All About Valves and Faucets

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You don’t need to let that faucet drip another night. What you should know about repairing and replacing valves and faucets is all here. And installing new ones may be easier than you think.

A valve is a device that regulates the flow of liquid or gas within, entering, or leaving a system of pipes. It can stop, start, increase, decrease, or change the direction of the flow, A faucet is a valve at the end of a pipe that regulates the flow from the system. Plumbers almost never refer to a faucet as a valve, even though it's one.

Valves are usually named for either how they work or for the function they perform. The descriptions and drawings of the valves and faucets in this guide are very general. In reality, each manufacturer designs and makes a unique product. The parts can't generally be inter changed from one to another, Even when the products of one manufacturer change from one year to the next, the parts from the new model won’t necessarily inter change with those from their earlier one.

Here are the common types of valves used in home plumbing systems. Note that water and gas valves aren't interchangeable. Use only gas valves for gas.

If you want to install more modern faucets, you will find that a lot has been standardized.

Gate valve. This valve has a tapered disc or wedge- shaped “gate” that moves across the opening to stop the flow of water and pulls out of the way to let the water flow. When this valve is open, the water can flow straight through with no obstruction or change in direction to impede its full pressure, velocity, and volume. Gate valves are used where a line is either fully open or fully closed most of the time.

Globe valve. This is a compression-type valve with a disc and seat that are set in a partition parallel to the flow of the water. When the valve is open, the water must change direction twice in order to get through, which reduces the pressure, velocity, and volume. This is a poor choice of valve for any high-volume water supply line that usually remains fully open. Globe valves are used where a line is opened and closed frequently or where a valve is needed to control the volume and the loss of pressure through the valve will not be problematic.

Gate valve; Globe valve; Angle valve

Angle valve. The mechanism in this valve is very similar to that in a globe valve, but with openings at right angles to each other like an elbow. Because the water only changes direction once instead of twice, an angle valve impedes water flow less than a globe valve. By inserting an angle valve where a pipe turns, you get the benefits of a globe valve without its main drawback, and you eliminate the need for an elbow.

Bleeder valve. Also called a stop and waste or dramable valve, it has a plug on the outlet side that allows water to be drained from the system when the valve has the water shut off. This kind of valve or some other way of draining the system is required by code in cold-weather areas where pipes can freeze in the winter.

Check valve. This automatic valve allows the free flow of water in one direction, but closes it the liquid starts to flow the other way. The primary use of a check valve is on private water supply systems between the well and the pump. It keeps the water in the system from draining back into the well when the pump stops.

Straight stop. This valve is usually made of brass and is used for gas. It has a tapered ground plug that fits in a tapered ground body. The plug is mounted on a spring so the tension keeps the plug securely in place and gas- tight. When the plug is turned so the hole through it's parallel to the gas flow, the gas goes right through. Turning the plug so the hole is perpendicular to the flow stops the gas. When used as a supply stop near an appliance, a straight stop must have a manually operated handle. For other applications, it's equipped with a square, hexagonal, or specially shaped head to be operated with a wrench or a special tool.

There are two basic types offaucet used in turning water on and off. One is a very old design called a washer or compression faucet. The more modern type, called a noncompression or washerless faucet, mixes both hot and cold water regulated by one knob or handle. Most new kitchens and bathrooms are equipped with washerless faucets.

A compression faucet closes by a screw pushing and compressing a washer against a seat. The washer wears out periodically and can be replaced quite easily. Whenever there is a single faucet or a combination faucet where hot and cold water are turned on and off by separate handles, you can be pretty sure it's a compression or washer-type. A compression faucet with the handle on top and the spout turning downward is called a bibcock or bibb for short. If the spout is threaded so you can screw on a hose it's called a hose bibb.

Washerless faucets come in three kinds: valve, ball, and cartridge faucets. Because no manufacturer’s parts are interchangeable with others or even with parts from another model by the same maker, these are difficult to repair if anything goes wrong with them. Often the model you have has long since been discontinued by the time something goes wrong with it. Washerless faucets are usually much more expensive than their counterparts with washers. However, the new washerless types are very trouble-free and can often be used for many years without problems.

