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Author: MetroChick Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 128074  
Subject: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 1:26 PM
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At first I thought it was only the ones to my kitchen sink, but I just checked my bathroom sinks and toilets, and on all but 1 of those, the water shutoff valves will not budge to turn them off. Obviously this will be a problem if I ever have a water leak, so I want to figure out what's going on.

I know it's not just that I'm not turning them hard enough, since my ex-boyfriend was in my house a couple months ago and I asked him to try the ones under the sink, and he couldn't get them to budge either.

Before I put in a claim with my home warranty - anyone know off-hand why water shutoff valves might not turn? I see there's a screw within the handle - is there someway to tighten that screw that would prevent the entire handle from turning? Since it's just about all of them - it appears it might be something that was done to them for some reason by the previous homeowner.
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Author: mmrmnhrm Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122314 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 1:41 PM
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I see there's a screw within the handle - is there someway to tighten that screw that would prevent the entire handle from turning?

It would be rather odd, but yes, it's possible that what you're seeing is a set-screw. Basically, it's a screw that presses against the shaft to keep the handle from turning. If you could post a picture or link to a picture of what you've got, we can say with more certainty.

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Author: MetroChick Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122316 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 2:33 PM
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They look like the valve knob in this picture:

http://www.contractortalk.com/f9/shut-off-valve-99235/

I tried the recommendation in this post - WD 40 on the stem nut and tried to turn it - but it won't budge either.

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Plumbing-Home-1735/2009/10/Stuck-...

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Author: ptheland Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122317 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 2:35 PM
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Sounds like they're just crappy old valves that have gotten stuck. They're probably gate valves. Over time, tiny bits of water get in and around the gate. Then that water evaporates, leaving a deposit. Lather, rinse and repeat for 10 or more years, and you've got a stuck valve.

If you apply more and more force (think longer wrenches), you'll eventually either get the valve to move or you're break the valve. If you get the valve to move, odds are it won't shut off completely anyway. All of those deposits get in the way of the valve closing.

I suspect the only solution is to replace the valves. I've systematically gone through the house and replaced most of them with ball valves. I think they have a couple of advantages over gate valves.
One - you can tell at a glance if the valve is open or closed. If the handle goes across the line, it's closed. If it is parallel to the line, it's open.
Two - they operate on a 1/4 turn. There's no guessing on how far to turn the valve.
Three - I think they just work better.

Once you've replaced the valves, it's a good idea to move them periodically. Maybe spring and fall when you replace the batteries in the smoke detectors. Open and close the valves a couple of times to make sure they move freely. And check the faucet or toilet with the valve closed to see that it's really closing.

--Peter

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Author: voelkels Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122318 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 2:52 PM
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anyone know off-hand why water shutoff valves might not turn? I see there's a screw within the handle - is there someway to tighten that screw that would prevent the entire handle from turning?

The screw in the center of the valve’s handle is there to allow the handle to turn the shaft that opens & closes the valve. There is packing in the valve that keeps the valve from leaking water from around the valve stem. The packing now-a-daze is usually a plastic and/or rubber material but, in some of the older valves, it may be a fibrous organic material. Over time, you may have a buildup of lime or other hard water deposit around the valve stem and packing, making the valve hard to close (turn). You can attempt to turn the valve using a wrench on the handle but you may risk breaking it.

C.J.V. - had to replace all the shutoff valves in our house due to corrosive (and very soft) water, me

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Author: MetroChick Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122319 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 4:13 PM
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I ended up putting a claim in with my homeowner's warranty - it's worth the gamble of the $100 deductible to find out if they're just old/corroded. If they have to get replaced, hopefully that will be covered as part of "plumbing". Also through some testing it seems the valve to turn the outside water off - while turns, doesn't actually turn the outside water off - so I'll have him look at that too, since I need to be able to turn it off before the weather freezes.

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Author: TwoCybers Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122321 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 4:36 PM
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Water shut off valves often are hard to turn and/or "frozen". This is a much greater problem in hard water areas. My suggestion is try all of them in your house. One thing that may help is try to close and if that does not work, try turning it in the open direction. Sometimes the valve will move a little and this is enough to get you started - sort of a back and forth action.

If any don't work it is wise to get them fixed eventually - but right away find out where your main water shut offs are. If you want a water meter, you can be certain there is a shut off there. The water company will not only shut off, but also put a lock on your meter if you don't pay the bill. But short of turning all water off, you almost always have shut offs on the hot water side (for replacing a water heater) and sometimes on the cold side.

