Slow leak at water shutoff valve

I noticed a slow drip and wondering if solution is to turn the nut clockwise to solve. I normally would give it a go but since this is the main water shutoff I figured it'd be smart to get some confirmation before I flood my house.

Another question is what's a good way to enclose/hide this. It's a eyesore just hanging out of the wall in a bonus room.

  • 1
    If you have a second question, please ask it separately. It's difficult to answer and vote for questions/answers that ask/answer more than one question.
    – Tester101
    Dec 10, 2012 at 12:16

4 Answers 4


Your problem is very common with old multi=turn valves. The packings in the valve have probably dried out and split or shrunk a bit. Have you tried turning the valve open and closed a few times? If the packings are shot, you will see the leak change a bit in both open and closed positions. You can try tightening the nut around the on/off shaft just a bit. You probably won't make the leak any worse, but snugging that nut may help a bit.

Assuming the valve's interior parts are shot, you will need to shut off the water from the street. This is usually done by the utility. Once the water is off, you have two options. You can either open the valve body and replace all the internal parts, or replace the valve with a newer style 1/4 turn stainless steel ball valve. Any time I have to have the water supply turned off, I always opt to replace multi-turn valves with ball valves.

  • 1
    This is a globe valve and its design dates from the days of steam for a good reason. If properly installed so the pressure comes in on the bottom of the valve, with the valve fully closed, the stem is on the pressureless side. You can then remove the handle and the gland nut Dec 10, 2012 at 16:16
  • Cool info, I knew it was called a globe valve sometimes, but didn't know the logic of it's construction. Dec 10, 2012 at 16:27
  • I wasn't able to shut off the valve at the street, so was scared to adjust the nut. Opening and closing doesn't help the leak. I got an estimate of $300 to replace ball valve
    – Andrew
    Dec 30, 2012 at 16:29

Have you tried gently tightening the gland nut? It's the hex cap under the handle and squeezes some sort of packing against the valve stem. Tighten only in 1/16 turn increments and only if it moves with minimal force. If it acts in any way like it's tight, somebody else may have already compressed the packing to its maximum and no further seal is possible.

This is a globe valve and its design dates from the days of steam for a good reason. Globe valves usually have arrows on them to show proper installation, the inlet should always be the pressure side with the valve closed.

If properly installed so the pressure comes in on the bottom of the valve, with the valve fully closed, the stem is on the pressureless side and allows you to remove the handle and the gland nut to replace the packing without taking the system fully out of service.

Packing is available at any plumbing store, take the gland nut and what you find under it with you so they can identify what was used.

Globe Valve Diagram

  • Good advice. I was not able to turn off the water shutoff at street so I didn't want to mess with it. Which direction does the street shutoff turn? how much force is necessary? And do I need a special tool. thanks
    – Andrew
    Dec 30, 2012 at 16:27

You are right to be prudent but I wouldn't worry too much. It may be wise to find your home's water cut-off valve in the street before doing anything in the very unlikely case that the valve shears submarine movie style. Use the right tools and try not to round off the nut. I expect it will be difficult to turn though, so a spray of penetrating fluid before attempting to tighten it would be a good idea.

As for the cosmetics of it that's very hard to say without knowing more about the size, shape, and the function of the room. Also, the placement of the valve and pipe in it.


Suggest you gently turn the 'packing nut' or 'gland nut' but only 1/16 of a turn at a time. I've seen this issue countless time with these valves - many of which are well over 30 or 40 years since originally built in the home. In all likelihood this will stpe the annoyuing slow leaking. If not, yes, close the valve fully, then remove the handle and the 'packing nut' or 'gland nut' and takle to local plumbing store to pick up new packing. Reinstall and you'll be fine. No need to mess with the street water main. In some places that's against the law so be aware.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.