Do You Have A Sidewalk Valve or Street Valve for Your Water Main?

February 28, 2015

Most property owners assume that they have a sidewalk valve (AKA curb valve) to control the water on the outside of their home. This is a common misconception, the majority of homes in the five boroughs do not have a sidewalk valve. Most often a homeowner will experience a water main leak on the inside of the house, and spend several hours trying to locate a valve on the sidewalk for an internal plumbing repair. In these situations the only option for repair is to open the roadway, and control the water from the street valve.

Many people also assume that there is a way to control their water main from a valve located in the street, this is another major misconception as street level valves do not exist in NYC. The only valve (wet tap connection) to control the water line is approximately four feet below street level, and is located on the city main.

Water control valve below street level
Water control valve below street level

Close up of tap connection
Close up of tap connection

When is a curb valve required by DEP?

  • A new sprinkler main of any size
  • A combined water service (sprinkler & domestic water fed through one pipe)
  • Any water main (sprinkler or domestic) three inches or larger in size
  • All of the above installations will require a permit and inspection by DEP.

New curb valve
New curb valve for sprinkler

Curb valve box
Curb valve box

Should you install a curb valve on a new water line?

A water line leak usually results in a frantic homeowner who wants to avoid any major water main construction at their house for many years to come. For this reason, they inquire about installing a curb valve on the new water line installation and are usually surprised when a licensed plumber advises against it. If the new water line is not required to have a curb valve, it is suggested to install the new water line in one length of copper, with no separations to install a curb valve. When installing a curb valve, the pipe has to be separated to connect the fittings and curb valve. This separation makes your water line more susceptible to leaking in the future. Your new water line should last an average of 65 years without having to repair the pipe. A new water main will always include a new control valve on the inside of the house if the water from the roadway has to be turned off.

There are some cases where a new water main may include a separation in the pipe and the use of fittings. This would be due to the layout of the house or distance from the city main.

Recently in NYC

A homeowner experienced water pouring through their wall due to the separation of an old and corroded water main. They thought they had lucked out as they became aware of a sidewalk valve. To the homeowner’s surprise, the valve ended up being for the gas line. The homeowner now had no option but to replace the existing lead water line from the street, to inside the new house, with a new ball valve.

Water main leak at wall
Water main leak at wall

New pipe installation
New pipe installation

Then entire process was completed within five hours, the water main was a “short water” (city main located on the same side of the street as the house), and was completed with two 3×4 holes.

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