How to select and install a new water shutoff valve for your home.
Every home should have a reliable shut off valve on the main water line to quickly stop the flow of water in the event of a major leak or in case you need to repair or replace plumbing fixtures downstream. Most homes have copper piping which will allow you to install a brass valve by soldering it in-line with the copper pipe about an hour. Toilets and faucets have their own shut off valves which are typically angle stops that have compression fittings. These are installed near the fixture with wrenches or pump pliers.
This article will describe how to install an in-line shutoff valve for your whole hose, but can also be used to install a valve on a branch line.
Here is a list of common plumbing valves found in a home.
Globe valves were more common in the past and are named for their shape, but may only be identified by its internal parts. Globe valves are most often used with oil and gas and are capable of controlling the volume of liquid through the valve.
Gate valves are only used when there is a straight flow of water, gas or oil. Two types of gate valves exist: rising stem and non-rising stem. Rising stem gate valves have stems that are threaded and rise when the valve is opened and lower when the valve is closed. They are useful for identifying the position of the valve. On non-rising stem gate valves, the stem stays in one place while the gate moves up and down. The gate is threaded and travels up and down on the stem. These valves can fail if they are not exercised regularly and scale builds up on the gate and valve body.
Ball valves consist of a bored stainless steel ball embedded in the pipe that controls the flow. The ball usually has a hole bored through it that is the same as the inside diameter of the pipe. This is known as a full-port ball valve. The ball is connected to the lever handle that is rotated between 0 and 90 degrees to completely open or close the valve.
Ball valves are very durable and easy to use, as well as showing the position of the valve. Globe or gate valves offer more control of the flow than full-port ball valves, fit in tight spaces, and are inexpensive. Most valves are brass with either threaded ends that can be attached to fittings, sweat connections for soldering, or compression fittings. Compression shutoff valves are usually smaller in size and use for shutting off the water supply to plumbing fixtures such as toilets and faucets. These are commonly referred to as water or valve stops.
The main line for the home is typically ¾ inch, but it may be ½ inch or 1 inch.
To install an in-line shut-off mark the center of its location on the existing copper water line. Shut off the water supply and cut the line with a tubing cutter. Sometimes, the pipe will spread enough to accommodate the shut-off. If not, cut back the pipe so the valve sets in-line. Use a piece of pipe to stick into the valve to see how much to leave. The pipe typically is inserted into the valve about ½ inch on each end; if the valve is 2 ½ inches long, cut out a 1 ½ inch piece of pipe.
Clean the inside of both ends of the valve with a rolled up piece of emery cloth or pipe cleaning brush and both pieces of pipe with emery cloth or brush. Check the inside of the pipe for any burrs. These are very sharp so stick your finger inside the pipe to remove it or check if the pipe is clean. Use a deburring tool or round file to remove the burr.
Open the valve before heating it to protect the rubber or Teflon seal from being damaged.
Flux all four ends and fit the shut off onto the pipe. Position the valve straight and heat and solder each joint. Wipe away any excess solder with a rag.
Ball Valves – Sweat connection
A common problem when installing an in-line valve is that there is still some water trickling out of the pipe. There are a few ways to handle this.
The old way is to use white bread and stuff it into the pipe that is leaking. The theory is that the bread will soak up the water enough to along you to solder the pipe. The problem arises when the water is coming out too fast for the bread to hold it. You also have to stuff the bread in far enough to keep it away from the solder joint. 6 to 8 inches usually works. After the solder is completed, you then open the valve and flush out the bread. This can be a problem if the valve is before a dishwasher or refrigerator where the bread can clog the appliance. I have not had luck with this process and I usually opt for one of the other methods below.
Opening the Meter Connection
A better way is to locate the water meter for your house, shut off the valve between the street and the meter and open the swivel union, flange, or compression connection on the house side of the meter. If the valve holds, there should be little to no water coming out, if it passes, place a bucket under the open connection and complete your valve installation. If the water comes out under pressure, the shut off at the meter is not holding; tighten the connection and use the method below.
A more “advanced” way to install a valve in a pipe with some residual flow is to use a tool called a Jet-Swet from Brenelle. I have used this tool often and it works well and is easy to use.