Check valve; Bleeder valve; Straight stop; Types of Faucets: Ball faucet; Cap with adjusting pipe; Cam; Selection ball; Screw; Valve faucet; Spout; Handle; hose; Cartridge faucet; Retaining clip

Repairing Faucets

Repairing the washer-type or compression faucet is a fairly straightforward process. But if you are having trouble with a non-compression type, you may have difficulty finding replacement parts. Because there is absolutely no standardization among the many different varieties on the market, you must buy parts for the same make and model that you have. If your particular model has been off the market for a while, parts may be impossible to find and you will be better off just buying a new faucet.

The faucets that control the water in tubs and showers are essentially the same as those on sinks. Most of them are the compression type, but those which operate with one handle are usually the cartridge type. Both are disassembled and repaired in the same manner as de scribed for sink faucets (see the drawings).

Compression Faucet Repair

If your faucet doesn’t seem to be putting out as much water as it used to, the problem just might be a clogged aerator on the nozzle of the faucet. Unscrew the aerator from the nozzle, take the pieces apart, and wash them clean under the faucet. Notice how the pieces fit so you can put it back together the same way it was. If you can’t unscrew the aerator by hand, wrap some adhesive or electrician’s tape around it to protect its finish, and turn it counterclockwise with a pair of pliers.

Leaking spouts. If a spout leaks when the water is turned off, you probably have a bad washer or seat that allows water to slip past. The repair is made through the handles. With two handles and one spout, you can tell which handle has the problem by turning off one of the supply stops under the sink. If the leak stops when you turn off one of the stops, you have found which side has the leak.

Bathtub/Shower Supply Plumbing: Aerator; Most modern faucets are equipped with aerators. Take yours apart and clean them regularly. Be sure to keep track of the order so you can put the pieces back the same way they were. Shower arm; Washer; Shower arm fitting; Tub valve assembly; Shower pipe; Washer; Perforated disc; Screen; Shower head; Screen; Body; Spray adjustment; Packing nut; Stem Escutcheon; Screw; Shower diverter; Diverter spout; If there is no diverter valve between the faucet handles.

The screw for removing the handle is right on top of the handle. However, it may be hidden beneath a decorative cap. If so, unscrew or pry off the cap before you remove the screw that holds the handle. Then pull off the handle. You may have to work it back and forth a little to get it loose.

Beneath the handle is the packing nut. Remove it by turning the nut counterclockwise with a wrench. Protect its chrome or gold-colored finish with tape. Then lift out the entire assembly. You will have to turn it counterclock wise a few turns as you remove it. On the bottom of the assembly is a brass screw holding the washer in place. Remove the screw and the washer. Replace the washer with one exactly the same size and shape and replace the brass screw if it's bent or worn. If the washer has a beveled edge, the bevel always faces toward the screw head. While you have the washer assembly out, inspect the valve seat, too. If it's rough or chipped, it should be resurfaced or replaced. Otherwise it will just continue to wear out washers very quickly.

Valve seats. A gouged or roughened valve seat pre vents the washer from fitting properly. To see if it can be replaced, look for a square, hexagonal, or round hole in the center of the seat. If it has a square or hexagonal hole, use a special seat wrench or an Allen wrench to unscrew it. Take the old seat to the store and get a replacement that matches it exactly.

If the seat has a round hole, it can't be replaced and will have to be refaced. For this job, buy an inexpensive valve seat tool. Professional refacers cost well over ten dollars, but you can usually find a tool designed for homeowners that sells for three or four dollars. Make sure the one you buy has a guide or uses the faucet’s packing nut for a guide. With the faucet dismantled, set the guide into the top of the faucet or put the shaft through the packing nut and screw it onto the faucet. Then the refacing tool down until it touches the seat. Work it back and forth to shave the seat smooth.

Leaking handles. If your faucet is leaking around the shaft of the handle, remove the handle (as described under leaking spouts) and then loosen the packing nut and lift it off. Under the packing nut on the stem, you will see either a rubber o-ring, a packing washer, or wrap pings of packing string. If it's an o-ring, work it off with a screwdriver, and roll on a new one of the same size from your washer packet. For packing, buy a new packing washer or some graphite-impregnated or Teflon packing string. Wind the string clockwise around the stem until it's thick enough to pack—usually five or six turns. Then tighten down the packing nut and replace the handle.

