Water shut off valve washers - several comments.....

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So I've been trying to fix up a few things in the bathroom and have averted disaster a few times. I've noted this in other threads, but I thought maybe a single thread would be good.

I guess the most common implementation for a supply valve uses a flat washer secured with a bib screw, where the washer just closes on the opening. When I went to a hardware store yesterday they didn't have any suitable loose washers so the clerk recommended just get a pack of Ace Hardware "faucet washers" that came with 16 washers and 6 brass replacement screws. I had to work quickly since my main shutoff valve probably needs a replacement washer too, where it slows down the flow but not completely. I haven't done this before and thought that the washers should be a bit softer (like neoprene) but they were rather hard. The old one was obviously brittle, cracked, and stuck to the stem. I had to scrape off bits of the washer from the stem with a knife. But it worked. I'd never done this before and was surprised how hard the new washers were, but it worked.

So with this "success" and a package of washers I thought maybe I could tackle the other supply valves since my house is rather old. I then went at the vanity sink supply valve. Easy enough to take off but it was leaking because of the main line shutoff washer issue. Then I saw there was no bib screw. It was some sort of friction fit where the washer (which was in pretty bad shape) stretched over a mushroom shaped cap. When I pulled it off the washer (which was somewhat soft) it broke with a little crack. I tried getting on one of the new washers I had on, had no luck, and just put it back in place to keep the leaking down as I headed for another hardware store to see if they had anything. In the plumbing section they had a ton of loose washers but nothing that seemed soft enough to slip over the friction fit. I tried something that seemed a little softer but I had my doubts if I could get it on.

The thing that finally worked was two thin neoprene washers that together were about the thickness of the original washer. I still can't seem to turn the handle to shut off the water, but at the very least it's not leaking.

Has anyone dealt with a supply stem with this sort of friction fit cap for the washer to stretch over? When I was at the hardware store the clerk said he hadn't heard of anything like it. He said they usually have bib screws.
 

y_p_w

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I've never seen the "central lug" type washer attachment as shown on this page: https://www.diydata.com/problem/taps/washer_replace.php

Try boiling the washers to soften them up before attachment.
Yeah. That's more or less what mine looked like. Except that the "cap" was wider than that. It was about twice the diameter of the center stem. Didn't think of boiling them though. I might just try that as an experiment.
 
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You should just go around and replace them all with ball shut off valves. I never replace the washers, I just replace the entire valve. For toilets, they now have them as shark bite fittings. Just make a nice clean cut and press the new one on.
 
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Most of those shutoff valves were not intended to be serviced. Replacing the whole valve is usually practical depending on the type of pipe from the wall.

The workaround for main valve not closing completely is to open the lowest faucet in the house. This will drain the pipes upstairs and any more water that comes in will run out of the low point. Be sure to shut down the water heater in case it tries to drain, and don't re-start it until you have cleared all the air out through a hot water faucet.
 

y_p_w

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Most of those shutoff valves were not intended to be serviced. Replacing the whole valve is usually practical depending on the type of pipe from the wall.

The workaround for main valve not closing completely is to open the lowest faucet in the house. This will drain the pipes upstairs and any more water that comes in will run out of the low point. Be sure to shut down the water heater in case it tries to drain, and don't re-start it until you have cleared all the air out through a hot water faucet.

Thanks for the advice. I would note that Brasscraft has a multi turn stem repair kit, although the majority of the part is plastic. I'll see what I can do about replacing the supply valves. I just had the genius idea to try and replace the washers since I had a package and then realized it was probably better to leave it alone until I was ready to replace the whole thing. The pipes in my house are actually in good shape, but a lot of these supply valves look like they may have been there for decades.
 
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I would suggest trying to find an old style plumbing supply house. Those places tend to have everything. Just take in the the parts with you to show them and they should be able to set up you with the correct replacement parts for about the same price as a hardware store. They are great for older plumbing fixtures like you are dealing with. If you know any plumbers that work for "small" local plumbing companies, ask them for a supplier referral.
 
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If I ever get the privilege of building my home, washer-type gate valves are banned from the project. They're nothing but headaches when they age. The gate valve installed by the builder for my house's main line failed in the closed position. I have next to zero luck working with plumbing, so called a guy out and he just gutted it, and it hasn't been a problem since. Now I have to turn my water off at the street until I decide to go through the expense of having the main valve replaced. I did notice that the street valve is a very dependable 1/4 turn ball valve, where every valve I've ever had problems with is a gate valve. I hope to be rid of them all someday.
 
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I installed 1/4 Turn Ball Valves under all my Sinks and Toilet.
A woman would buy the small chrome (cheaper ?) ones.
I went with the more industrial look ones (from Home Depot).
Once a year, I turn them OFF, then back ON.

