My 20 year old townhouse has a total of 17 Brasscraft shutoff valves. These
are the multi-turn style (NOT ball) and are the ones with metal stems (NOT
plastic). I believe they were all soldered on.
When I first moved here 2.5 years ago, most of these valves were siezed but
I was able to use a pair of pliers to get them unsiezed so they could then
be turned by hand.
Every two months I've been turning them as slightly as possible to prevent
them from being siezed again, and then turning them back slightly to the
original position. I'm not giving them a full workout as I want to avoid
deteriorating existing packing. Question is to continue with this strategy
or just leave them be?
Someone, who is not a plumber, but an experienced homeowner, suggested that
I should simply leave them alone and not touch them unless I really need to
shut something off, since turning them at all may be deteriorating the
packing and cause a leak and then the valve might need replacing. He said,
unless you are prepared to be spending a lot of money getting the valves
replaced, then just leave the shutoff valves alone.
Should I continue to turn them slightly every two months and hope that none
of develop a leak a result of my turning them, or just leave them alone?
I'd keep exercising them, and can't they be repacked if they do start to
leak? Generally a valve will not leak when fully open, only when
partially open. I have a spigot on the outside of my house that leaks
like a seive while opening, but when it's full open there's enough
packing left that there's not a drip. (yeah, I know, but I have other
things to fix before I get to that.)
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
tighten packing nut perhaps one turn and end the wasted water, it
fixes that kinda leak around the stem easily.
I would quit exercising the valves and just start replacing them with
ball valves. its highly likely if you attempt to shut them off
completely they will still allow water flow. thats been my experience
here. easier and better to install all new ball valves, or at least
key ones and be done with it.
I'd break them loose and close them fully once and then exercise them
no more frequently than six months, more like yearly. If the stems
are "limed up", a plastic bag of vinegar tied around the handle will
dissolve most of it and they'll be near new.
If you don't break them loose until an emergency arises, the chances
are much higher that when you really need it is when you'll discover
it doesn't hold at all or you can't get it broken loose before you've
just flooded the bathroom or living room from the kitchen, or
OTOH, once every two months and a partial twist isn't putting enough
wear on a packing to be noticeable in your lifetime unless the stems
are extremely rough and therefore tearing it or they're already so
brittle from age as to be ready to go anyway.
I would say, not bother to touch them. There is no reason not to turn
them off for the slightest reason, but there is IMO no reason to play
with them just for fun.
I found that the toilet I use most makes me happy when I turn the
valve almost off, so that I don't hear it when it refills. I've
adjusted that valve a few times and don't need more than my hand to
turn it, although 10 times in 28 years might not be the reason it
works so easily.
Like someone else said, valves are best when they are all the way on
or all the way off, so I checked to make sure this one wasn't leaking
when it was slightly on. It wasn't. 28 years is practically new
I have a general laissez-faire attitude, and I'm no pro, but what I've
been doing with my 28 y.o. townhouse and multi-turn valves is just
ignoring them. This week, after the water heater sprang some sort of
leak, I could not turn the valve off with my bare hands, so I got a
long Channel-Lock pliers and used that. Though I could only use 1
hand, and it was a bit hard to get the pliers in place with only one
hand, once I did, it was easy to turn the handle with the pliers.
That's what pliers are for, to make hard things to turn into easy
things to turn.
I've lived here almost since the house was new, adn the only time the
valve has been turned was the last time the WH leaked, maybe 12 years
I don't see how the space around the stem can lime up since it has
iiuc no water in it, and if there were water it would take a long long
time to evaporate.
The handles on my valves are the lightweight ones, cast metal, with
maybe 6 "spokes" and curly metal around the edge, that has the overall
shape of a 6-leaf clover. That is, they're not solid metal.
OTOH, the valve handels for my toilets are solid and shaped like
footballs with serated edges, and recently I had to put vice grips on
one to close it. The vice-grips came up from the handle, and
therefore didn't give a lot of added leverage, but they were easier to
get a hold of and had no rough edges, so it was almost easy to turn
off the water. This valve too has only been closed one other time in
the last 28 years, when I replaced the ballcock with the easy to
replace Flo-Master? bayonet mount ballcock.
