Water leak at shutoff valve, please assess

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Old 10-24-13, 08:12 AM
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Question Water leak at shutoff valve, please assess

Found a leak at a hot water shutoff valve that supplies water to the laundry room in the basement (washer & sink). It looks like the wood below collected the water & is rotting away. Is there mold there or is it just wet? Can't tell.

I am a new homeowner & just discovered this (while I was trying to decipher how the plumbing in the house is routed). I've never messed with plumbing before (let alone any home improvement) but would just taking a wrench to the nut be a bad idea? Not sure what I need to look out for when doing plumbing work.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 08:37 AM
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Not a plumber, but I have worked on a few shut off valves.
First, my terminology (in case it's not accurate!): from the top down you have: the handle (red w/white paint), the stem, a hex nut (I call that the "packing nut", but I'm not sure if that is the official name), threads (also w/white paint or white pipe dope on them), another hex nut (?), and the body of the shutoff.

If the leak is coming from where the stem enters the packing nut, you could have some loose packing, and tightening that nut could solve the problem.
2 things to be aware of: 1) if it is paint on the threads, it could gum things up, so be careful
and
2) I'd suggest using 2 wrenches, one on the top hex nut, to turn it, and another on the lower hex nut (?) to keep the body of the valve from trying to turn as you tighten the packing nut.
Good luck, hope that this helps.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 04:36 PM
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Thanks Mikedel, will give tightening the top nut a try. But can anyone tell me if that piece has mold or what damage looks to be done (or is it just water damage)?
 
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Old 10-24-13, 05:01 PM
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That's old steel pipes and an outdated gate valve.
Steel pipe at some point will always fail and leak.
Gate valves after a few years almost never completely shut off the water flow due to trash build up in the seat.
If tightening up the packing nut works that's great.
At some point all that piping's going to have to be replaced.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 06:24 PM
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But can anyone tell me if that piece has mold or what damage looks to be done (or is it just water damage)?
I would definitely remove/replace that piece of wood. It's certainly not doing what's it's supposed to in its current state. I can't quite tell what it's holding up, but I wouldn't leave it there.

Mikedel provided some good feedback on how to hopefully fix the leak. Definitely keep an eye on it, if tightening the packing nut doesn't work, it may have to be replaced... but that will definitely be a larger project because of the threaded pipes.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 06:51 PM
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joecaption1-

...At some point all that piping's going to have to be replaced.
joe aren't you being a little pessimistic? Where is the indication in the pictures that the piping is near the end of its life?
 
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Old 10-25-13, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by joecaption1
At some point all that piping's going to have to be replaced.
What would be the replacement nowadays? PVC? That sounds scary because all the pipes in the house are metal save for the bathroom vanity drain & some sump pump connections. And you are right about the valve not closing all the way...we can still get a trickle when (apparently) fully closed.

Originally Posted by Zorfdt
Definitely keep an eye on it, if tightening the packing nut doesn't work, it may have to be replaced... but that will definitely be a larger project because of the threaded pipes.
Hmm...so if I did have to replace that valve, it wouldn't just easily twist off from the left & right pipes? What would the replacement procedure actually be?
 
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Old 10-25-13, 05:48 PM
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Take a trip to your local public library and check out a couple of DIY type books on home plumbing. Don't worry about the code details so much at this point as the proper terms and tools used.

As for replacing that valve...it could entail quite a bit of work if there is no "union" fitting close by.

Modern household plumbing is done with either copper with soldered fittings or with a somewhat flexible plastic known as PEX (all capital letters). PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene and is the product of choice in residential plumbing these days. There is also ABS plastic, which is for drainage systems only; PVC plastic which is used for some water supply purposes but not often for potable (drinkable) water however is common in some areas as drainage piping. Another plastic that you will read about in the books is CPVC. PVC cannot be used for hot water under pressure but CPVC can. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and CPVC is chlorinated PVC, a process that adds strength to the plastic to allow its use with hot water.

I personally do not recommend CPVC as it can get quite brittle with age. Whatever material you might use it MUST be approved by your local building department. Remember, just because it is sold in the local home improvement store does NOT mean it is an approved material.
 
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Old 10-26-13, 07:48 AM
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Ok, so I could just screw off the valve & replace it with a PEX valve since it's easier to work with. But it looks like if I wanted to screw it off I would have to pretty much start at the "end of the line" or a fixture & keep taking things apart til I reach the valve. Is that how it's usually done?

I tried tightening the packing nut but that thing didn't budge at all & didn't want to break it....or should I just manhandle it?
 
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Old 10-26-13, 12:43 PM
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All quality valves are made of brass. PEX is the type of material used with the piping, it has special fittings that change from the plastic to brass or copper threaded connections for valves or final connections to faucets and such. Although plastic valves are made DO NOT USE THEM as they will jam and be useless when you need them.

Yes, it is necessary to start from the correct end of the threaded piping system (or from a union fitting) and work backwards to get to whatever fitting or valve needs to be replaced. Plumbers in the 1950s were very chary with the use of unions, probably because of costs and knowing that they would not be the one who would work on the system in later years. Even today there are plumbers that do not use enough unions.

Try loosening the packing nut first. I can't tell you how much force to use as it is an experience thing. Do NOT use gorilla force because if you break it then you will be in a far worse situation than just a minor drip.
 
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Old 10-28-13, 07:59 AM
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Tried loosening the packing nut & it did budge, then I tightened it. I figure the previous owners knew about this & that's why the nut is at its tightest point. I drips very slowly, so I put a microfiber cloth over it & will check tonight if it's wet.

In the event that I do have to replace this valve, looks like I have to shut off all hot water, and I would have to unscrew from the laundry sink, the basement bathroom (sink & shower), and washing machine. This pipe with the leaking valve is the trunk line for all of these fixtures, so I will my work cut out. Since I will be doing all this unscrewing, were the pipes made to be re-screwed or is it one of those things like when you unscrew the pipe, you need to replace because the seal will never be as good as the original?
 
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Old 10-28-13, 01:58 PM
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Don't get in a big hurry to change that valve. You CAN just change the packing and get it to stop leaking. Eventually you will probably want to make some serious repairs to the entire piping systems but you have other things to worry about before that.

Replacing the packing is fairly easy and will entail buying some string packing at the corner hardware store or big box mega-mart homecenter for a couple of bucks. Far easier than changing out the valve.
 
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