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  • Writer's pictureCasey Dominick

Should I Replace That Old, Crank-Style Gate Valve?

Updated: May 5

What is a gate valve?

Have you gone outside to shut off the water and found a valve that looks like this? If you live in an older home, the chances are you've run into one of these before. In general, a gate valve is a crank-style shut off valve that is used to open or close the supply of a liquid. According to United Valve, the first gate valve patent was issued in 1840 and they have been used heavily, especially in plumbing applications, ever since.

So how do you know when your gate valve is bad?

There are really 2 things to check out when you are wondering if you have a bad gate valve. First, the valve should open and close with little effort. If you feel like you're getting a little forearm workout while cranking that thing closed, it's a good idea to replace it. Second, the valve should completely shut off the water. As a plumber, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to work on a plumbing project and the water will not completely shut off. Not to mention, if a pipe bursts, you will have a hard time minimizing damage until a professional arrives.

Here is a quick way to perform both tests at once.

Go out to your old gate shut off valve and give it a turn. Do not apply too much force. If the handle is stuck, and you turn it too hard, the handle can snap off and start spraying water with no way to shut it off. As long as the wheel spins easily, continue to turn it clockwise until the valve is closed. Now, open a hose bib. Stand aside because some water will come out. After about a minute, the water should completely stop flowing. If you notice a continuous drip or trickle, your gate valve is no good and needs to be repaired or replaced.

Should you repair or replace a gate valve?

In many parts of the world, hard water is not a problem. But in Arizona, the water is extremely hard. That means there is a lot of calcium and magnesium in our water supply. These hardness minerals build up in your plumbing pipes and fixtures, making it very difficult to perform repairs on items like gate valves. So much so that repairing an old gate valve will take more time than simply replacing it. To make matters worse, A gate valve repair may not even completely resolve the issues. Save yourself from a headache and just replace it!

Gate valve vs ball valve

Here is an in-depth explanation of the difference between a gate and ball valve. For our purposes, I'll be brief. Nearly all new plumbing installations use ball valves. In my experience, ball valves are easier to operate, shut off the water easily and quickly, provide a tighter seal, and are more durable. Whenever I replace a shut off valve, I opt for a ball valve to give you a higher quality product.


Although gate valves have been in use for almost 200 years, there have been advancements in technology making them obsolete in most applications. When the time comes to repair or replace your old gate valve, replace is with a high quality ball valve that will last a long time. And always hire someone with the knowledge, skill and tools to get the job done right the first time! Call on Dominick Home Services Today!

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