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Gas & Water Shut-Off Valves

Frisco's Authority on Gas & Water Shut-Off Valves

Shut-off valves come in a variety of types, sizes, and configurations. Sometimes they are called by different names, but they all serve the same function in the plumbing world—they start or stop the flow of liquids and gases. You have shut-off valves for your main water supply and various other supply lines that provide natural gas and water to your home’s fixtures. You may not think about them much, but when something goes wrong, the results can be catastrophic.

At Earl’s Plumbing, our team is passionate about the care and keeping of these unsung heroes of your home or business’s plumbing. We know everything there is to know about the best materials and types of shut-off valves, and when to replace them before it’s too late. If you suspect a leak, are installing a new fixture or appliance, or need help ensuring the condition of your shut-off valves, trust the team with the highest quality parts and services—trust Earl’s!

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If you’re in Frisco, McKinney, Plano, or any of the surrounding communities, give us a call today.

Why Knowing Your Shut-Off Valves is Critical in Texas

Many people in Texas realized just how important shut-off valves were in February 2021 when multiple days of subzero temperatures magnified by power outages caused water lines to rupture and homes to be flooded. And far too often nobody knew how to turn the water off to the house. Even those did often found that their shut-off valves were old, partially functioning, or worse—not functioning at all. Some were so old they even broke off in people’s hands as they turned them for the first time.

You don’t realize just how important your shut-off valves are until the time comes that you really need them to work. And when they don’t, it’s too late! While you wait hours or days for an emergency plumber to arrive, your home is being damaged every moment. And if the problem happens after normal hours, late at night, on a weekend, or on a holiday, you’ll have to write a check that is likely double or even triple the normal amount.

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Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions

Truth is, we talk to hundreds of people every week who don’t know how to turn the water or gas off in case of an emergency. We hope this overview will provide you with insight into the various shut-off valves that we have in Frisco, McKinney, Plano, Allen, Little Elm, Prosper, and surrounding areas, along with their locations and importance.

If you think that you might have a leak of any kind, this is where shut-off valves really come into play.

In regards to water leaks, obviously, you need to be able to stop the leak to mitigate water damage. But the condition of your shut-off valves also matters from a leak diagnostic standpoint. If you think you might have a significant issue such as a mystery water leak (slab leak), multiple functioning and well-maintained shut-off valves are required throughout the testing process to be able to isolate and narrow down certain areas. This will save time and cost, and ultimately ensure a more accurate diagnosis.

The need for various functioning gas shut-off valves for appliances is also a given. But knowing where they are and keeping them in good condition can save you significantly in the case of a leak. That’s because the gas utilities companies (Atmos or CoServ) do NOT do any repairs in your home or business. They will come out and test for a leak, but all of that is done at the meter. If a gas leak is detected, the gas is then shut off, and you will be told to call a licensed plumber.

But if they have to turn off the gas, then they lock the meter internally (and sometimes externally). Once that meter is locked, getting the gas turned back on takes many extra steps that add significant costs in the form of permits, fees, tests, inspections, and multiple additional trips by the plumber. If you have functioning gas shut-off valves and know where they are and how to turn them off, then you end up saving yourself hundreds of dollars by calling the plumber FIRST to allow us to make the repair without the meter locked down.

In short: Atmos and Coserv do not make repairs. They test for leaks and if there is a leak, they turn the gas off and lock the meter. Doing that adds days (not hours) to the inconvenience as well as hundreds of additional dollars before the gas can be turned back on.

Below are the most common types of shut-off valves found in North Texas. They all have the same function but may operate in different ways, making some versions better or more preferred than others due to ease, longevity, and reliability.

Gate Valves

Gate valves are only used for water (or liquids). From a residential or light commercial plumbing standpoint, most of these valves are fairly basic. A typical gate valve is what you see on your water hose spigot and functions in the same way. The handle looks like a wheel, or it might be oval-shaped. It operates by turning multiple revolutions to open or close. There is typically a rubber gasket mounted onto a screw-type mechanism that pinches down over the opening (the seat), creating a seal and restricting the flow in the off position. These are still used today, just not as often because there are far superior engineering options available.

