How To Replace A Ball Valve
Figure 1: Ball valve
Ball valves are an integral part of plumbing and piping systems. These valves are highly durable and leak-resistant by and large, but they are not immune to damage. Replacing a damaged ball valve is relatively simple if the correct sequence of steps is followed. This article discusses how to replace a ball valve connected to a copper pipe or PVC pipe in case the valve doesn’t work properly.
Ball valve issues
A ball valve is a shut-off valve that directs the flow of a fluid by means of a rotary ball having a hole. There are a few potential ball valve failures like getting stuck, fluid leakage, corrosion, and overheating, resulting in the valve not functioning properly. Typically, there are three cases:
- Ball valve issues that can be fixed manually: Issues like a stuck ball valve that prevents fluid flow, sediment and dirt buildup that makes the valves difficult to open and close, or actuator issues can be easily solved by manual intervention as discussed in our article on ball valve issues and troubleshooting.
- Ball valve issues that can be fixed by replacing a part: Issues like a partially closing ball valve, worn-out O-ring, and stem may require certain parts of the ball valve to be replaced with new ones rather than ordering a whole new valve.
- Ball valve issues that require a total replacement: Certain issues like a leaking ball valve may require the whole valve to be replaced with a new one.
Figure 2: A rusted ball valve
How to replace a ball valve
The following is an example on how to replace a ball valve on a water line with a new one. The same principles apply for other applications.
Step 1: Turn off the water
Turn off the main water supply to all the pipes being worked on. Then, drain the existing water pressure in these pipes by turning on the connected faucet.
Step 2: Access the pipes
Accessing the pipes is necessary to replace an existing ball valve. For example:
- A sink: Try to access the ball valve underneath the sink.
- Shower pipe/bathtub faucet: Either via the basement crawlspace or via breaking the wall that has the pipe attached.
This step helps plan in advance whether to break the wall for replacing the required valve.
Figure 3: Three-dimensional representation of copper and PVC pipes within a wall
Step 3: Cut the old valve out
Once there is full access to the pipes, use a hacksaw to cut off the old ball valve residing in the pipe (marked in red circles in Figure 4). For this, cut the two sides of the pipe where the valve is placed, and get the valve removed from its position. In case the old valve can be unscrewed from its position, remove the valve and skip to Step 8.
Figure 4: A ball valve connected in a pipe system. The red circles show the points where the pipe needs to be cut to remove the valve.
Step 4: Disassemble the ball valve
Disassemble the ball valve parts and make sure to keep all the parts together. This ensures that if any of the individual parts are salvageable, the reassembling process can be done with ease.
Step 5: Inspect the ball valve parts
Inspect the ball valve parts for any cracks or wear and tear that might have led to the leaking or nonfunctional ball valve. If a specific part of the valve seems faulty while the rest of them seem normal and function well, the best option would be to order a replacement part. Read our article on ball valve leakage troubleshooting for more details on the causes of ball valve leakage and how to troubleshoot them. After getting the damaged part replaced, use lubricating oil and screws to reassemble the ball valve parts. If there is damage to multiple parts of the valve, or if the ball valve seems damaged beyond repair, it is a better option to get a completely new ball valve.
Step 6: Buy a new valve/valve part and other supplies required
Have an idea about the type of pipes installed so that it is easy to buy a new pipe section and seals required.
- Copper pipe: A plumber’s tape or sweat pipe joints
- PVC pipe: Pipe cement
Also, get a spackle and a new valve or valve part(s) based on the needs.
Step 7: Splice the pipe
Splice the new pipe section onto the pipe where the valve was cut. Allow enough space for the new ball valve to fit in.
- PVC pipe: Apply PVC glue to the existing pipe where the cut was made and on one end of the new pipe. Push the new pipe onto the existing pipe and hold for approximately 30 seconds. Connect a coupler to one end of the new pipe if needed.
- Copper pipe: Two copper pipes can be connected together by soldering their ends or by using a coupler. Read our article on ball valve soldering for the detailed soldering process employed in the plumbing industry.
Figure 5: Copper pipes typically need to be soldered to the valve
Step 8: Install the new/repaired ball valve
Install the new/repaired ball valve properly into the pipe.
- Copper pipes typically need to be soldered to the valve. Read our article on ball valve soldering for detailed instructions on how to solder a ball valve to a copper pipe.
- For installing a ball valve to a PVC pipe, cover one end of the pipe using pipe dope and insert the ball valve into the pipe. Then brush pipe dope to the other connecting end of the pipe and insert the other port of the valve.
- Welded connections are used for ball valves where zero leakage is crucial for high-pressure and high-temperature applications. Welded connections are permanent and should be carried out only by trained professionals.
- Threaded connections are useful to install small valves to pipes. Typically, the valve has female threaded ends that connect to a male threaded component. In some cases, the valve has male threaded ends or one male threaded end and the other a female threaded end. Threaded connections can either be straight or tapered. Straight connections often require an O-ring that compresses to ensure a tight seal between the valve and the pipe. The tapered thread does not require an O-ring to achieve a tight seal. Both types of thread can use pipe tape or a sealant between the male and female thread, which serves as a lubricant, provides sealing, and prevents metal-to-metal contacts that cause wear.
- Ball valves with flanged connections are quite easy to install and can be easily removed for cleaning and maintenance without affecting other parts of the pipe network. They are very common in industrial applications. The flanges are solid metal plates with holes through which bolts and nuts are placed to tighten the valve to the pipe.
Step 9: Test the ball valve installation
Turn on the water supply and faucets that were previously turned off for the installation. Check for leaks in the pipes. If there are no leaks, the broken walls that contain the pipes can be closed. If the pipes leak, go back into the steps and make the proper connections required.
If the wall had to be cut into, place the part back and paint over it with spackle. If the valve was below the sink, just close the cabinets.
Can you replace a gate valve with a ball valve?
Yes, a ball valve is superior in terms of performance compared to a gate valve; hence, it is a good idea to replace a gate valve with a ball valve if needed.
Can ball valves fail?
Yes, a ball valve can fail due to a damaged seal (the valve won’t close fully) or foreign particles entering the valve (the valve gets stuck).
What is the life expectancy of a ball valve?
The average life expectancy of a ball valve is 8-10 years. Ball valves get worn out due to continuous rotation.