8 Different Types of Water Valves Used in Home Plumbing
Learn how different kinds of valves can help make repairs easier, control the flow of water, and prevent common plumbing problems.
The purpose of most water valves is to completely or partially restrict the flow of water through pipes. Water valves come in a range of different styles depending primarily on where and how the valve will be used. This can take the form of a simple faucet valve used to stop the flow of water through the faucet or it may be more involved, such as a butterfly valve, which is specifically designed for use on large diameter pipes that are not commonly used in residential construction.
The various types of water valves can be difficult to differentiate at first, but by taking the time to learn about these key plumbing fixtures, you can develop a better understanding of the uses and designs of each type.
1. Gate Valve
Gate valves are easily one of the most common water valves used for general and residential plumbing. As the first type of valve patented in America back in 1839, gate valves have been used ever since as main shutoff valves, isolation valves, hot water tank valves, and more. Gate valves have an interior gate that can be lowered to reduce or completely stop the flow of water when its circular handle is rotated slowly.
These types of water valves allow users to control the specific flow rate of the water instead of simply switching between open and closed positions. Due to the controlled opening and closing mechanism, gate valves are ideal for homes that experience recurring water hammer problems. However, it should be noted that with significant use, the stem and valve nut can become loose, leading to leaks. Alternatively, if the valve is never used it may become seized and unusable.
Best For: One of the most popular styles of residential water valves, gate valves can be used as main shutoff valves, isolation valves, hot water tank valves, and more.
Our Recommendation: THEWORKS 3/4 in. Gate Valve – Get at The Home Depot for $12.99.
This reliable gate valve is made with corrosion-resistant brass and is suitable for installation on a 3/4-inch water line with 3/4-inch MIP adapters.
2. Globe Valve or Stop Valve
Globe valves aren’t often seen on commonly used 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch water lines, but they are an excellent option for water lines that have a 1-inch or larger diameter. These valves tend to be larger than gate valves because of their bulky internal construction. They have a horizontal internal baffle with an opening that can be partially restricted or completely blocked by a plug that is raised or lowered by turning the circular handle of the valve.
Similar to gate valves, globe valves are a good choice if the user is looking for precise control of the flow of water. Since the plug can be slowly lowered or raised, this also makes it easier to prevent water hammer in homes that usually experience this recurring problem.
Best For: A good alternative to gate valves for larger residential plumbing lines, globe valves are best used to help reduce water hammer problems.
Our Recommendation: Milwaukee Valve Class 125 Globe Valve – Get at Grainger for $100.
The durable bronze construction of this 1-inch globe valve makes it a great choice for use in large residential HVAC systems.
3. Check Valve
While a check valve doesn’t look like a typical valve and may not even have the same ability to stop the flow of incoming water, this doesn’t make a check valve any less important to the plumbing system. This style of valve is specifically designed to allow water to flow through the inlet side of the valve. The force of the incoming water pushes open a hinged disk, ensuring that the water pressure isn’t reduced by the valve. However, the same hinged disk prevents water from flowing through the valve in the opposite direction because any force imparted on the disk simply pushes the disk closed.
Check valves are regularly used to prevent backflow in the plumbing system, which can lead to cross-contamination problems between various plumbing fixtures and appliances. Backflow can occur when the pressure within a pump, sprinkler system, or water tank is lower than the pressure within the main water system. Installing a check valve can prevent this issue.
Best For: Use check valves for backflow prevention in pumps, safety applications, sprinkler systems, and any other residential plumbing that may be at risk of continuous or intermittent backflow.
Our Recommendation: SharkBite 1/2 in. Check Valve – Get at The Home Depot for $16.47.
The simple installation method of this SharkBite check valve makes it easy for even beginner DIYers to quickly install a check valve on 1/2-inch plumbing lines.
4. Ball Valve
The second most common valve seen in residential plumbing systems is known as a ball valve. These valves tend to be more reliable than gate valves and are not prone to leaking or seizing, however over time they do not allow for the same precise control over the flow of water as a gate valve.
Ball valves consist of a lever that can be rotated just 90 degrees. This lever controls a hollow half-sphere within the valve. When the lever is in line with the valve, the half-sphere is retracted and allows for the full flow of water through the valve. When the lever is perpendicular to the valve, the half-sphere completely blocks the flow of water through the valve, and it is easy to turn the water on and off but difficult to control the flow.
