Every now and again, repairs are necessary on just about every plumbing fixture in your home. As these fixtures age, they wear out, causing leaks and malfunctions. In some cases, they might even stop working altogether. In order to get to the root of the problem, you usually need to turn off the water supply to the area you’re working on.
While this is simple enough with faucets and toilets, it can be confusing with a shower or bathtub. Perhaps your bathtub/shower isn’t working correctly, and you need to troubleshoot the issue, or maybe you want to replace the entire setup. Either way, you must start by turning off the water to the tub to avoid an impromptu bath.
We compiled some information to help you figure out how to turn off the water to the bathtub in your home or shut off the water in general if you don’t have bathtub shut-off valves.
Do Bathtubs Have Water Shut-Off Valves?
Water shut-off valves are a critical part of the plumbing system in your home. You’ll find them throughout your home, controlling the water flow to faucets, toilets, spigots, etc.
For example, if you need to repair or replace the water heater, you’d have to shut off the water to the heater itself. Water heaters feature two shut-off valves, one for the cold water inlet and the other for the hot water outlet pipe. Sometimes, bathtubs have water shut-off valves too, but sometimes they don’t.
This can make it tricky to tackle plumbing projects, especially when you don’t know where the valves are to complete your first step in the process: shutting off the water. If your bathtub doesn’t have a shut-off valve, you can always turn off the water main to your house. However, if you want to isolate the lack of water to the tub itself, here are a few places the bathroom water shut-off valve might be.
Check For Stops
Sometimes, bathtub/showers will feature stops within the faucet assembly. So, check here for little stops that indicate water shut-off controls. Start by removing the handles and trim pieces to expose the shower valve inside the wall.
If the valve has shut-off controls installed there, you’ll see two stems with a screwdriver slot in them, one on the cold side and the other on the hot side. These are the stops that will allow you to turn off the water to the tub.
Look For An Access Panel
In some scenarios, contractors install an access panel somewhere near the bathtub. Generally, they’ll put it in a nearby closet. Look around the bathtub or shower for the panel, checking in the back of nearby linen closets as well.
Alternatively, you might find a ceiling access panel. If you can’t find an access panel in a closet or anywhere nearby, check downstairs (if applicable). You might find an access panel under the floor in the basement or a ceiling access panel in the floor below. Check the area directly below the bathroom in question for access panels.
What Should I Do If I Can’t Find A Shut-Off Valve For My Bathtub?
If you checked the places above but can’t find a shut-off valve specifically for the bathtub, there’s no need to panic. You can still proceed with your plumbing project, but you’ll have to turn off the water to the area in a different way.
Instead of turning off the water to the bathtub itself, turn off the water to the entire house. This isn’t particularly convenient, especially if someone is trying to wash dishes or take a shower, but it’s the best option if there isn’t an isolated shut-off valve for the bathtub.
Before you turn off the water to the entire house, it doesn’t hurt to let your family or roommates know what you’re going to do so you don’t leave anyone stranded in the shower.
Where Is The Main Water Shut-Off Valve?
The main water shut-off valve in most homes is located on the side of the house where the water meter is. You might find it inside, where the main water line enters the house. Or, you might find it outside, next to the water meter. The valve is pretty large compared to the valves you find under your sink or behind your toilet tank.
Since the main water shut-off valve isn’t used, save for rare occasions, the valve might be stiff. This is usually the case, especially if it’s outside and exposed to the elements. If the valve doesn’t turn, don’t force it. If you do, you could damage the valve or the pipe behind the valve, which would create quite a mess.
If the water shut-off valve is corroded and fixed in place, read our guide for help with troubleshooting the problem.
How Do I Turn Off The Main Water Shut-Off Valve?
There are two main types of shut-off valves that you might find: a ball valve and a gate valve.
The ball valve features a straight handle that runs parallel to the pipe when it’s open. To close it and therefore shut it off, the handle needs to move from its parallel position to an upright, perpendicular position. The valve body features stops that enable the handle to move from one direction to the next, stopping it when it is turned fully perpendicular.
So, to turn off a ball valve, turn the handle up into a perpendicular position. Once you feel resistance, stop turning – the stops will offer resistance when the handle reaches its upright position.
On the other hand, gate valves closely resemble outdoor spigots. They have a round handle that operates much the same as hose faucets. To shut off the water with a gate valve, simply turn the handle several times clockwise until you feel resistance. This causes the gate to seat fully, shutting off the water.
Once you turn off the water supply, it doesn’t hurt to drain the faucet you’re working on to ensure the lines are empty. This way, you won’t get a surprise rinse when you start working.