A “ball valve” is a term that describes a particular type of supply-side water shut-off valve that is now used, in most cases, instead of the older style “gate” valves.

Ball Valve vs Gate Valve

The two main types of shut-off valves that are used today are gate valves and ball valves.  There are a few main advantages that ball valves have over their predecessors.

A gate valve is made of solid bronze.  A “gate” is at the center of the valve, and is raised and lower by means of a round handle and a screw.  As you turn the handle, the screw slowly raises and lowers the gate.  It takes several turns of the handle to fully close the gate, and shut the water completely off.

A ball valve has a stainless steel “ball” in the center of it, with a hole in the middle.  They usually have a plastic bushing that keeps it from leaking.  The ball is connected to a handle, and is closed by turning the handle 1/4 turn.

The most obvious advantage to a ball valve is that it can be opened and closed by a single ¼ turn, as opposed to requiring multiple turns, as with a gate vale.  Another benefit is that while gate valves are infamous for getting corroded to a point where they no longer function.  Because the ball valve’s internals being stainless steel, and the plastic bushing inside, they do not usually have this problem.

Another benefit is that you can tell whether a ball valve is open or shut, just by looking at it.  If the handle is parallel to the valve it is open.  If the handle is perpendicular, it is off.  Still another benefit is that while gate valves tend to let water through, even when completely closed, ball valves are much more likely to successfully and completely shut off the flow of water.

One of the most frustrating disadvantages of a gate vale is that fact that the screw that holds the gate in place often breaks.  This could lead to continuously turning the valve and having no effect on the flow, or if the valve is closed when the screw breaks, the water cannot be turned back on.

Choosing your valve

One thing that many people do not know is that there are two types of ball vales – reduced port and full port.

  • Reduced port – These valves are a little smaller, and the opening inside of them is 1 pipe size smaller than the pipe it services.  That means that if you have a ¾”, reduced port ball valve, the opening is actually only ½” in diameter.
  • Full port – These valves are a little bigger with the inside diameter the same size as the pipe it services.  These will properly service the line without restricting the flow.

Really, the only reason people use reduced port valves is because they are less expensive.  There is really no benefit to using them, and the drawback is that they do reduce water flow.  If a plumber is using a reduced port valve, it is likely in an effort to “cut corners”.

If you need a ball valve replaced, or installed, don’t cut corners.  Call Allstar plumbing.  We do not even carry reduced port vales in our trucks, because we do not cut corners.  At Allstar, we do plumbing right!  Give us a call today to find out more.