A Guide to Common Bathroom Valves for Your Next Remodeling Effort

The valves you use in your bathroom are crucial to the functionality of the water supply line and are an important aspect to take into account during the remodeling process. When the time comes to replace a valve that is not functioning properly by smoothly supplying water, you’ll want to know what the issue is as well as which valve replacement will work best.

In this guide, you’ll learn all about the different kinds of common valves, their functionality, and the material options you can choose from as you update your bathroom fixtures.

Ball Valves

A ball valve uses a hollow, perforated sphere that pivots to control the flow of water that goes through it. At the top of the sphere is a lever that can only move a quarter turn or between zero and 90 degrees. By turning the lever 90 degrees, a hole drilled in the ball is completely in line with the water flow and opens the valve while a ball hole that is perpendicular to the pipe results in flow stoppage. The body materials for the ball include stainless steel, brass, bronze, chrome, titanium, and PVC while the seal can be constructed from Delrin, Reinforced Teflon, Nylon, PEEK, Viton, and other materials.

Shut-off Valves

If you are doing a full remodel, you will typically find the main shut-off valve in the basement or an outside wall-unit area of the house. This valve allows a steady flow of water through the pipe when it is open and turning it off cuts off the flow to the entire house. You can use a ball valve as mentioned earlier in the article or you can use a gate valve.

Gate valves are extremely durable and can be turned on or off via a circular handle that raises and lowers a metal gate inside the body of the valve. Turning the valve off raises the gate and blocks the water flow while turning it on lowers it, allowing water to stream through. Because of their construction, gate valves become difficult to move if they have not been turned in years. Gate valves can be constructed from stainless steel with bonnets that seal in leaks from the valve body. The easiest type of bonnet to install is the screw-in bonnet which is good for a durable and pressure-tight seal.

Push/Pull Valves

The most common type of valve you will find in your bathroom showers, the push/pull valve relies on cartridges that become progressively tighter the older they get. If you find yourself with a valve that just won’t budge or is starting to leak, it might be time to replace it.

The valve typically consists of a removable index button, handle and sleeve held together by a locking mechanism pin. Once you remove the pin, you will find the cartridge that has been causing the problem. Because sliding cartridges start and stop the flow of water through a pipe in the wall, an old cartridge can hinder flow by jamming the pipe function. Replacing or greasing the valve will return normal flow to the pipe.

Stop Valves

Any time you stop or start the flow of water manually, you are using a stop valve. One of the most common types of stop valves is the globe valve. A globe valve, unlike a ball valve, regulates the flow of water in a pipeline and consists of a disk and a stationary ring seat in a spherically shaped body. The body of the valve contains the internal structure and parts that come into contact with the water that will control the valve. Taking a deeper look into these parts and mechanisms will give you a better sense of how the stop valve functions.

Bonnet

Similar to what is found in the gate valve, the bonnet provides a leak-proof closure to the valve. Additionally, the stop valve bonnet includes packing that maintains the seal between the bonnet and the stem.

Plug

Plugs are connected to the sliding stem to throttle the flow of water. While balanced plugs are easier to shut off, they create a second leak path and are costlier while unbalanced plugs have a simpler design with only one leak path and can be used for smaller valve sizes. Unbalanced plugs, however, cannot handle higher pressure across the valve and have a harder time controlling liquid flow the larger they are.

Stem

The stem connects the actuator and transmits the energetic force within the valve. A high-quality valve stem can withstand high compression forces when the valve is closed and has a high tensile strength for when the valve opens.

Cage

The cage surrounds the plug and determines the flow within the valve body according to the number of openings in the cage the water is exposed to. Cages also guide the plug to the seat ring that provides the valve with a surface on which to shut off.

Seat

Seats or seat rings are screwed in to push the cage down and hold it firmly to the body of the valve. Beveled seat rings allow water to be guided while the valve is being closed.

Though globe valves are the main reference points when describing stop valves, many types of stop valves do not have a spherically shaped body. All stop-valves do, however, regulate pipeline flow and are important to the major plumbing line of the entire home.

With a deeper knowledge of the common types of valves, you can get a better understanding of what your particular remodeling efforts might require. Whether you are trying to fix a leaky PVC valve or a brass ball valve, a strong understanding of the underlying mechanisms and the material options available to you can make the repair process that much easier. As always, if you run into issues don’t hesitate to call a trusted professional that can quickly identify and fix the problem.

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