OTOH, although I don't think it is worth the effort to keep turning
handles, I don't think the turning you are doing is going to damage
the packing in your lifetime, or your children's.
My bathroom sink faucets get turned several times a day every day, and
they don't leak around the stem after 28 years. In other places, I've
had faucets much older that (53 years), that don't leak around the
28 years isn't long enough? :)
Over a long period of time there likely is some and if nothing else,
it's pretty common for there to be drips from elsewhere that
accumulate, etc., over a long period of time. How likely and how much
depends a lot on local water conditions -- here, with the water as
hard as it is, it's rare to not find a stem with scale...
Looks like you're getting a mixed view on this subject. I turn mine
full off and full back on about once a year. That's because not doing
it allows them to freeze up. And yes, you can usually break them loose
with a pair of pliers if they do freeze up, but look how much strain
you are putting on the copper tubing when you do that. I'd rather not
take the chance of breaking a pipe or solder joint inside the wall.
The person that said to replace them is not making sense. As long as
they work, why replace them. Some people like to waste other people's
Take a scotch pad (those rough green pads that are for cleaning
dishes), and clean the stems under the handles with the valve fully
open. You just want to get off any corrosion which is what grinds
away at the packing. Then coat the shaft with vaseline, or plumbers
grease. Fully close the valve and fully open it several times.If you
see any drips, tighten packing nut slightly but dont overdo it.
After this, close them about twice a year and reopen. Thats about all
you need to do. To ease the use of the scotch pad, cut strips the
size to fit under the handles and grab one end in each had, and work
back and forth, going all the way around. This should only take a few
minutes per valve. Be glad you have solid brass valves, not much of
the plastic junk they make now.
Obviously you NEVER had a fixture failure, were unable to turn off the
water and then had a flooded basement:( found main valve was bad
Or nearly as bad a line split under your kitchen sink, find the cut
off valve bad, rip the handle off trying to shut it all the way,
failing no water till the next day, since the main valve had to be
off. at midnite........ so fun
such experiences lead to preventive maintence, the replacement over
time of all valves with ball valves and adding extra valves, for
easier isolation of each fixture.
since these valves are used so infrequently you dont know there bad
till you need them the most:(
I didnt replace them all at once had a plumber do some in bad
locations like right on top of our steel beam, in a cavatity, others I
did myself or part of a larger project like a bathroom rehab.
homes require continious repairs to keep them up to date and working
well. you may call it waste, I call it dependability:)
Working with 250 gate valves per 8 hour shift processing instant
coffee included instructions to open the valve then turn back towards
closed 1/2 turn. This allowed turning the valve either way during
next use, not ONLY toward open.
I did the exercise bit. One day the hot water tank failed. Closed the
in-line valve--didn't stop the water--had to use house main shutoff
valve--took the in-line heater valve apart----valve stem seat gone,
corroded, valve was useless. From then on went on a replacement routine and
put in ball valves wherever I could. Much happier now.
MY POINT EXACTLY! Once I found the main valve failed too, and could
not be shut off. This put valve replacement on my list.
Heck NOTHING lasts forever:( Better to keep after things on a regular
You paint and redecorate every few XXX years, why not spend some bucks
on important stuff that doesnt show up till you REALLY need it?
Did you loosen the "packing nut" before trying the pliers?
When such valves are OPEN, there just isn't the type of metal to metal
contact that would cause things to "sieze."
In the past I made the same mistake I believe you did. Now I know better
and if the valve is difficult to operate I loosen the packing nut. It's at
the packing that such valves "sieze" when open. Loosening the nut usually
I vote for reducing your exercising the valves to twice a year, but
don't replace them with ball valves. What a waste of money and time
that would be!
The art of tightening the packing nut is crucial. If you are not
mechanically inclined then get you a torque ranch and tighten them
uniformly to 50 inch pounds or about 4 foot pounds.
Now, with the correct packing nut torque, you can exercise them
fully. Close them gently and open the all the way gently, then close
them half a turn from full open. Check for leaks and you are done for
half a year.
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