Leave the water shut off valves alone?


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?
Thanks,
J.
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jay-n-123 wrote:

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.)
nate
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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.
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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 whatever...
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.
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wrote:

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 afaic.

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 ago.
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 stem.

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--

Roger Shoaf

About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
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...
...
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...
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the main washers go bad too, no way to know unless you shut it off.
rubber detoriates just sitting around
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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. -KC
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wrote:

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 money.
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.
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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:)
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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.
wrote:

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These
but
that
to
none
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. MLD
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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 basis.
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?
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but
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 works.
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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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valve replacement is pretty cheap, and ball valves last forever, turn off fast too, important in a flood condition.
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