Best For: Ball valves are commonly used in residential plumbing because they are more reliable and user-friendly than gate valves.
Our Recommendation: Everbilt 3/4 in. Ball Valve – Get at The Home Depot for $13.70.
This heavy-forged brass lead-free ball valve is designed specifically for soldering to 3/4-inch copper plumbing lines for reliable water line control.
5. Butterfly Valve
The butterfly style of valve gets its name from the rotating disc contained within. This disc has a thick center that holds the valve stem and a thin fin or wing on either side, mimicking the basic appearance of a butterfly. When the control lever is turned, it rotates the disk and allows it to partially or fully restrict the flow of water through the valve.
These valves are commonly used on water pipes that are 3 inches in diameter or larger, so they are rarely seen in residential plumbing. The size and style of these valves also come at a higher price than other residential valves.
Best For: Very rarely used in typical residential applications, butterfly valves are best for commercial, institutional, and industrial plumbing due to the large size of the valves.
Our Recommendation: Milwaukee Valve Lug-Style Butterfly Valve – Get at Grainger for $194.78.
Only intended for 3-inch diameter water lines, this cast iron butterfly valve is an excellent option for commercial mechanical and industrial systems, like hot and cold domestic water control.
6. Pressure Relief Valve
A pressure relief valve is another plumbing fixture called a valve that doesn’t function in the same way as a regular water valve. Instead of restricting or preventing the flow of water through the system, a pressure relief valve is intended to protect the water system by releasing steam and hot water if the pressure within the system becomes too high.
These valves are normally used on hot water tanks to help prevent overheating, rupturing, and deformation due to excessive pressure. They have a spring mechanism inside the valve that reacts to the pressure and compresses when the pressure gets too high. The compression of the spring opens the valve to release steam and water, reducing or relieving the pressure on the system.
Best For: Specifically designed for protecting the home’s plumbing system, users can reduce the pressure inside the hot water tank by installing a pressure relief valve.
Our Recommendation: Zurn 3/4 in. Pressure Relief Valve – Get at The Home Depot for $18.19.
Help prevent the hot water tank from overheating, rupturing, or becoming deformed with this 3/4-inch brass pressure relief valve.
7. Supply Stop Valve
A specialized type of valve, supply stop valves can sometimes also be called supply inlet or outlet valves. They are made specifically for use with plumbing fixtures like toilets, sinks, dishwashers, and clothes washers. Additionally, these valves come in various types, including straight, angles, compression, and quarter-turn, so it’s up to the user to choose the best supply stop valve for the current plumbing configuration.
These valves are easy to recognize on the toilet water supply line and are used to stop the flow of water to specific plumbing fixtures and appliances. When using reliable supply stop valves to isolate the plumbing appliances and fixtures around the home, it’s much easier to make repairs and complete maintenance.
Best For: Typically a supply stop valve is found on a supply line for the toilet, refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, and clothes washer.
Our Recommendation: BrassCraft 1/2 in. Angle Valve – Get at The Home Depot for $7.87.
Control the flow of water to household plumbing fixtures with this 1/2-inch by 3/8-inch 90-degree angle supply stop valve.
8. Faucet Valve
Another type of specialized valve, faucet valves come in a wide range of styles, though each is made to control the flow of water through a faucet, tub, or shower. Some styles include ball valves, cartridges, ceramic discs, and compression valves.
- Ball valves are simple and reliable mechanisms that either turn the water on or off with little room for flow management.
- Cartridge valves are most commonly used in showers to control the flow of water by rotating to open or close the passage to the showerhead.
- Ceramic disc valves consist of two ceramic disks that rotate against each other. When the holes in the upper and lower disk align, water can pass through the valve, but when the holes are misaligned, the flow of water is restricted or completely stopped.
- Compression valves use a rod and plug to seal a hole known as the valve seat.
- Globe valves are a good example of a compression valve.
Best For: This type of valve is typically only used to control the flow of water at a sink faucet, though they may also be used on appliance water lines.
Our Recommendation: Moen 2-Handle 3-Hole Tub Valve – Get at The Home Depot for $106.89.
Update the faucet valves on the tub with these 2-handle, 3-hole Roman tub faucet valves that use 1/2-inch copper pipe to connect the two valves and the faucet outlet line.
The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on October 14, 2021.