Operating A Gate Valve – How To Close Or Open A Valve Properly

Opinion & Expertise
January 20, 2012

by David Balkan

Main control valve

When it comes to operating a gate valve on a main water line observing a few simple rules when you open a valve or close a valve can prevent damage and unnecessary repair work. Additionally operating a main control valve properly will add years of service life.

How to open a gate valve on a main water line

Gate valve
gate valve handle

The proper way to open a gate valve is to gently turn the handle counter-clockwise (to the left) without applying excessive force – do not ‘jerk’ the handle.

A typical 1″ main control valve for a water line will take about six full turns to fully open. Stop turning as soon as there is any resistance.

Turning the handle or stem too far with excessive pressure can cause damage and very often will cause a leak.

  • Helpful tip: If you meet resistance when trying to open a main control valve loosen the packing nut one turn. The packing nut is on top of the gate valve body. That will allow the stem to move more easily. Always remember to tighten the packing nut after you are finished opening or closing the water to prevent a leak.
  • Helpful tip #2: If there is no water in the plumbing system when opening the valve always open a faucet on the top floor of the building to let air escape from the plumbing system. Air left in the plumbing can cause ‘water hammer’ and blow apart piping causing considerable damage.

How to close a gate valve on a main water line

gate valve
Brass body gate valve

Applying excessive pressure to a gate valve to make it close “all the way” has the effect of bending the gate, its seat or seal and doing permanent damage.

Sometimes excessive pressure or jerking the handle will cause the stem to snap. Excessive pressure can cause the valve to break in the closed position and cut off the water supply to the property.

Helpful tip: If a gate will not fully stop the flow of water, never apply excessive force. Frequently debris or sediment may accumulate inside the body of the gate valve preventing the gate from fully closing.

There is a method to get sediment or debris out of a valve body. With a faucet open inside the building gently work the handle open and closed to flush out the sediment of debris. In most cases this will allow the gate to fully close. Never try to force the gate to close by using excessive pressure or force.

If the water flow still will not stop call a licensed master plumberNever risk damage to your property by trying to perform work you are not capable of or knowledgeable about.brass gate valve

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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