Replace those compression valves with 1/4 turn angle valves!

31 Replies

Pretty much any house you walk into in America has compression shutoff valves at the water line hookups under every sink and behind every toilet in the house. These compression valves where never designed to last. They must have all been made in the most cost savings oriented factory in the world because the compression aspect of the valve just simply fails after any period of time longer than about a decade.

Now, when I’m talking about a compression shutoff valve, what I mean is the multi-turn angle valve for the hookup lines. Here's a photo:

A multi-turn angle valve shuts-off the water via compression in the valve. It’s the compression aspect in the valve that is guaranteed to fail after a lot of use or simply the passage of time.

Job #1 when I’m doing a rehab is to replace every single compression shutoff valve in the house with a quarter turn shutoff valve. The quarter turn valve is in essence a ball-joint valve and you can be darn sure that puppy isn’t going to fail.

Below is a photo of this kind of valve.

Once all of the shutoff valves are converted to the quarter turn valve, I can always breathe easier when I'm having subs change things out in the bathrooms or anywhere in the house where water is involved. Other than a fire, water leaking anywhere in the house is the most destructive thing that can happen.

If you have your own rehab crew, I recommend teaching someone on the crew how to change out these shutoff valves. If you don't have a rehab crew, heck just learn how to do it yourself. It's a bit of work but you can learn to do it. Plumbers themselves would love to charge you something like $50 a valve and there's just no way you should be paying that. You can learn to do it yourself and save a good chunk of change.

If you have questions about why I'm kind of obsessed about this, please feel free to ask.

Best, Bobby

I absolutely agree. These work much better than the old fashioned multi-turn valves.

They're actually ball valves, not ball joint valves, though. A ball with a hole in it you turn to align the inlet and outlet (open) or not (closed). A ball joint is a mechanical linkage where a ball on the end of one shaft fits into the socket in the end of another shaft, allowing the second shaft to move in any direction. Sorry, its the engineer in me.

The lack of durability on shutoff valves is annoying.

I agree on the benefits of quarter turn valves, but prefer to have a threaded copper male adaptor at the end of the copper stub coming out of the wall for ease of changing them. Threading on a shutoff, to me is quicker than compression or sweat shutoffs.

If your handyman doesn't get the (compression fitting) shutoff on properly, it may take just one bump to flood the joint.

Compression fittings have always made me a little bit nervous.

It's funny that you mention these, in every home I've purchased the first thing I've done is replaced every water valve in the house ( including the main shut off) with 1/4 turn valves.
It's cheap insurance if you do it while the house is vacant.

Mark, absolutely! Glad to hear it! I know you sleep much better at night that way. Me too!

Jon, yes, exactly, a ball valve. Many thanks!

And Ed, nice point, thank you!

Let me try to explain this point Ed made just to make sure no one gets confused.

First and foremost, we're advocating the quarter-turn valve over the multi-turn valve. That is the key takeaway here. If you remember nothing else about this post, just remember that point! :)

Then, to get a little deeper into the kung-fu of shutoff valves:

There is usually half inch copper tubing coming out of the wall under the sink or near the toilet which carries the water into the room for the sink or toilet. The shut-off valve attaches to this copper tubing.

Now as Ed pointed out, he prefers to have the shut-off valve attach to the tubing by screwing the valve onto the tubing. This would occur if the tubing was threaded at the end to allow for the shutoff valve to be screwed on to the tubing. Valves designed for this have what's called a 1/2 inch FIP Inlet on them.

Here's a photo of one:

The other way of attaching the valve to the tubing (if the end of the tubing is not threaded but is instead smooth) is via a type of valve inlet called a 1/2 inch NOM Comp Inlet. (NOM Comp stands for Nominal Compression, but this isn't important.) That type of attachment uses the compression method of securing the valve to the smooth copper tube. As Ed points out, it can be easy to screw this up. Please note that this compression method of attaching the valve to the tubing has nothing to do with what type of valve we're using. We're still using the quarter-turn valve.

So if the copper tubing coming out of the wall is smooth and not threaded, Ed prefers to have a threaded male adapter sweated onto the smooth copper tubing, is that correct Ed?

In such a case, then the smooth copper tubing is in essence converted at the end to a male thread via an adapter, and a valve with a 1/2 inch FIP inlet can then screwed on to the adapter. You'd just want to put some teflon thread tape on there and then screw it on.

