A Beginner’s Guide to Installing a Shutoff Valve

When you have a leaking faucet or a broken washing machine, the last thing you want is to waste water or risk flooding your home. Fixing these issues requires shutting off the water flow, which is where shutoff valves come in handy. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you understand and install shutoff valves in your home.

What Is a Shutoff Valve?

If you’re new to homeownership or haven't faced plumbing issues before, you might not be familiar with shutoff valves. These valves control water flow to specific fixtures and appliances, such as showers, toilets, sinks, and washing machines. They connect to your main water pipe and the pipe leading to your fixture, allowing you to turn off the water flow to a particular fixture without affecting the rest of the house.

Ideally, each fixture has its own shutoff valve, allowing you to turn off a leaky faucet or malfunctioning appliance without disrupting your entire water system. These valves are typically located near the fixture, such as under the sink or behind the toilet. In some cases, you might have a single valve for an entire room or even the whole house, but installing additional local shutoff valves can make future repairs much easier.

Before You Begin

Before installing a shutoff valve, there are a few key questions to answer:

  • Do you know where the main shutoff valve for your home is located?
  • What are your water pipes made of?
  • How are the water pipes oriented in relation to the fixtures?
  • Are you replacing an old valve or installing a new one?
  • What kind of valve should you get?

These questions help determine the scope of your project and what materials and tools you'll need.

Turn Off Your Water

Before working on your plumbing, locate the main shutoff valve for your home’s water supply and turn it off. Then, open a faucet on the lowest level of your home to drain any remaining water from the pipes.

Next, unscrew the water supply line from the old valve or the main water pipe if you’re installing a new valve. This will prepare the pipe for the new installation.

Removing Old Valves

If you’re replacing an old, leaky valve on copper pipes, identify the type of connection it has. If the old valve is soldered on, cut through the pipe using a pipe cutter, leaving enough pipe to install the new valve. If it’s a compression valve, hold the valve with a pipe wrench and use another wrench to unscrew the nut. Slide the old valve off; the nut and ferrule can be reused but may continue leaking. A sleeve puller can help remove the ferrule and nut more easily.

Selecting a New Shutoff Valve

Choosing the right shutoff valve depends on your specific needs. Quarter-turn shutoff valves are ideal because they shut off water with a simple quarter turn, making them quick and easy to use in an emergency. Make sure the valve fits your pipe type and connects easily to your supply line.

For copper pipes, a compression valve is a good choice, as it’s easier to install with pliers and a wrench. Iron pipes usually require threaded screw-on valves. PEX and PVC pipes need valves designed specifically for them. Push-fit valves, while slightly more expensive, are versatile and easy to install on any pipe type, requiring no tools.


With the main water valve turned off and the pipes drained, you’re ready to install your new valve. Gather all necessary tools, such as a pipe wrench, pliers, pipe cutter, and ferrule puller. Attach the new valve to the pipe, ensuring it is securely seated with the help of a wrench. Reattach the supply line, ensuring all fittings are snug.

Turn the main water valve back on and open a faucet to release air from the pipes and restore normal water flow. Check the new valve for functionality and leaks. Once everything is working properly, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

Installing a shutoff valve can seem daunting, especially if you’re new to plumbing. However, with some preparation and careful execution, even a beginner can successfully complete this project.

A Beginner’s Guide to Installing a Shutoff Valve
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