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Thread: Wrong shower shut-off installed?

  1. #1

    Question Wrong shower shut-off installed?

    Hello,

    My name is Susan. This is my first post but I've been lurking for a few months (ever since we started planning our basement bathroom remodel). I want to thank everyone who contributes to these forums, it's been a great resource.

    I have a question about a shut-off valve for our basement bathroom shower, and I'm hoping to get a little help or feedback. I'll do my best to provide all of the relevant details... unfortunately I don't have access to a digital camera atm, but I can post a picture tonight if it's needed to figure out what the heck I'm talking about. :-)

    The shower is a corner shower unit (no tub) in the bathroom in a finished basement. The wall where the shower plumbing is located is shared with a bedroom. This is the set-up, looking at it from the bedroom side of the wall:

    * On the left there is a vertical pipe (copper, 1/2" nominal size) that goes from the mixer up to the shower head.
    * To its right is the hot water pipe that comes down from the ceiling to the mixer. This is the pipe that has the shut-off in question. This pipe is also copper, 1/2" nominal size. It runs parallel to the pipe that goes to the shower head. There is about 1.5" of space between the two pipes (2.25-2.5" measured from center to center).
    *To the right of the hot water pipe is a stud. There is about 1.5" of space between the pipe and the stud.

    We had a plumber come in to do a few things, including the installation of shut-off valves for the hot and cold water pipes feeding the shower. (There were originally no shut-offs for the shower.) When he got to the hot water pipe it was obvious that the gate valve he had was going to stick out of the wall, since it couldn't be put in sideways (not enough space between the two pipes or between the pipe and the stud.) I specifically asked if there was another kind of shut-off available that would not stick out of the wall, but I was told that the other kinds of valves would require cutting into the stud to be able to open/close fully. So, since we definitely wanted a shut-off on the shower, I agreed to the gate valve. It wasn't ideal, but I decided I'd rather compensate for it sticking out when I made the access panel than pay an additional $??? to go into the studs.

    When I was at Home Depot the next morning, I saw that they make 1/2" full port brass ball valves. I brought one home and found that it is in fact the right size for the pipe and that there is enough room to the left and right of the pipe for it. (I can actually fit it *between* the two pipes, and *between* the pipe and the stud.) If it were installed with the handle pointing down in the open position, I would be able to close the valve by rotating it 90 degrees clockwise (from 6 pm to 9 pm, it it were the hour hand on a clock). In the closed position it would extend a bit over the pipe to the left, but it (obviously) wouldn't bump into it. Not only would it not bump into anything but it also wouldn't stick out from the wall.

    If this valve is carried at Home Depot, it has to be a pretty standard item. (One from Home Depot wouldn't be my first choice as far as quality goes, but if it's at HD you can get it at any plumbing supply store, right?) As a standard item, I feel it's reasonable to assume that the plumber would know that it exists, and that it's available in the right size/material/etc.

    My only thought was that the ball valve might need to be oriented in a particular direction. However, I've checked in plumbing books and online, and nothing I find says that a standard application valve like this one has to have the flow going in a certain direction. I even called the manufacturer of the valve. I gave them the model number and they told me that it could be put in either way, and that valves that have to be put in in a particular orientation have an arrow on them to indicate the direction of the flow.

    So, my question is: is there any legitimate reason for putting in a gate valve that sticks out, instead of a ball valve that would fit just fine and would require the same amount of work to install?

    I try to be educated about the work that I have people come in to do but this is relatively unfamiliar territory for me. As far as I can tell, he should have put in a ball valve, but I'm no plumber and I realize that I may be overlooking or missing something. I'd really appreciate any information or opinions.

    Thanks in advance!

    Susan in Maryland
    Last edited by susan1430; 06-12-2008 at 09:35 AM.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    I'm not a pro, but a gate valve is probably the last thing I'd want burried in the wall...a ball valve is much better. A gate valve may not work down the road when it is needed. There are even smaller ball valves that instead of a handle, have a screw slot that you turn which take up even less room. Note, while handy, shutoff valves are not that common in a shower. First, you have to know they are there, and second, many years down the road, they may not work all that well if you do use them. A good ball valve should last a very long time, though. Often, the shower valve itself can be purchased with or without shutoffs...those are designed to be able to be used for maintenance after taking the trim piece off.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    In the Trades mattbee24's Avatar
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    It sounds like the plumber was just too lazy to go and get some ball valves. I can't believe he used a gate valve in the first place. Around here, the only places gate valves are even used anymore is on steam lines or for volume control.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    Note, while handy, shutoff valves are not that common in a shower. First, you have to know they are there, and second, many years down the road, they may not work all that well if you do use them. A good ball valve should last a very long time, though.
    Thanks for the reply. I'm aware that shower shut-offs aren't all that common, but the drywall was down anyways (don't ask) and the plumber was already going to be here, so we decided we might as well have them put in. There are so many access panels in this basement (the work predates us) that one more isn't going to make much of a difference. :-/

    Susan

  5. #5
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Wow, you have really done your homework...

    To answer your question: no.

    Another advantage of the ball valve is there's nothing sacred about the handle that comes with it. You can take it off altogether, bend it to a new shape if needed to fit the space, or make a new one to satisfy your every whim.

  6. #6

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    Thanks for the response, Mikey. It's appreciated.

    In retrospect I wish I'd read up on valves and gone to the plumbing supply store beforehand and bought the ones for the plumber to install, but ugh, I shouldn't have to do that. That's why I called a plumber. (And I'm definitely not a "go with the guy who gives the lowest estimate" person ... I have no problem paying for expertise and a job well done.) Hopefully the company will make it right, it's just frustrating.

    Well, I suppose I have a project for the next few weekends: pick up some pipe and fittings and learn how to solder joints myself. I've read up on it and watched a few videos... after that it's just practice, right? (Right?)

    Thanks all,
    Susan

    PS It makes sense now that you say it, but I hadn't realized you could alter/change/reorient the handle on a ball valve. I'm sure that bit of knowledge will be useful someday, thanks.
    Last edited by susan1430; 06-13-2008 at 01:49 PM.

  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The cardinal rules of soldering are correct cleaning of the pipe and fitting, a good covering of flux (you can buy one with powdered solder in it that works really well), heat the joint, not the pipe, and don't just melt the solder in the flame (no need to ever get the solder in the flame)...get the metal hot enough to melt it. Then, don't move it until it solidifies and (preferably) wipe the joint with a rag to make it pretty and remove excess flux while it is still hot.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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