Common Plumbing Valve Types

Dec 22, 2023 | Frozen Pipes, Pipes, Plumbing, Toilet

Plumbing systems are a crucial component of any building, contributing significantly to its overall functionality. Among the various elements that make up these systems, the plumbing valve plays an indispensable role. These small yet essential components control the flow of water, thereby preventing any potential plumbing issues. In this blog, we’ll delve into the common types of valves, their working mechanisms, and their applications.

plumbing valves, plumbing pipes

How Does a Plumbing Valve Work?

A plumbing valve works by restricting or allowing the full flow of water in pipes. They come in various types, each uniquely designed to perform specific functions. Some valves are manually operated, while others are automatic, responding to changes in pressure or temperature to regulate flow.

Each of these valves offers specific benefits and is ideal for certain applications. Understanding how they work and where they can be used will make dealing with plumbing repairs and installations considerably easier and more efficient. Let’s take a look at the different plumbing valve types now.

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ball valve

Ball Plumbing Valve

A ball valve is a type of quarter-turn valve, named for the spherical disc, or ‘ball’, at the heart of their design. The ball has a hole through it, which when aligned with the flow of the water, allows passage and facilitates water flow. This is achieved by rotating the ball by 90 degrees. When the hole is turned perpendicular to the flow, it obstructs the passage, effectively blocking the flow of water. Ball Valves are widely recognized for their long life span and reliability, especially in applications requiring shutoff and control services. Ball valves provide tight sealing, even after years of disuse, making them an excellent choice for shutoff applications. The simplicity of the ball valve operation, combined with their durability and compact design, makes them an essential component in many plumbing systems.

Check Plumbing Valve

Check Valves, also known as non-return valves, are designed to allow water to flow in one direction only, thereby preventing backflow when the water pressure changes or falls. A check valve operates automatically, opening to allow incoming water to flow when the pressure differential on the inlet side exceeds the pressure on the outlet side. Conversely, when the pressure equalizes or reverses, the valve closes to prevent back flow.

This functionality is paramount in preventing contamination or damage to the system components upstream of the valve. Check valves come in various types, including swing check valves and lift check valves, each suited to specific applications. The check valve is commonly used in systems that involve pumps or compressors, and in household systems such as wastewater lines or sump pumps to ensure backflow prevention. Understanding the function and application of check valves is crucial in maintaining the integrity and functionality of your plumbing system.

butterfly valve

Butterfly Plumbing Valve

The butterfly plumbing valve is an essential component in plumbing systems, particularly in large-diameter pipe applications. The butterfly valve‘s unique design includes a rotating disc mounted on a rotating shaft. When the valve is fully opened, the disc is rotated such that it allows an unhindered path for the flow of water. Conversely, when the valve is closed, the disc is turned to block the water path, providing a quick and effective shutoff mechanism. Butterfly valves are praised for their compact size, ease of installation, and efficient operation, making them a popular choice for systems requiring flow control and minimal pressure drop.

globe valve

Globe Plumbing Valve

Globe valves are integral to applications that necessitate finely tuned control over water flow. Characterized by a spherical body, the globe plumbing valve features an internal baffle that partitions the body into two halves. The opening in the baffle, which can be sealed off by a flat disc or plug, controls the water flow. The disc or plug is manipulated by a stem which is turned by a handle. When the handle is turned, the valve stem and the attached disc or plug move up or down, regulating the water flow. Globe valves close slowly in comparison to other valve mechanisms, making them an optimal choice in scenarios where water hammer poses a potential issue. Their excellent throttling capability, coupled with their ability to handle high-pressure drop and capacity to control flow in both directions, makes globe valves incredibly versatile and widely used in various applications.

