Are You Required to Install a Curb Valve in NYC?

September 29, 2022

Recently there has been a lot of talk regarding curb valves and when they are required to be installed. For many years curb valves were required to be installed on all fire sprinkler mains and combined (domestic & sprinkler in one pipe) water mains. They were also required to be installed on all domestic water mains that were greater than 2 inches in size.

Example: If you are installing a 2″ sprinkler main, DEP requires a curb valve to be installed. If you are installing a 3″ domestic water main, DEP will require a curb valve to be installed.

The recent change has been specific to domestic water mains that are smaller than 3 inches in size. As of August 1st, 2022, the NYC DEP is now enforcing curb valves to be installed on all water mains, regardless of the size and type of water main.

What does this mean for the property owner?

The standard domestic water main will now cost more money than it has in many years. The additional cost is a result of the additional time, labor and material that is associated with installing a curb valve.

The additional material includes the curb valve, and the fittings that are required to install the valve on copper pipe. The valve must also be left accessible from above ground with a curb box. This is a circle cover you will see in the concrete. If you want to close the valve, the cover must be removed and a special key is utilized from above ground to operate the curb valve. It is important to understand that the curb valves are very easy to break if the operator does not have experience, thit must be handled care.

The sidewalk is also required to be excavated for the valve installation and as a result, the property owner is responsible for the cost associated with performing the final concrete restoration. Prior to the curb valves being required the plumber would tunnel below the sidewalk to avoid any openings. Tunneling is no longer an option as the curb valve must be installed within 2′ of the curb line. In most areas of NYC the sidewalk is made of concrete however, there are certain areas that may have grass.  In the event of any obstruction within two feet of the curb line, the plumber is allowed to install the valve within two feet of the property line below the sidewalk. An example of the obstruction would be a tree, tree roots or a utility pole.

There is now also the possibility of an arborist being required on site to monitor digging around a city tree. In this case the property owner is responsible for the cost of the plumber paying the arborist. The arborist will monitor the tree, make sure there is no damage and handle all of the required communication with the NYC Parks Department.

Who can utilize a curb valve?

Legally anyone is allowed to operate your curb valve, currently there is not any ruling against this. However, it is extremely important to understand how delicate the valve is and easy to break. A person utilizing the valve must know exactly how to fit the curb valve key over the valve and understand which type of key to use. To determine which  type of key is required you must identify the type of valve that was installed by removing the curb box cover, and completing a visual inspection. The individual must be familiar with all different types of curb valves to then determine which key will fit.

Utilizing a curb valve may seem like a very basic function but it must be handled by someone who has a lot of experience and an understanding of how different curb valves function.

Recent scenarios

We have a customer in Brooklyn who had their new water main installed on 9/3/22 and she had decided to hire the plumber due to the cost estimate that was provided. This plumber was $700 cheaper than the next lowest quote. Shortly after the work was completed the DEP was at her house to install a new meter and determined that a new valve was not installed on her pipe.

The owner now had to hire another plumber to open the roadway, install a new curb valve and pave the roadway upon completion. She did not receive a city violation but it did cost her a considerable amount of more money to hire a plumber to perform “clean-up” work.

Recently in Queens our customer had a new water main installed due to a leak she had been experiencing inside of the house. The old control valve was not working and there was no way to stop the water. The new copper water main was installed to replace the lead and a new curb valve was installed on the pipe.

The internal plumber came back to the house to perform his repairs and for some reason he decided to close the water from the curb valve and not the new control valve that was installed on the inside of the house. When utilizing the curb valve he turned his key too many times and the stem on the valve actually broke.

The valve was stuck in a closed position and the owner was now required to pay her plumber to open the roadway once again for a new curb valve installation. The plumber should never have touched the curb valve and closed the water from the brand new control valve!

In Manhattan a new copper water main was installed with a new valve that didn’t work upon the first use. This property was having a new stoop installed and they needed to lower the water main by 12″ for the property work. They appeared to have been lucky now that they had a new sidewalk valve to avoid opening the roadway.

The plumber had many years of experience utilizing curb valves however, his key could not get to the valve. The curb box was installed on an angle that did not allow the key to fit directly over the valves operating nut. The sidewalk now had to be excavated to straighten the curb box for use of the valve.

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