Changing your main water shutoff valve: Toronto

The human body is composed of roughly 80% water. To say that fresh water is vital to our existence is quite true. Living in Toronto, Canada, we get our drinking water from our municipal water purification plant and water supply piping system. While those in condominiums and large apartments rely on property management companies to worry about these minute details, the rest of us that live in houses must fend for ourselves. Municipal water arrives from a pipe deep underground, protected from the frost. There is a water shutoff on your front lawn, as well as main water shutoff inside your house. If your main water shutoff has seized shut or open and you cannot turn it in either direction, you will need to replace it. Without a way to shut off the water in your house you risk flooding your house if a water pipe bursts, for whatever reason. Here is how to change your main water shutoff in Toronto, Canada.

You can phone the City of Toronto’s 311 information number to have someone locate your municipal shutoff valve. This is usually on your front lawn, on the side of your house where your water meter is located. Since my grass covered my municipal water shutoff valve, this was not easy and I needed help. The city will dig out the grass covering your shutoff valve as well.

The process for replacing or repairing your main water shutoff valve is pretty simple but a little expensive. These details include:

  1. Call a plumbing company the day before and arrange for a plumber to be at your house at 10:30 am. This can be done in advance.
  2. The day of the repair, call the City’s 311 information number and request your water be turned off. Tell them that you have booked a plumber for 10:30 am. While the official turnaround time for the city is within 24 hours, they will strive to turn off the water before your plumber arrives. They will provide a reference number, so that if a City worker does not arrive you can call the city back with your number. Today I called the City at 06:00 am to shut off my water, told them about booking my plumber for 10:30 am, and the water technician was at my house at 8:45 am. Someone needs to be home for them to turn off your water. The City of Toronto charges $75CAD to shut off your water. This takes them about 1 minute.
  3. The plumber will arrive to change the main water shutoff valve. This valve is under pressure and you certainly do not want this to leak. As well, there is some leakage from the municipal water shutoff valve, and this seepage can make soldering a new valve difficult. Water deep in the pipe turns to steam and prevents a good soldered joint. You might be able to stuff bread in the pipe to prevent this. I had to use a thin polyethylene tube to suction out enough water to replace the valve before it overflowed. This is not a DIY job. Expect to pay around $250 – $300CAD.
  4. Once your plumber repairs or replaces your main water shutoff valve, call the City’s 311 info number again to have your water turned on. This will cost you an additional $75CAD, and will take the technician about 1 minute to complete the work. I was told I was lucky today because they arrived at my house 30 minutes after I called. The city will again provide a reference number.
  5. Turn on your main water shutoff valve and enjoy your water.

The financial cost at the end of the day was $260CAD for the plumber and $150CAD to the City, for a total of $410CAD.

While the charge from the City seems excessive, we taxpayers must pay more for the water infrastructure that we enjoy daily. In my case my municipal water shutoff valve worked wonderfully, even though it had not moved for near 30 years. The water technician used a tool that was only 1.5′ long. The valve is actually over 4′ deep underground, but there is a 3′ metal rod that stays in the ground and is connected to the shutoff valve. Note that in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto with over 320,000 people, there are only 2 water technicians on staff.

I could not believe that the plumbing company would charge $235 + HST to change one simple water shutoff valve. It certainly became believable when the plumber showed up. My supply pipe, buried in the concrete in my basement, was now a non-standard size. The measured supply diameters were 3/4″, 13/16″ output, 3/4″ threaded output. This connection was soldered. The output of the shutoff valve that goes to the water meter, was a threaded brass pipe. It turns out that the company that made my valve discontinued it many years ago. It took a trip to Home Depot and two trips to the plumbing supply store to get the right fix. This fix took a long time to figure out, but was quickly completed once a solution was found. Alan is a smart guy.

There are some repairs that the average handyman should not do on their own. The risk of flooding is too great to take this risk, so I was willing to call in a professional. I am glad that I did, because in the end it was done properly, and should last another 30 years.

Thanks to Alan Pir of Anta Plumbing (416-231-3331) for a job well done.

Note that the City of Toronto is in the process of replacing all house water meters. Started in 2010 this program will ramp up between 2013 and 2015, Scarborough and most of the City of Toronto included. This water meter replacement will require the home owner to shut off their main water shutoff valve so that the water meter can be replaced. If any homeowner has installed a water shutoff valve after the meter, this will be insufficient. The main water shutoff valve, between the city supply and the City water meter, will need to be serviced.

4 thoughts on “Changing your main water shutoff valve: Toronto

  1. Jane

    When I first moved in into my place, I had big restoration plans, but only until I realised how costly calling a pro to fix or inspect anything in your house is. I am a social scientist, so repairing anything on my own is totally out of question… and seeing the prices you listed here, I guess I will have to be fine with my current water shutoff valve.

  2. DA

    Few facts have changed. 1. It costs $78 to turn off the water then $78 to turn it back on, also you only need an 8 hour window from when you need it shut off so as it’s a 24 hour operation you could call at 2am and theoretically they should be there to shut off the water by or before 10am. Still, I think this is another shameful government racket. This should be free as it used to be when the counselors weren’t so careless with our money.

  3. Ann

    Is the City available 24/7 to call and turn water off?

    [Don: Hi Ann, I believe they are, because there might be a emergency water pipe break. You’ll need to call 311 to find out. FYI The water pipes on my street were all changed this summer. The city came around and replaced everyone’s water shutoff valve as well as water meter for free.]

  4. Tim

    If the water shutoff is located before the water meter, is it considered city property?

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