water shutoff valve installed in a difficult to access location

Inaccessible Main Water Shut-off Valve | Gibsons

Abstract: Gibsons Home Inspector notes on how the BC Plumbing Code is poorly worded and applied to the main water shut-off valve, and its accessibility in case of emergency.

Photo: Main water shutoff valve located next to the foundation wall. Difficult to access because it is in the crawlspace, distant from the access hatch. What poor planning on the part of the general contractor and the plumber!

In the course of an inspection, we always look for the main water shutoff valve. Homeowners need to know where to find it in case of emergency. We document the location with a photo in the report.

Poor Construction Practice

Crawlspaces are the worst offenders. The municipal water supply line is typically terminated with the main valve close to the foudation wall. The access hatch to the crawspace may be meters away. Only by a slow painful crawl can one get to the valve’s location. Other times it’s near the water heater, but obstructed by the tank or plumbing.

It’s almost as if the plumbing contractor takes glee out of being the most creative with locating the valve in the most inconvient spot. 

Although it may be the master shutoff valve, it is certainly not readily accessible, let alone in an emergency.

Best Practices

Given the opportunity to edit the BC Building Code’s plumbing section on this issue, we would recommend the following design to be manditory when installing the main water shutoff valve:

  • The water valve shall be readily accesssible in an emergency.
  • The valve shall be located within 1.5 meters of the hot water tank or any access hatch.

That’s it. 

BC Building Code, Plumbing Technical Committee… you are welcome.