Water damage costs homeowners thousands of dollars annually and can result in expensive repairs and lost personal belongings. Although flooding for a natural disaster may be unavoidable, there are some situations where knowing what to do when water begins to flow can be the difference between costly damage and an inconvenient cleanup.
Knowing where your water main shut-off valve is located and how to turn it off can help you stop the flow of water quickly because even a small flood can cause extensive damage to your walls, floors, drywall, ceilings, furniture, yard, and more. In this article, your local Mr. Rooter Plumbing will help you identify the different types of water shut-off valves so you can act quickly to stop water flow when needed.
What Is a Water Shut-Off Valve?
Valves are designed to regulate and stop the flow of water. Each valve type has its benefits, downfalls, and application. In residential plumbing, valves are commonly used to control pressurized water flow from the water utility or a private well.
Depending on the water valve type, it may have a simple on/off function or allow for adjusting the volume of water flow. Most valves are made of bronze, brass, or PVC pipe. Choosing a material best suited for your current plumbing system is important if you need to replace a water shut-off valve. Your local Mr. Rooter Plumbing can help choose and install the right shut-off valve for your system.
8 Types of Water Valves and Their Functions
Several types of water valves are designed for a specific function. These include:
Ball valves are one of the more common water shut-off valves. They are known as “all-or-nothing” valves because they are designed to be open or closed. This type of valve is designed with a ball with a hole in the middle. This internal mechanism is connected to an exterior handle that runs parallel to the pipe with the valve open and perpendicular to the pipe when shut.
This type of water valve is more common in industrial applications than household plumbing. At first glance, a butterfly valve looks a lot like a ball valve since they both have an external handle to open and close it. Internally, butterfly valves contain a metal disc that rotates within the ball structure to regulate water flow. Because water flows around the disc, located at the center of the valve, it reduces the water flow, even when the valve is fully open. One drawback of this valve type is that the internal mechanism often needs maintenance after a few years.
A check valve is used to keep water flowing in one direction only. Typically, these types of valves do not have control handles. When a check valve is operational, it is known as a “stop-check” valve and can stop water flow in both directions. One example of a check valve includes a backflow preventer often found on outdoor faucets (hose bibbs) and lawn sprinkler systems. Depending on the check valve, it can have different inner mechanisms like a ball-check design or a diaphragm check design.
Fixture Shut-off Valve (Stop Valve)
Fixture shut-off valves are small and usually have twistable handles or knobs that control the water flow to individual plumbing fixtures, like your sink faucet or toilet. There are different toilet shut-off valve types, including straight and 90-degree-angle valves. Shut-off valves allow you to work on specific fixtures without needing to shut off the main water valve to the entire house.
On the outside, fixture shut-off valves resemble gate valves because they usually have a knob or wheel that operates the open/close function. Inside a fixture valve’s structure, there are several different designs. Some common types include simple compression washers that open and close against the valve sear operated by the valve handle. Other fixture valves use a diaphragm design where the valve stem controls a flexible diaphragm that presses against the opening to stop the flow of water.
Gate valves are some of the most common water shut-off valve types. As their name suggests, gate valves use a gate mechanism that lifts and lowers when you adjust the external handle or knob at the top of the valve. Gate valves are not a great option for controlling the flow of water, as this quickly wears out the internal mechanism. They are designed to allow for completely open or closed valves. This type of water valve is very reliable for shutting off water flow. Ball valves are slowly becoming a popular gate valve replacement, as gate valves are known for getting stuck in an on/off position.
Globe valves are used to throttle or regulate water flow in various plumbing applications. The name of this valve reflects its globe shape, typically topped with a twist knob. Globe valves are usually installed in situations where water flow needs to be adjusted regularly. The inside of a globe valve contains a stopper which is raised and lowered by the external twist knob. When the stopper hits the bottom interior valve seat, the valve is completely shut. The stopper can be raised in increments to precisely control the water flow.
Needle valves, also called saddle valves, are no longer used in household plumbing systems but depending on the age of your house, you may encounter one. This valve type was used to connect water supply tubes to fridges, water filters, or other appliances. They clamp onto a water pipe and then force a hollow needle into the pipe to tap the water. A flexible copper or plastic tube is then connected to the fitting on the valves to attach the water supply to the appliance. Needle valves are not very reliable, and if you discover one, it would be best to replace it, as it’s sure to wear out and cause problems.
A stop-and-waste valve is an important irrigation fitting that keeps sprinkler lines from freezing in cold weather. Typically, this type of valve is turned on and off with a meter key. When in the off position, this valve has a port that automatically drains any water waste left in the line.
Main Water Shut-Off Valve Types
A main water shut-off valve controls the water supply to the whole house, whether water is supplied by a well or a municipal service. There are two main types of water shut-off valves: gate valves and ball valves. Gate valves are more commonplace in older homes (built before the 1970s), and ball valves are standard in newer homes. In warmer climates, the main shut-off valve is often located outside the house or in an underground box. In cooler climates, main shut-off valves are usually found in the basement near the front of the house.
Related Topic: How to Find a Water Shut-off Valve Outside
Need Help Identifying a Water Valve?
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