change washer hookup --- but no shutoff valve in sight!

In my basement I have a standard washer hookup. Hot and cold supply lines lead to a single valve with a vertical lever that, when down, allows hot to go to the hot washer hose and cold to the cold washer hose.
The single valve with the vertical lever (I do not know what it is called) is failing. Water is slowly dripping from the interior of the lever area, which looks rather corroded. The value is probably 40-50 years old.
I want to replace the valve, and it looks like there are two screws facing the front that hold it on the hot and cold supply lines. I unloosed one of the screws and received a nice spray. This is a good sign (even though I got a bit wet) in terms of what the screws do.
On Monday I am going to go to a plumbing supply place and get a new washer valve (hopefully they still make the same size valves...) Assuming I do this, I see one problem. For the hot supply line, there are no shutoff valves between the washer valve and the hot water heater. For the cold supply line, the only valve between the washer valve and the supply line for my house is a shutoff that will shut the water off to the entire house.
So, I anticipate that I am going to have to turn off my main house shutoff valve before I remove the washer valve. Is this a risky thing? What is the main house shutoff valve fails?
Will I have to drain a ton of water after turning off my main house shutoff valve? I presume that any water above the washer valve will want to come down and out where I am working after I remove the washer valve. Should I turn off the house shutoff and then, say, open an upstairs sink fixture to get rid of any pressure upstairs before I mess with the basement washer valve?
Thanks,
mh
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------------ Sounds to me like you can turn off the water supply coming in to the water heater, then drain the water heater. You'll have much less water to deal with then at the valve site.
Assuming you can turn off the water into the water heater, there is no reason to have to turn off the main.
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except to turn off the cold water?
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---------------- I think he said he's got a cold water shutoff by the washer.
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which will obviously shut off the hot as well.
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fixhouse wrote:

First, if your valve is really 40-50 years old, you probably won't find and identical replacement, so expect to do a bit of work.
Second, Yes you need to turn water off to the whole house. If you can easily get to the street valve, it would be best to turn it off there, but some places frown on that or require the turn off to be made by the water company. Otherwise, just turn the main shut off valve for the house.
Third, yes the water above will have to be drained. The water in the hot water tank will stay there. Normally there is a valve at the water heater on the cold inlet side and you should turn that off to prevent possible siphoning. You are on the right track. Open hot and cold sink valves on the main floor to release pressure and to drain water from any floor above. Turn the washer valves off, and disconnect the hoses from the washer and put in a sink or in the washer drain and then open the valves to drain water from the upper floor. Even if you have to catch the water in a bucket, you can probably get by with one or two buckets as there really isn't that much water that will drain from the system.
Forth, now is the hard part, removing the valve getting a replacement that fits the pipes, and installing it. Good Luck.
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Be sure to turn off the water heater before beginning.
Harry K
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fixhouse wrote:

<SNIP>
Sounds like an old Cash-Acme WMC valve.
In typical fashion the staid old co. was sold and moved and resold, etc. It is now part of some Int'l group.
But the valve is still listed: http://www.cashacme.com/wm.html
Here's a similar: http://www.plumbingstore.com/wash.html
As others said, shut off the main and drain the piping from floor above. Do NOT drain the water heater; not necessary.
Jim
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On 12/4/2004 11:51 PM US(ET), fixhouse took fingers to keys, and typed the following:

They still make those single lever valves. http://www.keidel.com/mech/pvf/valve-laundry.htm

That is a possibility. How much trouble you have in replacing that main valve depends upon your water source. If you have city water, the water company would have to shut off the supply at the street. If you have well water, just shutting off the well pump breaker will stop the flow of water to the tank. You then open a faucet fully to relieve the pressure in the tank before removing the main valve. If you replace any in-line valves, get the 1/4 turn ball valves rather than a gate or globe valve. As my globe valves fail, I am replacing them with ball valves. They are easier and faster to open and close.

Yes, all the upstairs faucets should be cracked open to overcome the vacuum in the lines that would hold the water from draining. You open them all so that all branches of the supply will drain. They don't have to be opened fully, but just enough to allow air into the pipes to break the vacuum. Another advantage of just cracking them is that when the supply is restored, you won't have water coming out of the open faucets at full blast.

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