The problem with a typical residential plumbing-type gate valve is that the point where the seal is made becomes fouled or the gasket materials deteriorate over time, rendering this valve almost useless. The stems can also become corroded over time, leading to leaks. Over extended periods, these valves start to only partially function. That’s especially true when they are exposed to the elements and/or are installed below ground, as is the case when they are used as your whole house shut-off valve in conjunction with your Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV).

Ball Valves

Ball valves come in many different appearances, sizes, and types but they are all engineered to function in roughly the same way. This type of valve has been around for years, but they are more costly, and therefore not used in the new construction plumbing process unless required. However, that slight extra cost translates to much higher quality.

Ball valves are also used for both natural and propane gas as well as water and air applications.  The simple yet superior engineering allows you to turn the knob, handle, or lever just a quarter turn to completely turn the supply off or on. In addition, at the end of this simple quarter turn, there is an obvious hard stopping point that eliminates any guessing as to whether the valve is fully on or off.

In homes and light commercial applications, metal ball valves are the current standard for shut-off valves. But even these can be made of a combination of less expensive and inferior materials, such as plastic stems that can become brittle over time. Unless there is no other option, Earl’s Plumbing only supplies and uses ALL metal ball valves and angle stops for all of our installations and repairs.

Aside from common water hose spigots (Arrowhead brand), Earl’s Plumbing avoids using any other type of shut-off valve unless engineer-specified or required by code. The marginal additional cost for a quality ball valve shut-off device is worth it due to simplicity, increased longevity, and peace of mind that we are leaving you with a good product.

Supply Stops

This type of shut-off valve is by far the most common in any home or business. Technically speaking, “supply stops” are any shut-off valve devices that control the water flow to toilets, faucets, and certain appliances. Supply stops are available in the multi-turn gate valve types, quarter-turn ball valve types, or the less common push-off/pull-on plunger-style type.

Far and away, the most common supply stop is the angle stop. They are all essentially the same, except the angle stop has a 90-degree turn or elbow, hence the word “angle.” But in the field, virtually any shut-off device that controls the water flow to a faucet or toilet is often referred to as an angle stop regardless of its design.

Although these types of shut-off valves are almost always shiny metallic silver in color, they are not always metal. In fact, most have some combination of plastic and metal—and you can imagine which part fails when you try to use it for the first time in years or ever. For less than a $5 difference in price, the lesser quality builder-grade versions have been the culprit of far too many flooded homes and emergency leak repairs.

If your home or business is over 10 years old, you should use an abundance of caution when operating a shut-off valve of any kind. Have a plan in place in case it starts to leak, or worse, breaks off in your hand. After using, check back after a few hours to inspect and ensure a leak has not formed. Or better yet, avoid the risk and allow Earl’s Plumbing to safely and correctly solve this problem and complete your installation.

At Earl’s Plumbing, we only use 100% metal, quarter turn, ball valve type supply stops. Although they are a little more costly than other versions, the minimal additional cost is worth it from a quality outcome and increased life expectancy standpoint.

Push/Pull Water Supply Stops

This type of supply stop or angle stop is a recent addition to the plumbing industry. Found in homes built starting around 2020, these devices are typically white in color, all plastic, and have a flat, plunger-style handle that operates a mechanism that you push or pull. This action either opens or closes the water supply. Sounds simple right? Sure, until you try to use it!

Primarily only used for toilets, faucets, dishwashers, ice makers, and washer boxes, we are seeing two versions of this shut-off valve in North Texas. The most common is from a company called Accor Tech, and their push/pull valve is called “Flowtite.” The other less common is a recessed box version from LSP Products Group. Both are half the price of a traditional angle stop, making them less than $5 each. And based on our experience with customer problems and repairs they are both equally bad. Making matters worse, these devices have soft plastic threads, making them even more problematic.

The cost difference is not significant when compared to a superior all-metal ball valve stop like we use at Earl’s Plumbing. But even small amounts can equal significant savings for the new construction plumber where the margins are razor thin. It is when the homeowner tries to use the valve or decides to upgrade their cheap “builder grade” toilet, faucet, or other devices that the problems begin to exist.

In summary, these types of “push-to-connect” plunger-style valves are, frankly, garbage for a variety of reasons, and in our opinion, they should NOT be allowed by plumbing code. At this time, however, they are allowed. So if you have this type of shut-off in your home you may want to consider this as a future plumbing replacement project. Although relatively new, these types of valves have caused an inordinate amount of emergency water leak calls and home damage.  Use caution and have a plan to turn off the water at the main shut-off in case of an emergency.

