Last week something happened during an inspection that had never happened to me before. At first I thought it was a slight brain fade moment. A few seconds later, it was more of "wait a sec" moment. Then it turned into a full 'OH CRAP" moment.
During the course of inspecting a house, I flush the toilets, turn on sink faucets, run the tubs and active the shower diverters. It's just part of checking out the fixtures and the drains. It's a pretty common policy not to turn water valves such as main shut off valves and fixture shut off valves. If they haven't been used for a while, they might just decided to start leaking when you turn them, or break. I don't operate valves for that reason.
However, I do operate tub and shower controls. I check to make sure the HOT water is on the correct side, there are no leaks, and they shut off without continuous dripping. I've done this for close to twenty years.
So here I was in the 40+ year old house checking the bathrooms. I got to the master shower and turned on the left faucet and waited for the hot water to flow. The I turned on the right faucet and let it run a while so I could check the drain. After flushing the toilet a few times and running the sink to check functional flow, I went to turn off the shower.
So I turned the faucets "righty tighty" and the oddest thing happened, the shower kept running. "Oh, OK" (here's the brain fade moment), maybe one of the faucets was reversed ("I don't remember that, but, well, maybe"), so I turn them the other way, then one after the other. The water was still running. The time between the "wait a sec" and the "OH CRAP" is really just a fraction of a second. The water is NOT shutting off.
I now go down to the basement and turn off the water to the house at the main valve. Good thing for me, it was a newer lever valve and shut off fine. My next stop would have been the meter in the front yard.
I have a pretty good idea what happened. Either the screw (that holds the washer) has come off the end of the valve stem, or the stem itself has broken. Either way, it's going to be a call to a plumber to get it fixed before the water get turned on again.
The good thing is the house is vacant.
While I have had my share of shower diverters shoot out of the fixture when I push the button, or faucet handles that leak like crazy, I have never had one not shut off.
Just goes to show you - always be ready for the unexpected.