Non-compression Faucet Repair

With all three basic types—cartridge, valve, and ball— most manufacturers do their best to hide the screws and nuts that hold them together. Some are hidden under snap or screw caps on top of the handle; sometimes a nut is located at the base of the spout; or there may be

a set screw located under the handle. On some cartridge types, you find the set screw by pushing the handle all the way back and looking under it.

Cartridge faucets. These come in two varieties: the metal sleeve with a screw holding it from the top and the newer ceramic disc.

Disassemble the metal sleeve style by removing the screw, then pushing a screwdriver down the hole to keep the stem in place while you pull off the handle and cover. Then unscrew the retaining nut and remove the spout. With the faucet body exposed, you can see two 0-rings---- one at the top and one at the bottom. These are probably the source of your leak. Remove the retaining clip at the top of the faucet body, lift it off the stem, and replace the rings. Reassemble the faucet by putting everything back in the reverse order.

To remove the ceramic disc cartridge, tilt the knob all the way back to expose the set screw, loosen the set screw, and lift the handle assembly free. Unscrew the screws on top of the brass collar beneath the handle assembly. Lift out the disc cartridge assembly and ex amine it for wear and cracks or other damage If the ceramic disc is damaged, it will have to be replaced with an exact duplicate. If the machined surface on which the disc rides is damaged, it will have to be remachined at a machine shop or the whole faucet will have to be replaced, Valve faucets. Unscrew the collar at the base of the spout and pull the collar and spout free. If your only problem is a leak around the base of the spout, replace the o-ring and reassemble the faucet. Otherwise, with the spout off, lift off the escutcheon (faucet body cover). When the escutcheon is removed, you will see a hexagonal plug on each side of the faucet. Beneath each plug will be a gasket, strainer, spring, stem, and valve. Under the valve will be a valve seat that will have to be removed with a hexagonal seat-removal tool. Remove all these parts and examine them for wear or damage. Take any parts that need replacement to your local dealer to be sure the new parts match, and then reassemble the faucet in the reverse order. Before replacing the escutcheon, adjust the set screw at the base of the handle so its movement is smooth but firm.

Ball faucets. Loosen the set screw at the base of the handle and lift off the handle. Wrap the screw cap beneath the handle with tape to protect its finish and unscrew it with a pair of channel-lock pliers. When you lift the ball-and-cam assembly out, you will be able to see two rubber valve seals underneath. If your faucet has been leaking, these valve seats are no doubt the problem. Pull them out with needlenose pliers and replace them. If the ball is corroded or gouged, it will have to be replaced, too. If not, slip it back into place. A slot in the side of the ball must line up with the metal projection on one side of the housing. The plastic cam assembly then slips on, its tab lining up with the slot in the faucet body. Before putting the handle back on, turn on the water and open the faucet. If there is a slight leak around the stem. tighten the adjusting ring inside the cam assembly by putting a screwdriver in the slot and turning the ring.


If you just don’t like your old faucets, replace them with some new ones. It is really not much harder than fixing the ones you have—sometimes it's a lot easier, To re place your old faucets, you must find a new unit you like that will fit the holes in your sink, Measure the space between the center of the holes. Draw a diagram like the one shown here and take it to the store with you.

If your old sink’s holes don’t match any single-lever assembly you can find, buy some modern individual faucets as replacements. Do not try to adapt your old sink to a unit that doesn’t fit. it isn't worth even trying. Chrome- plated caps are available to cover any unneeded holes in your sink.

Replacing Faucets

To remove your old faucets, start by turning off the water at the supply stops beneath the sink. Use a basin wrench to loosen the upper and lower coupling nuts on the sup ply tubes and then remove the tubes. Remove the lock nuts and washers that hold the faucets to the sink and lift them off.

