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I recently learned that our 1970s townhouse doesn't have its own main water shutoff. Instead, two contractors have access to a room with a water shutoff for the building (about a dozen units).

My neighbours seem to have lived with this fact. The supply valves are old and difficult to close, or don't close entirely. I find myself hesitating to do even basic repairs (faucets, toilets, etc.) in fear of something going wrong and not being able to turn off the water.

Am I being overly cautious? Should I insist on having my own main water shutoff installed? Should I have the contractor repair or replace all the supply valves instead?

  • I would install a shut off of your own. It may be an added expense and possibly 'should' be borne by the HOA, but I can't imagine it being more than $500 and the peace of mind it will give you is much more than that. – Aaron Aug 20 '14 at 15:23
  • Followup: I ended up paying to have the strata's inflated contractors install a shut off valve. It was over $700 and they didn't tell me till after that it shuts off one of my neighbours as well. But in the end, I'm happy I did it. The new shutoff has allowed me to go around and install retrofit ball valves and braided hoses on all my fixtures.Water leaks from fixtures is the number one cause of major home damage! – Jason Nov 4 '16 at 18:17
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There are a lot of buildings that have this situation where people may be condo or townhouse owners. The normal thing to do in your situation would be to upgrade your shut-off valve. Maybe even install another one right before/after your first opening on the mainline.

  • Upgrade the shut-off valve? How does this help me if I don't have access to it? – Jason Aug 18 '14 at 19:03
  • The one in your townhouse. Your townhouse has to have a shut-off coming in... if by chance it doesn't then you need one. You should have one installed before any faucet is hit. – DMoore Aug 18 '14 at 19:06
  • @DMoore: Sounds like Jason is saying there is only one shutoff valve and it's for the entire 12-unit building. – Hank Aug 18 '14 at 19:37
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    @HenryJackson - That happens in some buildings. He needs to find where his plumbing is coming in and add a shut-off there. There probably is one as most cities require it for insurance purposes. – DMoore Aug 18 '14 at 20:32
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You should contact your local government, as codes and laws vary from place to place.

The Uniform Plumbing Code, says that there should be valves for every fixture in the unit.

Uniform Plumbing Code 2012

Chapter 6 Water Supply and Distribution

Section 606 Valves

606.3 In multidwelling units, one or more shutoff valves shall be provided in each dwelling unit so that the water supply to any plumbing fixture or group of fixtures in that dwelling unit can be shut off without stopping water supply to fixtures in other dwelling units. These valves shall be accessible in the dwelling unit that they control.

I wasn't able to find any mention of valve accessibility in International Plumbing Code.


Keep in mind, however, the building is subject only to the codes that were recognized at the time it was built (or last updated). Changes in codes do not require immediate action.

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