This is a must - access to shut-off valves "shall be provided."
And especially the water main valve.
Why wouldn't easy access to the water main valve be provided? It's an ESSENTIAL valve! If water to the house needs to be shut off for emergencies you want quick and easy access to the valve.
The code is unusually simple. From the International Residency Code, subscribed to by the Virginia Residency and Plumbing Codes -
Access to valves. Access shall be provided to all full-open valves and shut-off valves.
The bold there was my contribution. And that's all valves - main, hose, water heater, fixtures, etc.
So why am I seeing this more and more?
Obviously neither of these photos show access.
On the left the red arrows point to two different shut-off valves beside a stackable washer/dryer shoved as far to the right side as the wall would allow. That opening is only 6". Nobody at the inspection could reach either one, even the long arms of the home inspector.
And on the right the access to the valve beside the water heater is 2".
It was apparent and fortunate that neither homeowner needed to shut the water off!
I also suggest to my clients that the water main be turned off when homeowners leave for vacation. Why leave the plumbing pressurized when nobody is in the house? If a problem happens, and no one is there to see it, the house can literally fill with water which isn't discovered until after people return. And what a return home that would be!
My recommendation: make sure there is easy and available access to all water valves, particularly the water main valve! Test them periodically to make sure they work properly! And turn off the water main even if you might only be leaving for the weekend. It's easy to do and a practice that may avoid a huge problem.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560