You might want to repair your shower and wonder if you can cut off the water supply by closing the shut-off valve. It depends on the installation and on the type of materials that are used in your house. Let’s explore this further.
Most water pipes are made out of copper or PEX.
-If your water supply is made out of copper pipes (these are brown pipes), chances are that you don’t have a shut-off valve for the shower itself. You might have to use the main shut-off valve or one that turns off the water for the whole bathroom. In some instances, there is a shut off valve for the shower but it is hidden behind the wall. This can make it harder to reach.
-If you have plastic PEX pipes (these are often white), there is often a manifold (this is apiece of metal where different PEX pipes start). On the manifold it is often possible to close the shut off valve for the pipes that run to your shower. Older manifolds have to be closed off completely and it is not possible to shut off individual pipes.
-Older homes often have steel water pipes (these are often grey). There is generally no shut off valve for the shower. You will have to close the water supply at the main shut off valve or use the one for the bathroom (if this is available).
We have to keep in mind that showers have 2 pipes: one for hot water and one for cold water. In most instances, you will have to close both before you can work on the shower. The hot water supply line can be hot so you have to be careful when you work on this.
Why do you need a shut off valve?
Sometimes you may have to make repairs to your water pipes. While you are doing this you need to be able to turn off the water supply.
Water is under a lot of pressure and your house might flood if you don’t cut the water supply before opening the water pipe.
A shut off valve allows you to stop the water flow. Once the shut off valve has been closed, you still need to drain the pipes by opening the faucets. This can take a while and it is impossible to remove all the water from the drains.
For this reason, you should grab a bucket and old towels when you open up a water pipe that runs to the shower.
Now we can work on the shower and get thing fixed.
It can be quite difficult to close the shut off valve. In some instances, this piece of metal or plastic hasn’t moved in years. These are often small pieces as well so you have to be careful as they can break quite easily. You can use a wrench to get more leverage on the valve. Don’t use too much force as these can bend and break. If this happens, the water can gush out of the drains. This can lead to a lot of damage!
For this reason, you should locate the other shut off valves in your home. This allows you to close these if another shut off valve breaks.
How to add a shut off valve to the shower
You might wonder how you can add a shut off valve to your shower to make future repairs easier.
First, turn off the water supply to the shower, whole bathroom, or house. This depends on where the shut off valve is located. Once this is done, we have to drain the pipes by opening the faucets.
The next step is to cut open the pipes. There are special cutters for copper and PEX. In most cases, this is quite easy to do. Some water will drip out of the pipes so clean this up.
For PEX, you can check if you can upgrade the manifold. This is a central way that allows you to control all the water pipes in your house. Make sure to label the pipes so that it is easy to work on them. It is possible to add a shut off valve on the PEX pipe as well but it is not that common given that manifolds are easy to work with. Don’t bend the PEX pipes too much as this can damage them.
For copper, you can use a push-on connectors to add the shut off valve. These are easy to use as you don’t need any tools for this. Just push the valve in place and you are done. It is also possible to use a machine to close the fitting or to solder them together. These require more tools though. You should deburr the pipe and clean it before you add the fitting. This removes dirt and dust from the water pipes.
If you want to work on your shower, you need to cut the water supply. In this post, we have discussed how you can do this. In some instances, there is a shut off valve near the shower. In other cases, you have to cut off the water supply for the whole bathroom or house.
Check your installation to see what is possible in your house. The shut off valve can also be hidden behind the wall or in a closet. You can always call a plumber if you need help with this.
Don’t simply cut the water pipes open! Water is under a lot of pressure and your house can get flooded if you do this. Furthermore, hot water can be very warm so you have to be careful when you work on this. Always study the situation and wear protective equipment before you start. If you are not sure what to do, you can contact a plumber to get more information.