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Fixing a Water-Shutoff Valve Leak

Don't panic if you get a little leak when opening or closing a water shutoff valve under a sink or toilet or in your basement. You can usually fix it in minutes with the turn of a wrench.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Fixing a Water-Shutoff Valve Leak

Don't panic if you get a little leak when opening or closing a water shutoff valve under a sink or toilet or in your basement. You can usually fix it in minutes with the turn of a wrench.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to fix a shutoff valve leak

It’s not uncommon for a brand new shut-off valve to leak around the handle area whenever you turn it on. is probably occurring around the valve stem. The valve stem passes through a “packing” nut and washer, which provide a watertight seal. In the “old” days, fiber was packed tightly around the stem, hence the name.

First try tightening the packing nut one-eighth to one-quarter turn with a wrench (Photo 1). On a new valve, this almost always stops the leak. If it doesn’t, the packing washer is probably damaged and will need replacement.

Here’s how. First shut off the water to the leaking valve. Next remove the handle from the stem and then loosen and remove the packing nut (Photo 2). Remove the old washer and slide on the new one. Reinstall the packing nut, tighten lightly with a wrench (don’t over tighten at this or any other point) and reattach the handle. Turn the water back on, open the repaired valve and check for leaks. If it’s leaking, tighten the packing nut one-eighth of a turn at a time until the leak stops.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Adjustable wrench

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Packing washer

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 9 of 9 comments
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March 27, 10:50 PM [GMT -5]

OH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this! In a panic here late at night, I was about to randomly call an emergency plumber and our water company to shut off our water because water was spraying out of the main water shut-off valve in our basement. However, thank goodness I live in the age of the Internet, for before I hastily did so, I did a search for a quick way to fix a leaking valve and found this super helpful page! The wrench turning the nut thing here totally worked and saved us so much grief and money. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

January 20, 4:45 AM [GMT -5]

Please help! When I tightened the packing nut, which I gave a little over a quarter turn, I wasn't able to close the valve, any thoughts on why this may happen? I live in an area that has about 12 inches of snow on the ground right now so access to my outside main is not possible, and there is another plumbing project I need to do! I'm also on a bit of a budget.

March 25, 1:49 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the help. That was a lot simpler than installing a new valve!

December 14, 10:00 AM [GMT -5]

Oh, thank you for this TIP. I was about to call the plumber and the city maintenance ( to shut off the main valve - the leak was there) to replace the new valve. Then , I thought, I must check online to see what others would say and do . Thank you, It worked !!!
Thanks, Percy Townes

May 30, 12:30 PM [GMT -5]

This is great! I thought I would have to replace the value, but we lucked out and I did not have to. This was a great tip!

September 18, 7:57 AM [GMT -5]

If that doesn't work, then you are going to have to turn off the main water shut off valve so that you can replace the internal valve seals.

August 04, 8:25 PM [GMT -5]

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I have been trying to fix a leaking valve in my basement for two days. This vavle has been leaking since I bought the home three years ago. However, I never felt the need to have it fix becasue the basement was not updated. I recently remodel my basement and really needed the leak to be fix ASAP! After trying several none working methods, I finally tried DIY. This post was very helpful and I appericate the help DIY

May 03, 7:20 AM [GMT -5]

This was really awesome!

April 23, 2:42 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the help family handyman!

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