Miserable gate valves…

The temperature, if not necessarily the weather as a whole*, has moderated a lot in the past week or so. Therefore I really ought to spend some time outdoors figuring out what went wrong with the water.

Trouble is, my Plan B is sufficiently tolerable that I’m really not in all that big a rush about actually getting water back to the cabin. I did make some improvements in the floor insulation which would certainly make broken pipes less likely. But it was a hurried job and only made clear much better improvements that I can do with more materials and a more leisurely approach. So forget the cabin for the moment and let’s see what’s wrong with the water system without sending water to the cabin. Step one: Go out to the yard spigot, open the valve cover, fish out a whole bunch of insulation and close the valve in the pipe that supplies the cabin.

The valve stem spins and spins: the shaft has apparently separated from the gate valve itself. Grumble! That means I have to…

Step two: Trudge up to the water tank with a shovel. Dig around until you finally find the buried can protecting the handle of the identical valve at the top of that pipe. Because two is one, and cet.


The valve appears to be stuck. Here, let me put a wrench on it…aaaand now the valve stem spins and spins: The shaft has apparently separated from the gate valve itself.

Is it significant that these are identical valves bought in the same place at the same time? And that they both failed in exactly the same way?

I need to replace the upper one before I can fill the tank, or there’ll be no way to replace the upper one without draining the tank. So I’m on hold again. This time I’m going to try ball valves.


* At the moment the temp’s in the mid-forties but there’s a windstorm worthy of the worst part of Spring. It’s serious can-barely-remain-on-my-feet weather up on the ridgetops. It was nice yesterday, though.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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16 Responses to Miserable gate valves…

  1. Mike says:

    I lived on a well once that would eat up a gate valve in about 5 years. Don’t know what was in the water but it would destroy brass/bronze in short order. Plastic ball valves didn’t seem affected at all.
    I hate plumbing. Good luck.

  2. BT;DT. http://www.commanderzero.com/?p=5256
    Ball valves are the way to go. And Pex, it seems.

  3. terrapod says:

    Joel – What size pipe? We have some odds and ends including ball valves here,

  4. Mike says:

    Well at least you now have an idea of what the problem is and how you will fix it. Cdr. Zero is right, PEX with ball valves are the way to go. The only thing is not to let the PEX be exposed to any UV, because this will cause it to break down and fail fast.

    As for the weather, it was -29 plus wind chill (-41) here last night. Today it rose to a balmy -21 plus wind chill, so I’ll trade ya.

  5. Mark Matis says:

    Be aware that PVC ball valves can be difficult to actuate – open or closed – after a few years exposure to sun and well water. Not sure about Pex, but suspect stainless with PTFE seats would work:
    https://www.mcmaster.com/flow-valves

    How much $$$ will you need? And can it wait until an LL trip?

  6. Mark Matis says:

    In the meantime, you obviously need another Corgi to keep TB company:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9SVYxU9a9U
    }:-]

  7. Zelda says:

    I’m another use ball valves and pex vote although I’ve had a lot of pex connectors fail that weren’t exposed to UV. But I find it difficult to buy really good quality plumbing fittings of any type. It seems like most hardware these days is not made to last any time. Have you tried SharkBite connectors? Is there any way to protect the area where the gate valve is so you don’t have to dig that much every time you need access to it? Some kind of flexible insulation with surface marker for the valve or something like a large upside down galvanized tub with a handle on the bottom to make a cover. You’d still have to dig a bit to remove some perimeter dirt but then use the handle to pull the cover off, remove whatever insulation you put around inside the cover.

  8. Mark Matis says:

    They actually make valve boxes, Zelda, that don’t cost much more than a bucket:
    https://www.lowes.com/pd/NDS-0-in-L-x-6-in-W-x-8-38-in-H-Round-Irrigation-Valve-Box/1060257

  9. Joel says:

    Yeah, several years ago we scrounged a few valve boxes but they got buried in the other building supplies we stashed in Ian’s powershed and I forgot about them when I needed to more heavily bury the manifold. So before I rebury these valves that’ll be corrected. I have a bunch of old fiberglass batting I can stuff the box with, which should hopefully do as well as that much dirt.

  10. Mark Matis says:

    Foam insulation chunks would do better than fiberglass batting. The batting doesn’t insulate much when it gets wet.

  11. B says:

    Ball Valves. Coat ’em in silicone grease. Make sure to move ’em twice or so a year to keep ’em from liming up.

  12. Zelda says:

    Mark, yup, and 2 inch thick closed cell foam glued to the box if possible would maybe last longer. Hope those boxes Joel has are large, rectangular – more insulation space, less dirt to move to get to the valve. I have not seen an insulated box but would think they must be available for people in extreme climates.

  13. Joel says:

    B, you’ve put your finger on the main thing I keep doing wrong with plumbing valves. They may not be needed for years at a time, and by then our extremely hard water has effectively destroyed them. I need to get into the habit of working them at intervals, as faithfully as topping off batteries.

  14. Mark Matis says:

    Which means you REALLY want to make it easy to get to them.

  15. Joel says:

    Yeah, which means that actually burying them wasn’t my best plan ever.

  16. Mark Matis says:

    Well, burying them too deep isn’t a good plan. But you do want to get them below the frost line. That way the earth over them keeps the stuff from freezing.

To the stake with the heretic!