However, in this scenario someone has to sweat the adapter onto the smooth copper tubing. For folks who don't know what that means, it involves a blowtorch. This then, in my book, involves a professional.

I agree with Ed that it can be very easy to screw up attaching a shutoff valve to smooth copper tubing via a 1/2 inch NOM Comp inlet on the valve. But sweating on a threaded male adapter in my book means calling a professional. If you have a handyman that can sweat on the adapter at a reasonable cost, then I say go for it.

For me, if the copper tubing is smooth, I just use the 1/4 turn shutoff valves with the 1/2 inch NOM Comp inlet. I put these on myself so you can be darn sure I make certain those puppies are on there securely. I also use a little pipe dope in there as well before I crank it on which just helps me sleep better afterwards.

Great advice. I've run into too many shut-off valves that either don't shut off completely, or are stuck open so firmly that I destroy the handle trying to turn the valve.

I've gotten to like the push-on type shut-off valves. They're basically a combination of a shutoff valve and a Sharkbite-type quick connect fitting.
As long as the pipe isn't all hacked up they seal perfectly.

They work on copper, PEX or CPVC and cost around $9. No sweating, no compression rings, no pipe dope or teflon tape required. Just push on. They can be removed easily, but not accidentally.

Ineed, good advice. Often, the old ring is stuck to stay on copper pipe. In those cases, simply discard the new ring and nut which come with the new valve and use the old ring and nut.

@Tom A. couldn’t agree more shark bite shutoffs are the way to go! Always keep a couple in the truck there really cheap when you factor in time and I have not had one leak yet.

Great information Bobby, one thing that I would like to add is that the picture of the 1/4 angle stop looks a lot like the ones they sell at Home Depot.

What I found out is that the ones at Home Depot & Lowes both have plastic ball valves. If you look close enough inside the valve, you will see it's plastic.

I didn't know this until I went to a professional plumbing supply store and was advise to get an angel stop with steel ball valves.

Also, not sure if this matter either, but some of the water supply ends is also made out of plastic, which is probably ok, but I got the ones that are made out of steel.

One last thing, does anyone know how long these angle stops & water supply lines last? Some say 10 years, some say 30.

I totally agree with you on ball valves. I absolutely hate Multi turn valves. (I've always called them gate valves).

In my area where it gets cold in the winter, I always show the tenants where the main shut offs are and tell them that if they go on vacation, they need to turn off the main while they are gone. I do this at my own house as well if I'm gone for more than 24 hours. Once that water starts flowing, it doesn't stop.

I had a rental house years ago where a pipe broke. The tenant was gone all night and the furnace stopped working. The house had water pipes in the attic and one broke. There was $30,000 in damage in a 700 square foot house. When I went to the house, there was so much water in the wall that when I poked my finger through the drywall, water shot out about five feet. Of course, the tenant had no renters insurance and took a total loss. I always tell this story to new tenants to stress the importance of water damage and insurance.

On a side note, I also make sure on electrical outlets that the wires are wrapped around the terminal and screwed down kung fu tight. I know electricians that just push the wires into the back of the outlet, which I think is a total hack job. I've told guys that work for me that I will not tolerate this and ALL wires need to be screwed down tight. Another thing is drywall screws vs. nails. I would fire anyone immediately that uses a drywall nail. I don't want nail pops down the road.

Just a tip - Plumbing supply places in my area charge about half what Home Depot charges for valves and all other plumbing supplies. Sometimes they only want to deal with licensed plumbers, but they don't check. Just give them your company name and set up a cash account.

Originally posted by Ace A.:

One last thing, does anyone know how long these angle stops & water supply lines last? Some say 10 years, some say 30.

For me, they seem to last until I need to shut them off. Every one I've run across is as old as the house, and the're usually stuck. The houses I've worked on here in Phoenix were all 1980's builds. It really has become standard practice for me to change every single water valve as part of the rehab, including the main shut-off, the laundry valves, both bathrooms, the kitchen sink, and even the icemaker valve. The laundry and icemaker valves require cutting the drywall to install the new "boxes" that surround them, but I've always had other drywall work to do anyway.

Even if they're "only" five years old, if they're accessible, you might as well put new ones in. The plumber I use can change them all in just a few hours & considers it a "gravy" job. Considering the cost of an "emergency" plumbing call, it's really just cheap insurance for me.

