Shutoff Valves: Quarter Turn Vs. Compression

There isn’t anything more aggravating than suffering flooding and water damage due to broken pipes, not to mention the cost for repairs, which can be massive in an industrial setting. That’s why it’s so important that you know where your shutoff valves are before a plumbing emergency happens. In this post, we’ll look at what shutoff valves are, where you’ll find them, and the differences between compression valves and quarter turn valves.

What is a Shutoff Valve and Where Are They?

Shutoff valves are just what the name implies – valves that shut off the flow within a piping system. There is a main shutoff valve and also shutoff valves near fixtures. A main shutoff valve will stop the flow of water that comes from the water main. The main water shutoff valve is typically located outside the building, on the ground floor (or in the basements for those buildings that have one), and they are usually located at the shortest point from the water main to the building.

Some fixtures have their own shutoff valve. These can be used to stop the flow of water to a specific fixture, rather than the entire building. You’ll find shutoff valves at fixtures including sinks, toilets, and washing machines.

      • Sinks – The shutoff valve for sinks are usually located in the cabinet underneath the sink. If there is a leak in a faucet or sink pipe, turning off this valve will stop water flow to the sink.
      • Toilet – These shutoff valves are located on the wall behind the toilet.
      • Washing Machine – Behind the washing machine, there are two valves, or sometimes a lever in industrial settings, that can be turned off to stop water from flowing.

Compression and Quarter Turn Shutoff Valves

Shutoff valves come in two basic types, the compression valve and the quarter turn valve. Let’s take a look at both and how they work.

Compression Valves

Compression valves, sometimes called multi-turn valves, are typically globe valves. You turn this valve on or off with multiple turns. It operates by using a compression washer situated at the end of the valve’s stem that controls the water flow through the valve. When the stem is turned, the washer is compressed against the internal seat and it forms a seal.

Quarter Turn Valves

Quarter turn shutoff valves came along after the compression valve. They use a ball valve configuration. You only have to turn it a quarter of a turn to turn it on and off.

The Differences between Compression and Quarter Turn Valves

How do you know which shutoff valve to use? The answer to that question often depends on which person you ask. While compression and quarter turn valves have similarities in their uses, there are a number of differences to consider.

      • Cost – Compression valves are less expensive than quarter turn valves. Typically, quarter turn valves are about a dollar or so more than compression valves.
      • Repair – If a quarter turn shutoff valve fails and begins leaking, then it has to be replaced. On the other hand, compression shutoff valves can often be repaired. When the compression washer degrades over time, it can be replaced fairly easily. Additionally, the packing in the valve, which help stop leaks around the stem from occurring, can be replaced if needed. Even simpler, some types of leaks can be stopped by just tightening the valve’s packing nut. While compression valve repairs are fairly easy, some plumbers prefer to simply replace the valve as they are not expensive and it ensures that any other old and worn parts won’t soon fail.
      • Durability – Because quarter turn valves are constructed simply, with fewer parts, it makes this type of valve more durable than compression valves. However, there are other aspects, including the quality of the build and other construction material, that can work against the durability of the quarter turn shutoff valves. That means that if you are going to use them, you should make sure that you buy high-quality ones. The inside of the valve needs to be metal, not plastic.
      • Ease of Use – As the name implies, quarter turn valves only take a quarter of a turn to operate them. They are also easy to read. You know by the position of the handles whether they are off or on.

Extending the Life of Shutoff Valves

The type of valve you use is an important decision. Remember to choose valves that are high-quality. While using these shutoff valves, always make sure that they are installed correctly, that you leave them fully open, and that you don’t over tighten them when it’s necessary. This will ensure that you get the longest life possible out of the shutoff valves you’ve chosen.