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I need to replace a toilet shutoff valve (does not completely stop water flow) as part of process of fixing a leak I saw around the base of my toilet (suspect i need new wax ring??). I bought a new 1/4 turn shut off valve and turned off the main supply, but was not able to remove the old valve.

I believe it's because this valve is soldered on and thus can not be screwed on/off and replaced as such? Is there another way to go about this, aside from cutting pipe and soldering (no torch, saw, experience...). Wondering is there is an additional valve i could install further down the line to the toilet (realizing this is not the best method)? Also, am i correct this is steel piping not copper?

enter image description here

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If you don't want to solder, you can replace it with a compression fitting valve (versus solder). All you need is two wrenches to install it. –  Steven Dec 2 '13 at 21:26
    
These valves are available in a 90 degree version so the pipe to the toilet goes up to the toilet a lot closer than the straight version you have pictured here. This kind is usually used when the supply pipe comes through the floor. –  Jack Dec 2 '13 at 23:02
    
Compression style would be the way to go, but to be on the safe side, since there is a chance that the built up solder may complicate the install of the compression fitting, I would cut the supply pipe twice, once to remove the "bell style" escutcheon, second to get to a section of pipe that may have no or very little solder on it. The trouble would be, is that solder sometimes, before it gets hard will collect at the underside of the pipe making it difficult to get the compression ring on, or maybe distort it. This may or may not be detectable, but you won't know until you try to assemble it. –  Jack Dec 2 '13 at 23:11
    
Bottom line though you must leave enough pipe beyond the base to make you new connection with the new standard height escutcheon, say an 1 1/2" from the base is good, tight, but good. –  Jack Dec 2 '13 at 23:24
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3 Answers

That's most likely a copper pipe covered in solder. You can try scraping the solder off to see if you get down to some copper to verify. A copper pipe cutter is cheap and easy to use:

enter image description here

Get this onto the pipe a close to the valve as you can, tighten the screw until it's snug, and spin it around the pipe making sure to keep spinning on the same location (you're making a cut, not treading the pipe or making a spiral). After every few turns, tighten the screw a little more and eventually the pipe will break off. Clean the pipe with some emery paper, and install a new compression style valve (this only requires a few wrenches (crescent or fixed, not a pipe wrench or pliers if you want to avoid teeth marks). If you removed too much of the pipe, you may need to replace the escutcheon with a flatter style.

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If you choose to scrape, please do not scrape where the new valve will go, the copper and solder are very soft, and may leave just enough of a depression to allow the ferrule of the compression fitting to cause a leak. –  Jack Dec 2 '13 at 23:23
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I don't actually think it's all that obvious from the picture just what you have; and if I had to guess, I say something chrome plated, not solder over copper, unless it was soldered within the last week. Too uniform and shiny to my eye. Pull the escutcheon out and take another picture to provide more data for guessing...and try a magnet if you think it might be steel or iron, but my money is on threaded chromed brass, pretty typical for bathroom fixtures. If pulling the escutcheon out continues the same color (allowing for dirt) all the way to the wall, my confidence increases that that's what you have. If it changes color drastically then copper looks more likely.

As for it not unthreading - well, that happens. There's limited access behind a toilet, so you can't swing a big wrench, it's wet quite a lot of the time from condensation in the summer (most climates) plus any leakage, and it doesn't get moved for decades at a time. Harsh cleaners can add to the corrosion potential. Determination, penetrating oil and heat can all help, but sometimes all that happens is the pipe snaps off. The Joy of Plumbing.

If it was a typical soldered copper pipe and you actually tried to unthread it with the force typically needed to unthread a threaded connection that has sat for a few years, the pipe would have twisted flat, in my experience. So sorting out what it really is probably beats just taking a wrench to it. The area very near the wall is a fine place to scrape, scratch or even lightly file to help sort out what it is, if it's not obvious from just pulling out the cover - you won't be making a compression connection that far back.

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THE VALVE'S SIDES SHOW ITS A SCREW ON TYPE.. NO ONE WOULD (NEED) SOLDER IT ON. TRY to see the ending threads on the pipe. I use a sharp curved awl to also probe for them. Then soak the threads with a good penetrating oil. The longer time soaking, the better, and periodically tap on it with a hammer. When you unscrew it with the longest wrench available, hold the pipe solidly (vice grips, etc.) or you may easily unscrew it from the wall. However that may be okay, and even better, if the water is shut off. An additional loosening technique is to quickly focus heat on the valve threads so the pipe's threads are not heated as much. Then quickly try unscrewing the valve before it cools much. I like using a small lighter/torch, or a good soldering iron. Once you beat this, your diy confidence will be justifiably stronger.

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OH, BUT FIRST: TO BE CERTAIN WHERE THE LEAK IS COMING FROM, LAY STRIPS OF PAPER AT SUSPECT POINTS.. MOST PROBABLY ITS JUST A VALVE GASKET, OR THE VALVE SCREW THAT NEEDS REPLACEMENT.. ONLY IF THE VALVE'S SEAT IS TOO WORN, OR BROKEN AWAY, DOES THE ENTIRE VALVE NEED REPLACEMENT. STILL THAT ONLY COSTS JUST A FEW DOLLARS.. SO ITS ALSO A GOOD OPTION TO USE JUST THOSE (IDENTICAL) PARTS NEEDED FROM A NEW VALVE UNIT.. BUT THE WATER AT YOUR TOILET'S BASE MAY BE COMING FROM A FEW OTHER SOURCES. YOUR INTELLECT IS OFTEN YOUR BEST TOOL. –  Walter Dec 3 '13 at 7:22
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