The Gates of “ ”… Valves

Home Inspector with NCW Home Inspections, LLC

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.

Gate Valve Wenatchee Home Inspection


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.


Ball Valve Wenatchee Real Estate


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.


Leaking gate valve Wenatchee home inspections



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.”

Red Adair


NCW Home Inspections, LLC  is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  


Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service                                               509-670-9572


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Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi Donald,

I have seen these in nearly every home I get to inspect. I don't normally try them because of the liability issues. I make the comment of the age in the report and then leave it up to the buyer to make repairs and or replacements.

Touch them and you in the "LIABILITY ZONE'.

Have a great day in the Great North west my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

May 06, 2013 10:32 PM #1
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Clint, I do not try many. But in some cases we know what we are getting into. This was a home that was winterized and we had to turn on the main valve to restore the water. We had a little bucket brigade : )

May 06, 2013 10:36 PM #2
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Donald -- glad to hear that you were prepared for this issue.  My in-laws have both a gate valve at that front end of the system, as well as ball  valves on the system further in, as I have to open them in the spring and close them in the fall.

May 07, 2013 02:27 AM #3
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Wow, when the main starts spewing it's a comfy feeling!  Where did you get the long key for the water meter?

May 07, 2013 08:53 AM #4
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Steve, Yeah I was lucky there. My buddy had one. 


Jay, I got my meter key at one of the local hardware stores. Came in handy again today ; )

May 07, 2013 12:14 PM #5
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

I have one of those keys too, got it at Home Depot. Has saved my butt numerous times.

May 07, 2013 09:43 PM #6
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

I'm with Clint, I don't touch 'em. For obvious reasons. :)

May 09, 2013 10:45 PM #7
David Yarema
i have a leaking gate valve at where it comes into house before meter it stared leaking after a crazy fee to have water shut off and on again I had a guy come in look at it and over tripled the fee to replace it, it all came to 720.00 !!!if I stayed with the guy ad that's after I been paying for plumbing warrenty on my house apparently its the only part not covered they said ....ya....go figure.
Jan 21, 2014 02:14 AM #8
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Donald Hester

NCW Home Inspections, LLC
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