinois Plumbing Code

PLAN A Anytime you have a live hot/cold pressure water line leak is just cause to act quickly. Find the local shutoff. On a water heater it will be on cold side or right side above the water line connections at the top. Below the fixture, i.e. lavatory, kitchen faucet, toilet or laundry tub you should find two shut-off valves. Turn handle (both hot and cold if you don’t know which is leaking) clockwise until it stops (don’t overtighten)…some older valves may not turn from non-use and may require a wrench to loosen – at this point it may be necessary to call your plumber or go to PLAN B and turn off the main shut-off valve. If shut-off valve is a lever or ball valve turn 1⁄4 turn until lever is 90-degrees or perpendicular to pipe. Refrigerator water line (1/4’ copper or plastic) valves are trickier to find as they have shutoffs back in the utility room or hidden in basement ceiling or right behind refrigerator itself.
Some of these refrigerator “saddle valves” as they are called are illegal according to Illinois plumbing code because of their failure rate and cheap quality and should be handled and turned with great care until a reliable 1⁄4 turn valve can be installed.

34” Gate Valve

34” Gate Valve

PLAN B If this is a main water or branch water line or you can’t turn off the water locally you’re going to have to find the main shut-off – In Illinois homes its typically found where the water meter is located. House on a slab the main shutoff / water meter is typically in the room with the water heater or furnace or in a crawl space maybe closer to street side and with a basement it is on the wall on the street side of the house – sometimes near the water heater or softening equipment or hidden in a closet / cabinet. There could be two separate shut-off valves – one before and one after the water meter – choose the one that will turn easily. If these are older round handle valves, one valve may not turn off the water completely, so it may be necessary to try the other as well. I always recommend to customers to find the valve well ahead of time and label/mark as the Emergency Main water shutoff valve and keep the area clear with an open path to the valve. No furniture, seasonal stuff, sport equipment in way, as time is critical when you have 10 – 20 gallons or more a minute spewing from a broken water pipe. Round handles are in closed position by turning clockwise or “righty-tighty / lefty-loosey” and be careful to not overtighten.

Ball valves or lever types are very reliable and should be part of any upgrade to the plumbing system. These lever valves are in “ON” position when handle is parallel or in line with pipe…they are in “Off” position when handle/lever is in the 90-degree position in relation to pipe. Usually it only takes a 1⁄4 turn to move lever one way or other until it is in 90-degree position or perpendicular to pipe and lever comes to a stop. If this is a larger house with a recirculation pump on/near the water heater you may also want to unplug it temporarily – so it doesn’t burn out. Also, at this point you may want to open any faucets below the point of the water leak to relieve and drain down the water system. If you are on a Well System, it’s also advisable to turn off electrical switch at well pump /pressure tank or at the breaker box.

34” Ball Valve

34” Ball Valve

Lavatory Kitchen Faucet or Toilet Shutoff Valve

Lavatory Kitchen Faucet or Toilet Shutoff Valve

As always you should have your plumbers phone number/name handy on your smart phone or where all emergency numbers are kept. Please feel free to reply or comment on this Blog 101 and see you on the other side!