Outside the house, the Spigot has the 'flat' washers.
I rebuilt them this past Summer.
------------------------------------
Flat Washers come in many size diameters.
Buy extras and label what faucets/spigots they are for.
Your future self will thank you.

For the 'packing' around the stem, I started using Teflon String.
 

y_p_w

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If I ever get the privilege of building my home, washer-type gate valves are banned from the project. They're nothing but headaches when they age. The gate valve installed by the builder for my house's main line failed in the closed position. I have next to zero luck working with plumbing, so called a guy out and he just gutted it, and it hasn't been a problem since. Now I have to turn my water off at the street until I decide to go through the expense of having the main valve replaced. I did notice that the street valve is a very dependable 1/4 turn ball valve, where every valve I've ever had problems with is a gate valve. I hope to be rid of them all someday.

The biggest problem seems to be the cheapest part, which is an inexpensive piece of rubber. I'm wondering why I can't find better materials like silicone that should last longer.

I'm also wondering what happens with hard water. My home doesn't really have that problem, but my rental property has a supply using local well water. I've gone there to clean things up a bit including a toilet issue. I saw crusty deposits in the tank's water line and little bits of calcium/magnesium on the flapper and basically everywhere inside the tank. I'm wonder what that does to the water supply lines. There's bound to be some of that inside all the fixtures.
 

BlueOvalFitter

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The biggest problem seems to be the cheapest part, which is an inexpensive piece of rubber. I'm wondering why I can't find better materials like silicone that should last longer.

I'm also wondering what happens with hard water. My home doesn't really have that problem, but my rental property has a supply using local well water. I've gone there to clean things up a bit including a toilet issue. I saw crusty deposits in the tank's water line and little bits of calcium/magnesium on the flapper and basically everywhere inside the tank. I'm wonder what that does to the water supply lines. There's bound to be some of that inside all the fixtures.
It could be the seat is pitted. Replace the valve with a ball valve.
 

y_p_w

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It could be the seat is pitted. Replace the valve with a ball valve.

The metal parts might have been slightly discolored but otherwise in good shape. I'm just wondering why I can't find any equivalent washers that are made of silicone. Not sure if the original washers were natural rubber or EPDM, but they looked absolutely horrible after a few decades.

But yeah - I'll eventually just swap out a bunch of these shutoffs with quarter turns. I'm probably going to hire a plumber (I know a guy) to work on the main supply line - maybe with a more reliable shutoff valve. I don't want to mess with that myself. Then once that's done I'll work on the individual shutoffs.
 
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Dittos on the ¼ turn ball valves. Those are all I have been using for several years now. I wouldn’t waste much time on old screw valves. Many have a nylon type stem and are made of pot metal.
 

y_p_w

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I went to my rental today. I had my bathroom remodeled a few years back and the supply lines in the vanities were all replaced with Eastman multi turn valves with plastic stems. There was a little problem with some sort of dry greenish stuff on the little nut. That sounds like some sort of copper corrosion but it was weird. Just kind of powdery and puffy, but perfectly dry.
 
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The screws that hold washers to the valve are very poor nowadays; I imagine "lead-free" has something to do with that.
You can hunt for stainless steel ones on the Internet, but the brass-looking ones age as fast as the washer.

Most every one is going to 1/4 turn valves for the angle stops - no lead and they age better.
 
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I dread when I have to do any work to the toilets or sink faucets. The valves don't turn off 100% and when you mess with them, you get drips of black water out the stem. The exterior spigots are the only gates that I've had reasonable luck with. They started dripping last year, so I had the washers replaced in both spigots last spring...they were well past their useful life. Working good as new now. If I'm unsure of what I'll find when I start disassembling stuff, I'll call a pro over & watch him work. Going forward, if I can find the washers, I can do them myself. Once fixed, you just have to get everyone in your household to get on board with not cranking down on them. That's what ruins the washers. With a new washer, you can turn them off with your thumb and one finger.
 
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I dread when I have to do any work to the toilets or sink faucets. The valves don't turn off 100% and when you mess with them, you get drips of black water out the stem. The exterior spigots are the only gates that I've had reasonable luck with. They started dripping last year, so I had the washers replaced in both spigots last spring...they were well past their useful life. Working good as new now. If I'm unsure of what I'll find when I start disassembling stuff, I'll call a pro over & watch him work. Going forward, if I can find the washers, I can do them myself. Once fixed, you just have to get everyone in your household to get on board with not cranking down on them. That's what ruins the washers. With a new washer, you can turn them off with your thumb and one finger.


Exactly.
 
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