You have two options - replacing these yourself - it is not complex. But it will be much easier if you spend the money for proper tools. You can watch various videos - try several there are tricks and more than one kind of valve. By watching, you will see options - maybe you do not have the best alternatives currently. If you do it yourself, you will need to turn off the water to your house.

Another step, particularly for tools, go to a Home Depot (or Lowes) and ask the plumbing person for some pointers. Teflon tape may be recommended, I use it. This tape is not to give you a "seal" - rather it functions as a lubricant so it is easier to tighten things up. So you do not need lots wraps - just 1.5 to at most 2 wraps.

Finally when you get this job done, either by you or a plumber, open the valves all the way and then close them about 1/8 of a turn -- that way in the future you know you can turn them both ways to loosen them if there are stiff.

Gordon
Atlanta

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Author: Radish Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122324 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 5:33 PM
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They look like the valve knob in this picture:

That screw just holds the handle onto the stem. Where the stem goes into the valve body, there's a large nut that compresses the packing around the stem. If that nut is too tight, you won't be able to turn the handle. Note that if you loosen that nut, the packing may be damaged and the valve will leak. Not something to try in the evening after all the plumbing supply places close.

However, as has already been posted, valves of the type shown in the picture are cheap trash, and they all fail pretty quickly. Either not turning, like yours, or leaking... or both (hard to turn, and once you manage to turn them, they leak forever). Also, after a few years, they rarely actually turn the water all the way off when you want to do that. Basically, they just look like shut-off valves, but actually don't perform any of the desired functions in real life (at least, not after a couple years).

As also already posted, the 1/4-turn valves are the only valves to use. Unless there's some bizarre circumstance where you need to finely adjust the water flow, rather than just turn it all the way on or all the way off.

Phil

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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122325 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 5:33 PM
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I'm going to be the party pooper here.

First, there is an actual tool for this sort of thing. I have one, although it doesn't look exactly like this. It has a cavity into which the shut-off valve handle fits, gives you leverage, turn, open:
http://www.gordonwrench.com/quotes.htm
But you can use a regular wrench if you're careful, but you may not want to touch it, since you risk screwing things up worse.

At the very least, DON'T DO DIY PLUMBING ON A FRIDAY, because if you mess up, you need to call the plumber for a Saturday or Sunday visit, and you're into double time charges.

I doubt that insurance is going to cover this. That's something that a home inspector should have caught before the papers were signed. But good luck.

It isn't the screw in the top of the handle; that only serves to hold the handle onto the valve stem, which is flared (or starred) so the force of the turning isn't all on the screw. The underside of the handle will have insets which match the tines on the stem.

But I suspect if you use a wrench and actually manage to twist the thing, you will regret it, because the packing around the valve stem has probably calcified and/or solidified, and "breaking" it means the valve will leak forevermore, and will need to be replaced. If you're lucky you can just replace the stem and packing, but most plumbers won't do that anymore since there are a bazillion different models, sizes, etc. They'll want to replace the whole valve, which is probably the right way to go.

Depending on complexity it could cost from $50 to $200 per stem. If they can just cut off the old one and solder a new one on, easy. If the valve is already close to the wall they have to desolder it, put on an extension, then sweat on a new fitting. That all takes time. Depending on the condition of the flexible pipes that feed up to the faucet (the packing/washers on those degrade, too, and they have to be unscrewed to change out the valve) those might have to be replaced as well, which is a PITA, depending on sink placement.

You DO want to be able to shut off the water at various places, otherwise your only solution to a water problem is to shut down the entire house, and that's not a good idea, obviously.

Good luck.

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Author: Radish Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122326 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 5:36 PM
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MetroChick,

Also through some testing it seems the valve to turn the outside water off - while turns, doesn't actually turn the outside water off - so I'll have him look at that too, since I need to be able to turn it off before the weather freezes.

Again, the ball valves (quarter-turn) are the only valves that actually continue to work for this in the long run. If they replace your main water cut-off, make sure they install a full-flow ball valve, even if you have to pay extra. There's really no point in using another gate valve or similar valve that's not going to work a few years down the road when you need it again.

Phil

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122327 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 6:05 PM
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Most valves will tend to seize up if they aren't operated occasionally.


If you are into doing home maintenance, I'd close and then open every valve at least once per year. You may find that it's initially hard to turn but frees up after being turned on and off several times. You'll probably never have a valve seize up if you do this kind of thing annually.


Some older valves may allow you to remove the guts of the valve and replace it, but in most cases you are probably going to need to replace the valve if it wont turn I suspect.

