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I'm doing a bathroom reno in an old house - all copper pipe, and no shutoffs. There is a single shutoff between the well pump and the pressure tank, and another shutoff between the cold water input and the hot water tank.

I need to move the inlet piping for the shower. It looks like this has already been done once (why people don't add shutoffs is beyond me), however this requires connecting to a live pipe.

My current solutions:

  • Kill water to the entire house. Use it until pressure is low, then open the shower tap and a tap lower than it to back-drain the water out of the piping. This is less than ideal because it means the entire house must be shut off, I have to kill the hot water tank (to avoid burning out the element) and it must remain in this state while I go to the hardware store for the inevitable part I didn't buy the first time.
  • An expensive inline valve. It looks like there are solutions to this (valves that clip on, and cut the pipe), however they're expensive and I'd like to avoid permanently relying on what feels like a stopgap solution.

Are there industry-standard methods of doing this? I know the bread in the pipe method stops stray water flow, but I don't think it works against 40+PSI of hot water.

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    It's usually a quick thing to cut a pipe and slap on a valve, even if it's only for temporary use. Then you turn the water back on. Is it really that big of a problem here?
    – isherwood
    Feb 25 at 16:16
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    @isherwood my primary concern is the pump losing prime, without a pressure tank to back it up. Mainly because that's happened before and the foot valve needed resetting (all hearsay from the previous owners) which would be very difficult given that it's winter. Freeman's answer is actually a good one. If I'm going to the effort, I'll do it right Feb 25 at 16:28
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    This reno has already way exceeded the initial "retiling a shower" into a full bathroom tearout. It's frustrating to keep hearing "don't be lazy, do it right this time", but I know it's worth it in the end Feb 25 at 16:38
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    See, it could be you saying "what idiot didn't put valves everywhere last time he had the water off?" :)
    – FreeMan
    Feb 25 at 17:27
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    You might want to get "full bore" valves to avoid the pressure drop associated with water flowing through a standard valve. Feb 26 at 12:39

4 Answers 4

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You know the pipe diameter, right? Get a new valve, get a spare length of pipe and a couple of repair sleeves "just in case" and get to it.

Or...

While you're at it, get a big handful of valves and while you've got the water off, finish draining all the plumbing, right down to the pressure tank, and put shut off valves everywhere they should be in the whole house so the next person doesn't come along and think, "what idiot put in only one shutoff valve and didn't put them everywhere?"

Make sure you put one just house-side of the pressure tank, followed by a drain tap so if someone ever needs to, they can easily drain the entire plumbing system.

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  • @OP You might want to get "full bore" valves to avoid the pressure drop associated with water flowing through a standard valve. Feb 26 at 11:30
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    @AndrewMorton if you put your comment under the original question, the OP will be automatically notified. Down here, he may not see it.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 26 at 12:38
  • Perhaps I should have asked if you wanted to include that in the answer, so that it gets more visibility, what with comments supposedly being ephemeral. Feb 26 at 12:41
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    I suggest, while you're at the store, buying a bag of each of straight couplers and elbows in the right size(s). A few spares on hand are useful for minor rerouting and repairs, and they're not expensive. Also triple-check that you've got suitable tools that to fit the valves and fit in the space you intend to put the valves. And still start when the shops are open When doing decent sized project, I keep a list of "Sunday tasks" that you can walk away from if you need a part (Sunday hours are short here), and non-Sunday tasks that must be started when the shops will be open for a few hours
    – Chris H
    Feb 27 at 16:33
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You could get a pipe freezing kit.
You can buy the cheap ones in a spray, or rent the expensive ones.

Examples from UK store
Examples of different methods plus linked instruction video

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Yeah, sure, do it live. Please make sure someone is nearby with a video camera, thanks.

https://youtu.be/OP30okjpCko

Kill water to the entire house. Use it until pressure is low, then open the shower tap and a tap lower than it to back-drain the water out of the piping. This is less than ideal because it means the entire house must be shut off, I have to kill the hot water tank (to avoid burning out the element) and it must remain in this state

It sounds like you at least know what to do; that's more than most people.

my primary concern is the pump losing prime

Make a plan for this. Don't just cut the water and leave yourself in a position of hasty decisions.

This reno has already way exceeded the initial "retiling a shower" into a full bathroom tearout.

In Whose Line is it Anyways announcer voice: Welcome to DIY home renovation, where nothing goes according to plan and your budget doesn't matter because the previous guy fubarred it enough just to get it working!

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  • I'll keep a bucket full to re-prime the pump. It will remain powered behind the shutoff, but just won't have a tank to fill into - am I worrying unnecessarily that this is a risk of losing prime? All very good points - I've messed with water before, but it's often at a cottage in the summer where a) priming is easy b) it's pleasant to be outside and c) if something breaks, you go home and try again next time Feb 25 at 18:53
  • Next go-around install a submersible well pump, no more priming. Do not close the valve between the tank and pump. I wouold first install a ball valve between the house and tank, then you can do these and other repairs at your leisure.
    – Gil
    Feb 25 at 20:03
  • @gil as the other answer said - would it be preferred to have individual shutoffs for each fixture (or at least each room) or to have a single main shutoff? As it stands I plan to do individuals for each bathroom/each section of the house as it logically makes sense Feb 25 at 20:09
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    Not really my area, but I would say both. Every house that I've lived in that was built in the 90s or later, had a central valve where it enters the house, and individual ones where plumming can be expected (kitchen, bathroom, toilet, laundry room etc).
    – MiG
    Feb 25 at 21:41
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    You guys may laugh at the above, and I know I did until I watched the city guy replace my main valve with the pressure still on. He cracked the connection behind the valve, let the pit fill up then did the rest of the work with his hands underwater until he got the new valve on and then turned the new valve to "off". Cowboy style, but total pro. Replaced my valve, the rest of the neighborhood kept service and he didn't even get his knees wet. Salute.
    – JS.
    Feb 26 at 19:09
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Shut the valve off between well and pump then open a hose Bibb or other fixture to relieve the pressure.when water flow is sufficiently low enough cut the area (s) you want a new valve installed and use a shark bite valve that is the size that you need.... problem solved without torch/soldering

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