Emergency Valves

Emergency shut-offs are also known as leak detection devices. Usually, these are mechanical ball valves that are automatically actuated to shut off the water or gas flow in the case of an emergency or detected leak.

In certain commercial applications, plumbing code requires these shut-offs to be in place on specific gas appliances. As of 2023, there are no code requirements for residential applications in North Texas, but similar leak detection devices are very good when it comes to preventing major water damage and for basic loss mitigation purposes.

There are multiple brands and versions of emergency shut-off valves and leak-detection devices on the market. Some are fairly basic and are triggered by moisture. These types are what we would call “point of use” devices. Earl’s Plumbing offers and strongly encourages a shut-off device called “Flood Stop” for water heater installations.

There are also multiple whole home shut-off devices that are installed on the main water line. These are typically app-based and protect your home by detecting unusual patterns of water flow. The Moen Flo is one of the whole home products that we offer and are most familiar with.

Some homeowners insurance policies are starting to require leak detection devices to be installed prior to renewal, while others are offering significant discounts if they are in place and monitored.

There are the obvious shut-off valves that many homeowners are familiar with: every toilet and sink faucet will have an accessible water shut-off valve or angle stop. Then of course there are the easy-to-spot but seldom-used ice maker box and washer box shut-offs.

According to the Texas Plumbing Code, every appliance or device that operates on flammable gas (natural gas or propane) MUST have a “readily accessible” shut-off valve.

Oddly enough, showers and tub faucets are NOT required to have shut-off valves. Anyone that has had a shower cartridge that will not turn off or that has stopped functioning probably knows what an issue this can be. We get calls every week where customers’ showers have been running for an hour or longer and they don’t know what to do. This example is just one of many we can give as to the importance of the “what, where, and how” of the various shut-off valves in your home or business and also why they must be fully accessible and operational.

The shut-off valves mentioned so far all have a certain level of importance. In a perfect world, they should all be functioning and accessible and you should know how they operate. But the most important shut-off valves in your home or business that must be functioning and readily accessible are:

  • Main Water Shut-off 
    LOCATION – Depending upon the age of the home, this is usually either in a valve box in the front flowerbed or behind an access panel in the garage. Please note that we are NOT referring to the water meter shut-off valve but your own personal main line shut-off valve. This shut-off valve is the most important due to its frequency of use/need, but it is not always easily accessible and must be maintained. If properly functioning and readily accessible, it can easily be operated by hand. This one shut-off valve can save you thousands of dollars in repairs, countless hours of frustration, and months of living in a hotel while repairs are being made.
  • Gas Meter Shut-Off (and Individual Gas Shut-Offs)
    LOCATION – This is very dependent upon where the gas smell is coming from. The main shut-off valve will be at the gas meter and is easily accessible, but you will need a large wrench or pliers to operate it. This only requires a quarter turn, despite the fact that it might make a full revolution. Otherwise, you can turn off the individual gas appliance at its shut-off. Remember, this one shut-off valve can save you hundreds of dollars and possibly even your life!
  • Hot Water Heater Shut-Off 
    LOCATION – This shut-off valve is almost always easily accessible but not always fully operational or functioning due to its limited lifespan. Its location is always on the incoming cold water line, which is almost always on the right side of the water heater(s). Tracing the cold water line back to the device is always helpful. When everything is fully functional and correct, it can be easily operated by hand when in good condition. Having an emergency leak detection shut-off device such as a Flood Stop is always a good idea, especially if your water heaters are located in the attic.

 

Coming in Q3 of 2023, our Earl’s Plumbing annual membership program will inspect all of these shut-off devices and then some via a full home annual safety inspection. During that inspection, we can show you where these shut-off devices are and how they are intended to function and operate. And if they are suspect or problematic, we can provide you with replacement options.

To be clear, the round water meter box near the street is NOT where you should be turning off the water.  This should be a last resort and is technically only to be used by utility providers and licensed professionals. That is why it is locked and requires a special key and meter wrench to operate.

Your home has a main water shut-off valve that is specifically designed for homeowners to access in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, most homeowners do not know that this shut-off valve exists, much less the location. Not knowing creates another problem because the likelihood of this valve being ignored and neglected becomes that much higher. That in turn means that it is likely not accessible, functioning, and therefore usable.