The plumber I use for rehabbing is a moonlighter - i probably average $100 or so in labor to send him through a house.. The parts often cost more than my plumber.

Keep in mind, it's done on his terms, after work, before his kids ball game, etc. it isn't "emergency" labor at 2am, so it's cheaper.

I've replaced a lot of these multi-turn valves. Often though it is not just the valves at sinks and toilets but even the main shut off valves and/or the valves at the hot water tank. Generally I like to replace all of these with ball valves.

Originally posted by Ace A.:
My laundry room valve all look like this, are you talking about replacing the faucet part that screws into the copper valve?

The top pic is common in my area - for about $20, you get a replacement plastic "box" that has both valves & the drain line for the washer. On my last rehab I found a box that had a single "lever" which would shut off both hot and cold water to the washing machine, that's my favorite style.

Whenever I have to have some plumbing work done in a kitchen or bathroom, I always have the plumber install 1/4 turn valves since he's in there anyway. Those old twist valves can be very hard turn or even stuck right when you have an emergency.

So pumped this article on 1/4 turn valves got some attention again recently.

I still believe that the number one most defective part in any old house are the old multi-turn shutoff valves.

My favorite is when you go into an old house, reach down behind a toilet, turn the valve off, and then find yourself running out onto the street to turn the water off at the main because the valve came apart in your hand. Oh my goodness. It’s a terrible thing to happen.

One other very important point about those multi-turn valves:
Don’t ever turn the valve to off, pull out a sink or toilet, and then leave the house. I’m serious. I had to replace an entire set of lower kitchen cabinets after making that mistake. The old multi-turn valve had a tiny, slow leak that was not immediately evident after I removed the old kitchen sink. I walked out of the house on a Friday and came back on Monday to find that the tiny leak had flooded the floor area at the back of the cabinet. That house had old builder cabinets, the sides and backs of which are made out of particle board. You can imagine what water does to particle board. It swells up big time. Ouch, that cost me.

If you aren’t planning on changing any of the plumbing fixtures in a house, then don’t touch an old multi-turn valve. Just leave it. I swear, don’t touch it ever. But if you are planning on changing a plumbing fixture, then change the shutoff valves to 1/4 turn valves right away for each fixture you’re replacing just to be safe.

But if you only get one thing out of this whole thread it’s just don’t ever turn off an old multi-turn valve, unhook a fixture, and then leave the house. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.

Originally posted by Bobby Gerry:
But if you only get one thing out of this whole thread it’s just don’t ever turn off an old multi-turn valve, unhook a fixture, and then leave the house. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.

I wouldn't trust any valves left alone. I would recommend that anyone doing any plumbing buy some 3/8 compression caps and carry them in your tool box. I always put these on a valve to prevent any problmes.

I bought my house (built in 1964) a few months ago -- just started to learn those things. Last night I was trying to checking how to shut off water under my bathroom sink. I think it is for the hot water. To my surprise, this little handler stem was made by plastic. And I did not apply any force, it was broken. It could have been broken before (by previous) homeowner, but anyway, the valve might not be as good as it appears[img]

I took the advice of many who said change out "compression shutoff" for "1/4 turn" angle valves about 5 years ago. These were "USA made, full brass (including ball). In hindsight I'm very disappointed in the performance of all 20 I installed. ALL were frozen and efforts to GENTLY free them were fruitless. The shaft either broke and shot water all over the room, or stripped so as to make them unusable as a shut off (they stripped in open position). At least with the compression versions I've had some success with freeing stuck valves loosing the packing nut and applying WD40 or liquid wrench. Then working the shaft back and forth, and sometimes this frees it. No such luck with 1/4 turn stops--no packing nut and no way to get oil into the frozen ball. Now I live in a hard water city and so seizing valves is not unexpected, but 5 years and no hope of freeing them makes you wonder whether you should skip the valves altogether? However, I'm going to try nylon/plastic ball this time in hopes that the nylon is less likely to seize than the brass. Either that or go back to compression shutoff.

The valve you show in the picture is a 1/4 turn valve available at home depot,lowes etc but it isn't a true ball valve. It's the g2 series from brasscraft and it's plastic inside. The brasscraft kt series is a true ball valve and also a 1/4 turn. They're both good valves but brasscraft readily acknowledges the kt series is superior in quality and as the cost isn't much different my opinion is it's worth getting the better valve. The only issue is I haven't come across them in the big box stores so I ordered them online.