It's also worthwhile checking to see how the water shutoff valve at the water meter operates, and whether it operates. It may have a valve that can be shut off with a wrench or it may need a tool the utility has. I'd operate that once a year as well if you can, and call the water utility if it wont move. Being able to turn the water off at the meter can be worthwhile.

Also, most homes have a shutoff valve inside the foundation. That's another important valve to be sure it's working.


Incidentally, this same advice applies to gas valves, including gas valves at the gas meter and even gas valves in the street.

The gas utility I used to work for paid employees to operate street gas valves once per year, and to paint the lids of the gas valves so they could be easily located in an emergency.

Gas valves at gas meters often don't get operated, and it's not unusual for them to seize up. Utility employees have BIG wrenches that will usually cause a frozen valve to turn, and then the valve can be greased. I've also broken meter valves off the pipe while doing that, causing a rather high volume gas leak right up against the side of a house.

Homeowners can try turning the gas valve at their meter with a wrench and see if it turns. You really only want to turn it slightly to see if it moves. If it's frozen up or hard to turn, call your gas utility --- they ought to send someone out to grease it or maintain it. It's worthwhile to have a gas shutoff valve which can be shut off without easily enough.

A gas meter valve that is properly maintained turns easily with a wrench. A valve in need of maintenance wont turn at all, or turns only with difficulty. When the grease that provides a seal dries out enough, it will be hard to turn and may leak.

Even a frozen up valve may be freed and the valve greased with a special grease gun, then the valve turned several times to distribute the grease around the valve.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: ptheland Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122328 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 6:30 PM
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One more thing - assuming you're going to end up getting a plumber to replace the valves.

Don't let him or her use cheap valves. You're mainly paying for the labor time. These valves are probably around $10 at the home stores. A bit less for cheap ones, a bit more for expensive ones. The labor cost to install the most expensive valve is going to be roughly the same as the labor cost to install the cheapest one you can find, and in either case is along the lines of 10 or 20 times the cost of the valve.

So get the best valves the plumber has.

--Peter

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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122330 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 6:46 PM
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So get the best valves the plumber has.

Or even go shop it yourself, and buy "the best". At least my local store has a master plumber as one of the sales people, and he would know what would/wouldn't fit, what is/isn't best, etc.

Then just have the plumber install the ones you bought.

(If you don't know the subject well, how will you know if the plumber is using crap valves?)

1poorguy

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Author: inparadise Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122331 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 7:38 PM
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At the very least, DON'T DO DIY PLUMBING ON A FRIDAY, because if you mess up, you need to call the plumber for a Saturday or Sunday visit, and you're into double time charges.

And please know where your whole house water shut off is before you try to open it....

IP

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Author: foo1bar Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122332 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/1/2012 9:41 PM
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And please know where your whole house water shut off is before you try to open it....

I'd add knowing how to get your utility company to come out and turn it off at the curb-stop is probably a good idea too.

At least for me the utility will come out and turn water on/off at the curb stop any time of the day or night, no charge. But if you turn it off yourself at the curb-stop and break something, you get to pay for it, and it's probably not going to be cheap.

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Author: inparadise Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122334 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/2/2012 4:35 AM
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I'd add knowing how to get your utility company to come out and turn it off at the curb-stop is probably a good idea too.

Don't you have a shut off inside the house? Perhaps it's because I have well water, but I have a shut off where the water enters the house. I remember having a similar shut off valve at a house with public water as well.

IP

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Author: foo1bar Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122335 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/2/2012 5:55 AM
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Don't you have a shut off inside the house?
In my city normally there is a curb-stop (usually has to be reached via a long T-handle type thing because it's underground)
And there is also the shutoff at the house (just before it enters the garage/house in my case - in colder climates I think it's normally inside or in the basement)

90% of the time, the house shutoff will be sufficient.
But every once in a while (like when replacing the house shutoff, or when the house shutoff doesn't work) it's necessary to use the curb stop.

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Author: voelkels Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122336 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/2/2012 7:12 AM
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“I'd add knowing how to get your utility company to come out and turn it off at the curb-stop is probably a good idea too.”

Don't you have a shut off inside the house? Perhaps it's because I have well water, but I have a shut off where the water enters the house.


