Lately things have been trending in a positive direction on the home front as we wrap up a productive season of hard work on the outside of our house, which is mostly a good thing but also sometimes leaves me feeling like we’re not upholding the “disaster” portion of our name quite enough. Fortunately my house has remedied that concern, with our recent discovery that the basement was full of water. Yay!
I didn’t get a photo since I was too busy assessing the flood, but I’m sure many of you have been there and can picture the scene. This has happened on occasion before when the washer outlet hose (which drains to the utility sink) has gotten misplaced by one of us and discharged onto the floor. This time, however, we discovered that the washer itself was completely full of water (not as a result of us running the machine), and since we had left the door open (to prevent mustiness when not in use) it had then overflowed onto the floor. After cleaning up the floor and emptying the water from the washer, we determined that the washer had a slow leak into the drum, though it was so slow that we’re not sure how it got so out of hand in the first place.
Sam quickly found a YouTube video that suggested it was a broken inlet valve, so he placed an order for the replacement part suggested by the video (more to come on that later in this saga….). So that was Issue #1, hopefully with resolution in sight.
In the meantime we wanted to figure out how to turn the water off to the washer to avoid further leakage, so we set about trying to do that. But of course it’s never easy. First we found that the washer connects to the utility sink through this very old and rusty shutoff valve:
But it was so corroded that we couldn’t get the lever to move. So instead we searched around for the sink shutoff valve, assuming that if we could turn off water to the utility sink then the water to the washer would stop too. Despite a lengthy hunt around the basement looking for the elusive shutoff valve, it was nowhere to be found — so we returned to the washer shutoff as our only option. With the help of some banging and some WD40 we finally got it to turn off, success! But then of course it started leaking. And thus Issue #2 was born.
I had never seen anything that looked like that same valve before, but by googling “really old washer shutoff valve” I was able to determine that it’s a Watts Washing Machine Shutoff Valve. Folks online said it’s not uncommon for it to spring a leak once it gets pretty old, so I was hopeful that I could replace it and put Issue #2 to rest. And fortunately I was able to find a replacement on Amazon for just $39 (affiliate link – read our policies).
We still wanted to turn off the water though, since now we had a leaky washing machine and a leaky shutoff valve. Some additional research convinced me that there probably wasn’t a local shutoff for the utility sink unfortunately (since it would have been right under the sink, which is obviously the first place we looked). Yay, Issue #3! That meant that the only way to stop the water flow would be to turn off water to the whole house, which seemed a tad bit inconvenient given that it would still be a few days before the replacement inlet valve and Watts shutoff valve arrived and we like to use the water in our house to like drink water, shower, flush the toilet, etc. So we just put out some buckets and crossed our fingers that the leaks would stay relatively contained.
Fortunately they did (which still makes us wonder how the initial flood got so big), so this weekend once we had the parts in hand we got to work.
To solve everything we had to work in reverse order: Solve Issue #3 (turning off the water), then Issue #2 (leaking shutoff valve), and then finally Issue #1 that started the whole thing (leaking inlet valve in the washer).
We started by trying to turn off the water to the whole house. I say trying because we did successfully locate the main water shutoff valve to the house, right near the water meter:
I had a moment where I was confused because there’s a line coming from the electrical box to this same pipe (the line coming from the left of the photo above), but then I remembered that the grounding for the electrical box is often a conductor that is clamped to the main plumbing line. Look at me putting my learning to use in understanding my house.
Anyway, I succeeded in turning the main shutoff valve such that water was no longer running to any of the fixtures in our house. Except the basement utility sink, which continued to have some water coming through. Because why not.
We renewed our search for another shutoff valve because where the hell could this water be coming from, but were unsuccessful so we decided we had to give up on fully solving Issue #3 and take the plunge to replace the Watts valve while there was still a little water running. We cleared the area of anything electrical, figured out our plan of attack, and then executed as quickly as possible.
First we loosened the big screws connecting the old shutoff valve to the plumbing from the side of the sink:
They did not want to turn, but with some more WD40 and my power drill we got them loose. As predicted water started coming out (hence the break in photos), but it was a pretty manageable quantity with a bucket in place. We quickly got the new valve in place, determining that our setup did not require the threaded connecters that came with it:
These remove easily, though, and then you can just slip the valve over the pipes and attach them by tightening the big screws. There are little black plastic washer things you should be sure to slip over the ends of the pipes to create a nice tight seal. Once we had the screws tightened we flipped the lever and the water stopped. Success! Then all we had to do was connect the washer hoses to the other end of the valve and we were in business.
With the exciting ability to fully shut off water to the washer, we embarked on fixing Issue #1, replacing the leaking inlet valve. We followed the instructions in the very helpful YouTube video to take the top of the washer off:
Uncertain who to blame for this, we revisited the YouTube video and determined that the part used in the video was the correct part, and the part number listed on the video was actually wrong. We scrolled through the comments and towards the bottom noticed someone else calling this out over two years ago, but the video owner had still failed to update the video to note this issue. So on balance, I’m not a huge fan of this YouTuber.
We will have to return the original part to Amazon and eat the shipping cost because it wasn’t their error, and now wait for the correct part to arrive before we can resolve Issue #1 (assuming that a broken inlet valve is the problem in the first place…). But at least in the meantime we can turn off the water to the washer when we aren’t using it with our trusty new washer shutoff valve! So even though this whole thing hasn’t exactly been a resounding victory quite yet, I’m pleased that we now have a way to reliably turn water off to the washer *and* I feel like I learned a lot about how the plumbing in my house works. I hope you learned a little something today too that might be helpful if you’re ever trying to fix washing machine plumbing! And no matter how much we spend on parts and shipping, it still won’t cost nearly what having a plumber come out would, so that feels good.