The Gates of “ ”… Valves Wenatchee Real Estate Inspections
I can almost guarantee that if the home is 30 years older or more that most of the shut off valves in the home are gate valves. These are the most common shut off valves I find in homes.
You will find them at your water heater, main home shut off and various other places. The problem with these valves is over time they quit working properly. The metals may corrode or build up with sediment and they just will not function as intended. Not a good thing if you are trying to shut off the water. Another issue is that these valves also known to lose their seal and will start to leak at the stem.
So the two main types of water valves you are most likely to see in your home are the gate valve and the ball valve. The gate valve is recognized by its round handle that must be turned a number of times to open or close the valve. The ball valve is recognized by its single handle that needs to be turned ¼ turn or 90 degrees, to turn the water on or off.
It is said that in the 1860's, a man named Chapman, while chopping wood one day, looked at the shape of the axe head and invented the solid wedge type gate valve as we know it today.
Now for the ball valve, the first spherical ball-type valve was patented in 1871 but was never in any wide use. Ball valves as we know it were invented in mid to late 1940’s. This was made possible by the availability of some of the newly created polymers of the 20th century. Although PTFE was invented in 1928, its widespread use in an industrial setting did not come till the middle of the century.
Another issue is that gate valves really should be opened and closed periodically to ensure they are working but we all know that is not going to happen.
For us as homeowners (and home inspectors) we most likely will need to replace these older gate valves as part of a good preventative maintenance program.
My little foray with the gate valve happened a few years back when I went to replace a toilet. I turn off the valve to the toilet only to have it start leaking. Then I go to the main shut off valve and turn its handle only to have it shoot across the room and water was spewing water into my basement. Luckily we had a meter key to shut off the water at the main.
So the moral of the story is that maintenance is part of home ownership and these common little devices can create big problems if not properly maintained.
“If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
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