If you fall into this group and your home was built before 2015, the likelihood of this device being accessible and in good working order is remote. If the home was built before 2012 then it is also most likely a gate valve (see above). We strongly suggest NOT attempting to use this shut-off before having it inspected, as it could create a much bigger issue. Depending on your city and the age of the home, your main shut-off valve should be located in one of the following places:

Front Flower Bed

Starting in about 1999, homes were built with a valve box most likely to the left or right of the two sewer cleanouts. As a point of reference, the sewer cleanouts are the two white pipes that stick up in the front flower bed. The shut-off valve shares a box with the Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) if required by city code.

There will always be a valve box: sometimes it is round and small and sometimes it is large and rectangular. However, often this is buried by mulch and/or landscape. It should also be noted that the main line does NOT always travel near the cleanouts. Although this is the most common route (90%), it can be tricky to locate and sometimes we must use specialized equipment and techniques.

Garage or Utility Room Access Panel

Starting around 2017, most shut-off valves have been relocated from the flower bed/yard area to the garage or utility room. This is not a hard-and-fast rule because we have seen shut-offs (and PRVs) in garages in homes that were built in the late 1990s. Typically, there is an access panel or an oddly placed cabinet door that obscures the view. Garage installs are more common when the driveway and garages are in the front of the house versus the rear. This continues to be the most common practice for new construction.

Main Water Manifold Closet

Although this setup is a great idea, it is not very common due to the added expense and labor when plumbing the home. We started seeing these manifold shut-off systems in about 2020.  These setups are rare and usually considered an upgrade on a semi-custom home.

A manifold closet allows for entire lines to be independently shut off when needed. In other words, there will be a main shut-off for cold lines and another for hot lines. Each area, bathroom, and sometimes individual fixtures will have its own individual shut-off valve for the hot and cold lines, all neatly labeled and in one nice convenient location.

In the Yard

As previously stated, every home will have a main water shut-off valve that is NOT the meter. In fact, it is VERY rare to find a home without a main shut-off valve. We will come across those situations on occasion in very old historical homes. But 99.99% of the time, somewhere between the meter and the home there will be a way to shut off the water to prevent or mitigate water damage.

If your main shut-off is not in any of the previous locations, there will likely be a small valve box close to the home. If you do not already know where it is and/or that it exists, then it might be pretty difficult to find without special locating equipment. And that is where Earl’s Plumbing would come in.

You should know that a slight gas smell near certain equipment that has a gas regulator is not uncommon. If your system has gas regulators, they will occasionally balance pressure and emit a small amount of gas from time to time. This occasional odor is intermittent, never constant, and only happens when regulators are present.

Next, depending on the location of the smell (attic, stove, water heater(s), pool equipment, etc.) you can turn the shut-off valve(s) off at the device or appliance. In the case of an attic, you might want to turn off the gas supply to all of the appliances in that area, including the water heater(s) and furnaces.

If you are unsure what to do, a little nervous, and/or the smell is outside, then you should do the following:

  1. Find your largest wrench or pair of pliers
  2. Proceed to your gas meter location and locate the two pipes coming from the ground
  3. Find the one of these two pipes that has a shut-off valve
  4. Using the wrench or large pliers, grip the flat part of the valve and slightly turn a QUARTER TURN
  5. Make sure that you did not turn more than a quarter turn! Many gas valve shut-offs will rotate 360 degrees
  6. Call Earl’s Plumbing at 972-845-1700 and we will take it from there

Depending on your level of concern, you will have to make the best call at the time. Some people call the gas utilities provider and some even call the Fire Department. Neither of those is wrong, but if you have a gas leak, the only thing either of those two entities will be able to do is to confirm you have a leak and then turn off the gas meter and lock it until fully resolved, tested, permitted, and inspected.

It is not uncommon for us to arrive at a gas leak where Atmos, CoServ, or the Fire Department has arrived and locked the meter, but then upon our testing, there is no leak to be found. A licensed plumber still must perform a thorough test of the entire gas system, but now we also have to pull a permit and get it inspected. By calling Earl’s Plumbing we can complete the same tests, make the repair, and get the gas turned back on all on the same day without the additional trips, a permit, or an inspection.

