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Shut off valves seized (stuck)

New here! Great information source for a first time home owner like me.
Now to the problem. I have bought this 45 year old house and all of the water shut off valves (under the sink, main shut off, next to the water meter, water line going to the icemaker) are stuck. Whats the best way to get them unstuck?


Here are my search results so far
http://en.allexperts.com/q/Plumbing-Home-1735/stuck-water-shut-valve.htm - now I need to understand the terminology there!

Found something from TOH

a nice diagram of the shut off valve

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

Best thing to do is replace them. Once a shut off valve has been corroded it is almost worthless The newer ball vavle or 1/4 turn valves are about the best. They do not have a rubber washer in them. Hope this helps.

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

You might loosen the packing nut (the nut on the valve body where the shaft goes in) just a tiny bit. This may be enough to free up the valve.

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

Thanks folks! I will try loosening the packing nut and then probably replace most of the older valves ...

One more question, If I shut off the main water, does that shut off the heating water as well? Or is heating water being recirculated? Is that part of the regular water lines?

For the shut off valves under the kitchen sink and bathroom sink, this worked. I can shut those valves off now and the packing nuts are re-tightened and there is no water leak, great!

When I tried the same for water main shut off valve (or what I think as the water main), It made a noise of air coming out. Also I could not rotate that valve clockwise. I could rotate that valve counter-clockwise. I thought clockwise is closing and counter-clockwise for opening (right handed screw), then that valve must be closed, but I am getting water in the house, so is that not water main? ... Also when I rotate it counter clockwise, the packing nut is also loosening with it, which cant be good. So I just stopped and didn't do anything with it yet.

hmm what to do with the water main? The big handle at the water meter is also stuck and not moving. What can I do there?

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

I can only guess what the valve at the water meter is. Around here, the water meter has a valve on the "upstream" side for which the handle is nothing more than a bar (looks almost like the valve on the gas meter). You give it a quarter turn so the bar is crosswise to the pipe to shut it off. It's VERY stiff and usually requires a special T-handle wrench (sometimes referred to as a "meter key"), though you could use a pair of pliers and skin your knuckles on the side of the meter box.

For your main valve, it sounds like the packing nut is fused to the valve stem. When you turn it counterclockwise, it's probably just coming out with the packing nut.

My preference is to use 1/4-turn ball valves. They have a stainless-steel ball that mates with nylon seats. Typically they are very reliable and less prone to seizing up.

Besides ball valves, the most common types are gate valves and globe (compression) valves. Gate valves have a bronze plate that slides into the path of the water when you turn the handle clockwise. It has a metal-to-metal seal, and when open, presents a "straight shot" for the water to pass with little restriction. Globe, or compression, valves use a rubber washer against a metal seat. The water makes kind of an "S" path through the valve and typically presents quite a bit of restriction to the water flow. Externally, gate valves tend to be shorter end-to-end than globe valves and have a taller body to accomodate the metal plate being pulled out of the waterway.

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

Thanks Fencepost

Here are two pictures
water meter This is in the wall in the basement and
water main shut off valve This one is in the ceiling of the basement above the water meter.

Does that meter shut off look like the one you described? In that case I will get the meter key, try to shut that off, let all the water flow out from the laundry sink (That's lower than the water main) and then try to loosen the water main / replace it

From some other web searches, it seems that I don't need to worry about the water that goes to heating the house. (Still don't understand how it gets its water)

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

I see the water meter valve has a handle, so you should be able to turn it a 1/4 turn clockwise, but it will probably be mighty stiff. They usually are. The "meter key" will give you a lot more leverage. If it's indeed stuck and needs to be repaired or replaced, it will probably be your water supplier's responsibility. In most communities, the water supplier is responsible for everything up to and including the meter.

What you picture as the main shutoff looks like a compression valve. The little cap on the side is a drain so you can drain the entire system. I can't see it very well, but it looks like 1/2" pipe (5/8" outside diameter). Usually this type of valve -- especially this small -- isn't used as a main valve. I suspect that it's probably going to an outside faucet. If the outside diameter is 7/8", then it could be the main valve.

Re: Shut off valves seized (stuck)

Since the vacation is over, my tinkering with the house is also limited now ;)

There is another compression valve in ceiling of the basement, that the previous owner told me goes to outside faucet and I turned it off before the winter started.

I will measure the pipe OD and see if its 7/8". Also if I can shut it off, then I will know if its water main :)

Thanks for the help!

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