Next take the faucet assembly from its box and check the parts list to be sure all the parts are there before you throw the box away. Use the enclosed instruction sheet to install the assembly onto the sink properly. It usually involves placing a gasket on the sink, setting the faucet assembly on the gasket, and securing it with washers and nuts from underneath.

Next, hold the supply tube in position and figure out what bends, if any, it needs to enter the valve and faucet perfectly straight on. If you have installed the valves so they point straight up, the supply tubes usually need two bends so the ends are parallel but offset a little (see the drawing). When you get the bends right, mark the length you’ll need and cut the tubes off with a tubing cutter.

Slide the coupling nuts and compression rings onto the tubes, set them into the couplings of the faucets and valves, and tighten them as described before. You will probably need a basin wrench to reach the nut that holds the tubes to the faucets. Then the supply stops on with the faucets off to check for leaks. Then, with the aerator removed, turn the faucets on to flush any debris from the pipes.

Typical Hole Spacing on Sinks

Installing Valves and Faucets

All of the valves listed usually come with pipe-threaded openings and are screwed to the pipe just like any other fitting. If you have a soldered copper tubing system, you can get valves with solder-on, compression, or flare openings. Or you can sweat on a male threaded adapter and screw the valve to the adapter. Some plastic valves are equipped with nonthreaded sol vent-welded openings, but most have threaded openings and are screwed onto an adapter that has been welded to the pipe.

Single faucets, like hose bibs, have a pipe thread base and can be screwed onto the end of any pipe. To install one in an existing pipeline, you can insert a tee into the line and then screw the faucet onto the tee.

There is a way to install a faucet on either a copper tube or iron pipeline without cutting the pipe. You can use either a saddle-type faucet or screw a regular faucet on a saddle-tee connector. A saddle connector clamps to the pipe with bolts, and the water enters the saddle and the faucet through a hole drilled in the pipe.

These days the entire installation of bathroom and kitchen faucets has become very standardized. Most faucets are hot and cold, single-handle faucets on kitchen and bathroom sinks. New sinks and almost all sinks that have been manufactured in the last 15 years or so, have a standard 4-inch or 8-inch space between the faucet holes to accommodate all standard faucet assemblies.

When the rough plumbing is done, stubs of the hot- and cold-water pipes are left protruding through the wall where the sink will be located. These pipes should be about 20 inches above the floor and about 8 to 10 inches apart. The hot-water pipe will be on the left when you face the wall, Alter the cabinets and sink are in place and secured, it's time to install the supply stops and faucets.

When you buy supply stops, you must be sure they are compatible with the pipe stubs. If you have threaded iron stubs, be sure the stop valves have standard IPS (iron pipe size) threads on the inlet opening. Copper tubing stubs give you a choice of the kind offittings you want. You can get female solder fittings to sweat on, adapters to sweat on that will take a valve with pipe thread, and valves that have flare or compression fittings. Compression joints are much easier to install in this kind of situation, when you will be lying under a sink with your feet up the wall.

In addition to two supply stops, you will need the faucet assembly of your choice and two flexible supply tubes with compression fittings. Your hardware or plumbing dealer will help you pick out all the fittings you’ll need to go with the faucet assembly you’ve chosen.

Because you are usually working with chrome-plated compression fittings in this kind of an installation, the main tools you’ll need are a couple of smooth-jawed adjust able wrenches. A basin wrench is also desirable to tighten the nuts that are way up under the sink.

The first step is to turn off the water. You may be able to turn off just the section of the system near where you are working or you may have to turn off the main valve. If your stub is iron pipe, remove the cap with a pipe wrench and clean the threads with a wire brush Slide the escutcheons onto the stubs, apply pipe compound or teflon tape to the threads, and screw on the valves. When they start to get tight, stop turning so the valve outlet is straight up. Don’t turn them too far so that you have to back off. Turning tight squeezes the pipe joint compound out of some threads, and backing off may cause a leak.