A lot probably depends upon location, age of the house and local building codes at the time the house was built. About 15 years ago, I went down to Lakeland, Florida to do some minor maintenance on DW’s great aunt’s house. The faucets in the kitchen and bathroom were dripping - no major problem, I’ll just replace the washers. I checked under the sinks to find that there were no shutoff valves. I got my flashlight and checked under the house to find that there was no valve to shut off the water under the house. I had to shut off the water out at the curb.
;-(

C.J.V. - turns out dat I had to replace the whole 60-some year old kitchen faucet, me

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Author: MetroChick Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122340 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/2/2012 12:07 PM
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Update:

All the valves weren't bad, plumber was able to loosen all but 3 - kitchen's getting 2 new 1/4 turn ones and guest bath is getting a new one. It is covered under the home warranty, so it's too bad they couldn't all get replaced.

So the valve to the outside water I was turning off was the utility room - that's the back outside water. The valve to the front outside water was in the finished part of the basement - in the ceiling, under an access panel we had to break open to get at, because the panel wouldn't push or slide open. Will eventually need a little door built for that similar to another place in the finished basement where there's a door to shut off the main water (also can shut off the main water through the utility room - a little off this house has 2 places for it).

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Author: akck Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122343 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/2/2012 12:34 PM
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Update:

All the valves weren't bad, plumber was able to loosen all but 3 - kitchen's getting 2 new 1/4 turn ones and guest bath is getting a new one. It is covered under the home warranty, so it's too bad they couldn't all get replaced.


I'd ask for an estimate to replace the others while he's there. You might save a few $$ if you get them all replaced at the same time.

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Author: Radish Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122350 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/2/2012 6:41 PM
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MetroChick,

All the valves weren't bad, plumber was able to loosen all but 3

By loosening the nut where the stem handle enters the valve body, like I posted here http://boards.fool.com/30293583.aspx ?

kitchen's getting 2 new 1/4 turn ones and guest bath is getting a new one. It is covered under the home warranty, so it's too bad they couldn't all get replaced.

Cool.

Phil

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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122356 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/3/2012 10:30 AM
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It is covered under the home warranty,

I am surprised. I've had two, and I'm pretty sure that would not have been covered, but I was wrong to guess the replacements would not have been covered in yours.

I would recommend that you jot something on a calendar a month or two down the road, to go back and eyeball all those which the plumber "loosened." My experience (and others in the thread) is that "locked" shutoff valves which are loosened sometimes give way to a slow drip; under a cabinet where you never look that can be nasty, leading to wood failure, mildew or mold. Check after a few weeks or months to make sure.
 


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Author: BlueGrits Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122501 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/12/2012 1:39 AM
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Years ago I bought a home which'd been a rental home for a number of years. One of the first jobs was to redo a bath, but I couldn't get the water cut off at the main. A plumber came out, tinkered a bit, then said he couldn't help -- it was frozen in place. He was too afraid to put more pressure on it as a broken pipe would mean turning off water at the street. He suggested I call the city and ask them to locate the cutoff. A few days later I arrived home to find a mark dead center in the driveway with a note from the city saying the cutoff was about 5 ft below the mark.

Months later, the morning radio woke me with the news that some parts of the city didn't have water due to a broken part at the pumping station. I immediately found I had no water. Quick! I called the plumbing company and they switched out the valve. All was saved.

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Author: tpault Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 122516 of 128074
Subject: Re: Water Shutoff Valves Wont Budge Date: 10/12/2012 4:45 PM
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Metrobabe,

Remember, righty tighty, lefty loosey?

I try to add things that aren't already covered by by golly there are a lot of replies but I'll give it my best shot.

For instance, those valves come in either steel, or plastic handles AND steel or plastic valve stems. The stems break easily!

Always shut the main water off before trying.

Believe it or not, the pressure inside is contributing to the stuck-ness. Water pressure alone wouldn't be enough to stop it from turning on a healthy valve, but when you combine age, corrosion, etc, with pressure, and it may not turn.

So shut off the main water supply and relieve the pressure from that pipe by opening a faucet. Also, try lightly tapping on the top of the handle right on the screw that holds it on.

PB Blast penetrates better than anything I've ever seen.

The nut below the handle holds the stem in. It may be possible that before you, someone may have tightened the snot out of that nut if it was leaking past the stem there. Tightening this nut too tight can make the valve impossible to turn. This is also the place where a plumber would take the valve apart if replacing just the stem, so it is a good place to concentrate on. Loosen the nut as a favor to yourself, before trying again.

Those handles are quite possibly one of the least ergonomic handles, like, ever. I'd try using plyers like channel locks, on the handle but also backing up the whole valve so you aren't breaking or bending the piping. I usually always need to use channel locks on those slippery, tiny, football shaped handles that you can only get about 2 or 3 fingers on.

Note of interest... these valves withstand very little torque through their body. Where this often comes into play is when people tighten the nuts on either side of the valve, without holding the valve tight

Paul T.

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