Gate Plumbing Valve

Gate valves, one of the most commonly employed water valves in plumbing systems, are designed to control the flow of water effectively. The defining feature of a gate valve is its gate or wedge that moves up or down in parallel with the flow of water. When the gate is lifted (valve is opened), it creates an unobstructed pathway, allowing a free flow of water. This lack of resistance to flow makes gate valves an excellent choice for applications that require a high flow rate. When the gate is lowered (valve is closed), it completely blocks the flow path, providing a reliable shutoff mechanism. Despite being slow to open and close, their ability to minimize pressure drop and efficiently stop and start flow makes gate valves a preferred choice in a wide range of plumbing systems.

pressure relief valve

Pressure Relief Plumbing Valve

Pressure Relief Valves (PRVs), also known as safety relief valves, play a fundamental role in maintaining the overall safety and functionality of a plumbing system. These valves are specifically designed to relieve excess pressure within the system. When the pressure reaches a predetermined level, the valve opens automatically to discharge a volume of water, thereby bringing the system pressure back to a safe level.

The working principle of a PRV is based on the balance of forces between the system pressure acting against the force exerted by an adjustable spring mechanism. When the system pressure exceeds the force of the spring, the valve opens, allowing water to exit. Once the pressure drops to an acceptable level, the spring pushes the valve back into its closed position, thus stopping the water flow.

PRVs are generally found in heating systems, water supply systems, and other installations where pressure build-up could potentially lead to damaging consequences. They are often required by building codes, as they prevent damage to equipment, ruptures, leaks, and even explosions that can occur from excessive pressure.

Implementing a PRV into your plumbing system not only safeguards your appliances and systems from high pressure but also protects against water wastage and helps maintain energy efficiency. Careful selection, proper installation, and regular maintenance of these valves are critical to ensuring their effectiveness and the overall safety of your plumbing system.

Supply Stop Plumbing Valve

Supply stop valves play a crucial role within plumbing systems, providing control over the water supply to individual fixtures without the need to stop water flow throughout the entire building. These valves are typically located on the water supply lines leading to fixtures such as faucets, toilets, and water heaters. The design of the supply stop valve allows users to isolate and control water flow to these fixtures, permitting repair or replacement work without inconvenience or water wastage.

They come in two primary types: straight and angle. Straight supply stop valves are used when the water line comes from the floor, while angle supply stop valves are ideal when the water line comes from the wall. The operation of these valves is usually simple, typically involving a turn knob or a lever handle for swift and precise control.

In case of a leak or heavy dripping, the supply stop valve proves its importance; by quickly shutting off the water supply to the problematic fixture, water damage is minimized until repairs can be made. Understanding the function and use of supply stop valves can significantly enhance the efficiency and functionality of your plumbing system, as well as ensure a quick response in the event of leaks or malfunctions.

Compression Shut off Plumbing Valve

Have you ever heard of a compression shut off valve? If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s essentially a type of shut off valve used to regulate the flow of water. Unlike traditional shut off valves, compression shut off valves don’t require any soldering or welding to install. They’re designed to fit onto existing pipes and are tightened in place using a compression ring. These valves are often used in plumbing systems throughout homes and businesses as an easy, cost-effective solution for controlling the flow of water. If you’re looking for a reliable and straightforward shut off valve solution, a compression shut off valve might be worth considering.

plumbing valves


In conclusion, the plumbing valve is an essential part of any plumbing system. They come in various types, each with its unique features and functions. By understanding their mechanisms and applications, you can ensure the smooth operation of your plumbing system while also preventing potential issues from arising. Be sure to select the right type of valve for your specific needs to guarantee an efficient and effective plumbing system.

Maryland Sewer & Plumbing Service, Inc.

About Maryland Sewer & Plumbing Service

Maryland Sewer & Plumbing Service distinguishes itself in the Maryland plumbing industry through its exceptional reliability, efficiency, and trustworthiness. If you’re on the hunt for a seasoned squad of plumbing professionals who can flawlessly handle your plumbing needs, like plumbing valve maintenance, look no further.

Offering 24/7 emergency aid and a wide array of tailored services at competitive prices, Maryland Sewer & Plumbing Service unequivocally emerges as your ideal solution for any plumbing issues. Don’t hesitate – visit our website today to book a desired service with one of our expert technicians to assess your home’s plumbing needs!


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