Saddle Tee Installation:

1. Bolt the saddle tee to the pipe.

2. Screw the drill guide into the saddle tee and bore through it into the pipe.

3. Screw the faucet into the saddle tee.

Saddle Faucet Installation:

1. Bolt the saddle faucet to the pipe and then remove the faucet, packing nut, and stem.

2. Screw the drill guide into the faucet and bore through it into the pipe.

3. Put the stem and packing nut back in place.

New faucet assembly

If you have a copper tubing system, there will either be a cap soldered onto the stub or the stub will have been crimped flat and soldered. Use a tubing cutter to cut the tubing off about 1½” from the wall. Slide the escutcheons onto the pipes, then the coupling nut, the compression ring, and finally the valve itself, Hold the outlet of the valve up and slide it over the compression ring. Turn the nut onto the threads as tight as you can with your fingers and then tighten it with a wrench. It will usually make a squeaking sound when it seats. When you hear the squeak or it “feels” like it's snug, stop turning so you don’t damage the compression ring. When both stop valves are in place, turn their handles clockwise until they are tight. This closes the valves so the water is turned off right there. You can turn the main valve back on to see if there are any leaks in your new work. Then you can go on to install the faucet assembly and reconnect the supply tubes.

Washer; Locknut; Replacing Bathroom Faucets; New faucet assembly casket; Installing a Supply Stop; On Iron pipe; On copper pipe

1. Cutoff the capped end of the tubing

2. slip on the escutcheon, put pipe joint compound on the threads, and …

3. screw on the supply stop.

1. Remove the cap.

2. slip on the escutcheon, coupling nut, compression ring, and the valve.


Leaks in Pipes, Faucets, and Valves

You can temporarily repair leaking pipes in several ways. For a proper and lasting repair job, you will need to turn oft the water and replace the damaged piece of pipe or take the joint apart, clean it, apply new pipe joint compound, and put it back together. Here are some emergency measures to tide you over until you can get to the permanent repair.

To stop a pinhole leak in a hose or pipe, push a toothpick or pencil lead into the hole and break the end off. Dry off the surface of the pipe and wrap it several turns with duct tape or electrical tape.

A large leak can be stopped temporarily by covering it with a pad of rubber, like an old inner tube or kitchen glove. Compress the rubber over the leak with a piece of wood and C-clamps or hose clamps. Rubber pads and clamps manufactured and sold in sets for this purpose are available in some stores.

If a whole section of pipe is leaking because it's broken or rusted through, turn oft the water and cut out the section. Replace it temporarily with a length of gar den hose held in place with hose clamps.

If threaded pipe is leaking at a joint, you may be able to stop it by turning the pipe with a pipe wrench to tighten the joint. Or you can turn off the water to relieve the pressure, clean the joint with a wire brush, dry it, and apply two-part epoxy cement. The instructions will tell you how long to wait before you turn on the water again.

Leaky faucets and valves can often be fixed just by tightening the packing nut. If that doesn’t do it, turn off the water and replace the washer or packing. Be sure to close the sink drain when working on the faucets so dropped screws and other small parts don’t end up in the P-trap.

Water Heater Tank Leaks

Any repair you can make to a water heater tank must be considered very temporary—in fact, it’s better not even to try. If a leak develops, it means the tank is corroded and will shortly have many more leaks. The best solution is to get a new water heater promptly. See below for how to select and install one.

Attempt a repair only when there is a critical need for hot water and it’s not possible to get it anywhere else. If for some reason you must try to repair the leak, the first step is to find it. This will entail cutting through the outer metal shell with airplane snips and removing the insulation until you find the hole, which will be a tedious and difficult job.

If you find the hole, turn off the gas or electricity and the water to the heater before you start your repair and don’t turn the heater on again until you are sure your repair is successful. Make a stopper for it with a rubber washer and a toggle bolt as shown in the drawing. Insert the toggle bolt through the hole—enlarge the hole if necessary to .get it through—and then cinch down the bolt to squeeze the washer over the hole.

If the leak has put out the flame on a gas water heater or you find that the leak is inside the flue, you will have to forget it. There is no way to reach inside the flue to even attempt a repair.

Stopping a Small Leak; Stopping a Large Leak: Push a toothpick or pencil lead into the hole, break it off, C-clamps; and wrap with tape.

Hose clamps

Or turn off the water, cut out the leaky section, and replace it temporarily with a piece of garden hose.

Sunday, May 13, 2012 14:04 PST