Help!! My shower just turned on (and it's in the off position...)!
January 22, 2019 11:32 PM   Subscribe

So I took a shower about an hour ago. Everything functioned as normal. Now, an hour later, the shower has just turned itself on. Not dribbling a little water, full-on shower levels. The shower handle lever is still in the down/off position. Is this a burst winter pipe situation? What do I do? I have never had to deal with this before ever. It is the middle of the night, so calling the landlords is not optimal but I could try.
posted by vegartanipla to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I’d call the landlord if you don’t know how to turn the water main off so you can go to bed (in my house you could do this quickly in the crawl space) since they probably know where the shutoff is. If you can’t reach them here is a quickly googled guide to figuring out where your shutoff is.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:46 PM on January 22, 2019

It’s probably not a burst pipe situation- that usually manifests in water going through places it normally wouldn’t. This is water going through a normal path, just not getting stopped by whatever usually stops it. I’m not a plumber, but it seems likely you just have a broken valve somewhere in your shower...situation.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:52 PM on January 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the advice! I tried the landlord like four times but I think they are (like me) people who have their phone programmed to not ring during sleep hours. I then decided to call the (non-emergency line) police because I really didn't know what else to do and thought they might have some recommendations. They very, very, extremely kindly sent two officers over asap who shut off my main water line because I had no idea where that was located. Hopefully my landlords can fix whatever broke tomorrow or at least soonish; they are actually HVAC people by trade so they either can or know who will be able to.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: It's not bad for the pipes for the main water line to be shut off overnight, right? It is freezing here - presently 21*F with a low of 18*F.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:15 AM on January 23, 2019

You’re probably fine as long as you don’t have pipes going through uninsulated spaces (you likely don’t if you regularly see winter temps like that and you live in a place with reasonable building codes) and you have the heat in the place at normal comfortable temperatures. And yay for helpful police!
posted by charmedimsure at 12:24 AM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

If the main valve going to the house is off, just turn on all your faucets until nothing is coming out. This empties the pipes and they won’t burst if they freeze
posted by christiehawk at 12:29 AM on January 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

also, if you happen to have a shower head with an off setting, set that. and if you can set the temp, choose cold.
posted by zippy at 12:56 AM on January 23, 2019

If you're feeling adventurous, you could go down to your basement (or wherever the plumbing comes into your home) and see if you can't trace out which water lines serve the shower. No guarantees, but there might be ball valves on those lines which would allow you to turn off the shower but turn back on the water main. Turn the handles so that they are pointing perpendicular to the pipes rather than parallel to them—perpendicular is the off position for pretty much all valves of this type.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:21 AM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, your pipes are no more likely to freeze with the water main shut off than with it on. As long as the areas where they reside don't drop below 32°F/0°C you will be fine there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:23 AM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

This empties the pipes ...

Probably minor quibble, but it empties the pipes that are higher than the lowest faucet you've opened. Pipes below that faucet are still full of (unpressurized) water. I doubt that they will freeze, but that is likely the coldest part of the house.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:43 AM on January 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Just to emphasize what AOANLA,T said, the pipes aren't going to freeze just because the supply is turned off. There is no difference between that case and the normal "not using water at night" case.

And I agree, yeah cops.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:34 PM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

The lowest place to get water out is usually an outside hose bibb - where you hook a water hose up. If you have one, open it, and open something up as high as you can.
Draining some of the water is going to help the freezing pipe situation since the pipes aren't completely full, the ice has places to "grow" .

You might also look at the other side of the wall that the shower head is in. If you are really lucky, there might be a panel with some valves behind it to cut the water to the tub. This is more common in older structures.

If you can't get ahold of LL, you can go to a home improvement store and get a pipe cap that fits the standard pipe thread found on the probably chrome pipe the shower head screws on to. Get a worker to help you find what you need if needed.
That and a cheap say 6" pipe wrench and a little teflon tape (cheep) and you can close off that pipe.
posted by rudd135 at 5:48 PM on January 23, 2019

Yes, if you want to drain the pipes open the lowest tap in the house, or just all of them for that matter because depending on how stuff is plumbed there may be some local minima in there. But you don't really have to unless conditions are such that frozen pipes would be a concern in any case. In fact, if you're ever concerned that your pipes could freeze (e.g. it's winter and you're about to go on vacation for a week) it's not the worst idea to shut the water off at the main and drain the pipes.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:33 PM on January 23, 2019

If you have an electric water heater you should turn the breaker off to prevent possible damage to your elements.
posted by Mitheral at 9:08 PM on January 27, 2019

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