A common worst-case scenario is getting a gas leak call on a Friday. Leak or no leak, same day repair or not, once the meter is locked by the utility provider or the Fire Department, we cannot get your gas turned back on before Monday afternoon or even Tuesday unless a significant weather event is expected.

So, the homeowner turning the gas off at the meter is always the preferred option. If you know where the shut-off valve is and can turn the gas off with a slight quarter turn, we can get your gas turned back on the same day and save you hundreds.

This is typically on the right side of the heater’s location. Both tankless and tank water heaters will have one and sometimes more than one shut-off valve.

The reason that the water heater shut-off valve is important is the propensity for them to be ignored and then start leaking. Waterfalls from the ceiling in the middle of the living room or rivers running out of the garage are not normal or preferred. You must be proactive in replacing water heaters that are above living areas. The shut-off valve, if needed, will only limit the damage and obviously can only be employed when someone is home and knows what to do.

Older tank water heaters will likely have a multi-turn gate valve but they may not function properly, so be careful. If installed correctly, newer water heaters and most tankless water heaters will have quarter-turn ball valves and usually more than one.

Please note that many of the larger houses in the North Texas area may have a recirculation pump and/or a dedicated recirculation line. This is important to note in case of an emergency or when work is performed, as this pump should also have its own separate shut-off valves. They will need to be turned off and the pump unplugged to stop the water flow.

Earl’s Plumbing offers a shut-off device called FloodStop for water heater installations. We strongly recommend this to our customers with water heaters in attics. These are great, long-lasting, and highly suggested if your water heaters (tanks or tankless) are above a living area.

Although water heaters are no longer allowed to be installed in the attics during construction, there are well over a half million homes that we service that have an attic installation setup. It was very common in Frisco, McKinney, and surrounding areas in the early to mid-2000s. There’s nothing wrong with an attic installation if homeowners are proactive in replacement. But as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”

Leak detection devices provide a backstop and peace of mind. FloodStop brand makes other products for clothes washers, dishwashers, and other leak-prone areas.

There are also multiple whole home leak detection devices that can be installed on the main water line. These are typically Wi-Fi enabled and app-based, like the Moen Flo. They typically protect by detecting unusual patterns of water flow or deviations from your normal life patterns.

Of course, water leaks do not always come in the form of a leaking water heater, toilet, faucet, or appliance. Sometimes the leak comes from below ground. Slab leaks (and sewer breaks) can cause water damage to the interior of the home as well. A continual pinhole slab leak can saturate the ground to a point that the water has nowhere to go but up through the various pipe penetrations in the slab. Once the water has migrated to the surface cabinets, walls, and flooring can be damaged and create mold.

Making a repair to a slab leak requires access to the pipe. This is typically NOT covered by regular homeowners insurance policies. However, every policy should offer an additional endorsement that will cover the access portion of the repair. Usually, the access is the most expensive part of a slab leak.

Call your insurance company today to make sure that you have this very important endorsement or coverage on your policy. For total protection, you can back that up with an Earl’s Plumbing membership’s annual safety inspections, along with a whole home leak detection and water shut-off device service from Earl’s Plumbing.

See What Frisco is Saying About Our Water Leak & Drain Services

“Great service as usual. They’ve done 5 different jobs for me and all have been outstanding. I won’t use anyone other than Earl’s.”

Terry D

“Earl’s is 100% professional grade. Prompt, communicative service, absolute high quality work, and their leader – Brant was outstanding. I strongly recommend Earl’s, enthusiastically.”

Richard M

“I called Brant on Friday and he quickly responded with a quote after he physically checked the front yard leakage. He also set the right expectation on possible leaks under the driveway which could cost more. The day he sent technicians over to do the repair and they spent hours digging under the driveway and identified the source of the leak without the need to cut the concrete which saved a lot of money for me. They charged me at a fair price even with a day’s long hard work. I highly recommend Earl’s Plumbing for their professionalism and consideration for their customers. Will call them again for any plumbing needs I may have in the future.”

Frank Y.
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Call Earl’s for Peace of Mind with Shut-Off Valves & More

At Earl’s Plumbing, our goal is to be your partner in home maintenance. We don’t want to see your home or business flooded, damaged, or in disrepair any more than you do, which is why we take even the seemingly small things seriously. Call our team to install or repair your toilet, faucet, water heater, leak detection device, or any other fixture and rest assured that you’ll receive only the highest quality products that will last.

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