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I'm trying to replace a 22mm isolating valve (the lower of the 2 pictured), which is sitting directly between 2 pipes such that there's no room to get a spanner in:

enter image description here

Even removing the valve on the left to help access is proving tricky due to lack of space. Any ideas?

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  • 4
    That's a tidy installation by a cruel plumber!
    – FreeMan
    Oct 25 at 12:33
  • 1
    The one who did that job, moved far away after so he did have to fix it. Imagine those pipes have no movement so you can't pull/push one.
    – crip659
    Oct 25 at 12:33
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    If you whack a bit of that pinkish plaster on top of the pipes, can you then wiggle them a bit? I hope they don't go through a hole in wood floor boards on the bottom... Also if the valve is locked in the open position and doesn't leak, you can "replace" it with another valve somewhere else on the pipe where it's accessible...
    – bobflux
    Oct 25 at 12:35
  • @bobflux - good thought about knocking the plaster out, I'll give it a go, and yes, they do go through the floorboards and the valve is stuck closed :(
    – Bopsysdad
    Oct 25 at 12:41
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    If you can place wedges carefully between the pipes, locking needle nose pliers just might get enough grip to loosen.
    – crip659
    Oct 25 at 12:41
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You need a decent set of "flare wrenches" for that. Like a box-end wrench cut open to fit over the tube (which is one crude way to get there if you can't easily lay hands on the right tool.) Per this wikipedia article, flare spanner, flare nut spanner, brake spanner and crow's foot spanner might be more local terms (and crow's foot means something else altogether over here. except the same term is used for the same thing over there, too.)

This is a picture of a not particularly decent set from a rather low-end supplier. Better quality ones of better/stronger materials and better workmanship have thinner walls around the wrench part enabling use with less clearance (and cost more.)

Flare Wrench set from Harbor Freight website

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    As luck would have it, I have one of those on order, arriving tomorrow!
    – Bopsysdad
    Oct 25 at 13:55
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Ok, so @bobflux had the answer. With the plaster removed, I was able to pop the pipe forward out of its clip, pushing the compression nuts clear of the neighbouring pipes.

Job done. Thanks all

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  • Normally, you'd click the up arrow next to the answer & click the check mark to say "thanks" instead of writing it up in an answer, but since this is among the spate of "answers in comments" we've had lately, this is the next best thing. Be sure to click the up vote for any of the answers that you did find helpful, and click the check mark on your own answer as soon as the system will allow you.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 27 at 11:33
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@ecnerwal gave a workable solution, but before you go ahead and attempt to remove the valve, you might try a direct assault on the valve while it's still in place with the goal of getting it to operate.

I've had luck getting a valve to un-stick by applying heat and vibration while repeatedly forcing the valve handle back and forth.

For heat, protect the area behind the pipes with something fireproof, then hit the valve with a torch. Go as hot as you dare, with consideration for seals.

For vibration, nothing beats an air hammer with a flat-faced impact tool. It could beat on one of the flats of one of the nuts and send waves of vibration through the valve. Vibrate while trying to open/close the valve, and it may eventually start moving.

And at least if it doesn't work, everyone in the house will know you're working on it!

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  • Unfortunately, it was in the process of doing this that the connection between the slotted spindle and the ball sheared leaving me with a free spinning spindle and no way of moving the ball.
    – Bopsysdad
    Oct 27 at 10:43
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Sharkbite makes a product they call a slip coupling designed for inline repairs. One end slides freely on and the other has a "stop" fitting. You would

  1. Cut the water
  2. Cut the pipe
  3. Replace your isolation valve with a Sharkbite valve
  4. Add a section of the cut pipe back so your slip coupler has room
  5. Complete the replacement with the slip coupler

The tricky part would be step 1. You should be able to fit a plumber's hacksaw in to do the cutting. Once cut, if you ever did need to replace it, the tool to release the Sharkbites should easily slide in.

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Even removing the valve on the left to help access is proving tricky due to lack of space. Any ideas?

Use an oscilating multi-tool to remove both pipes. Easy. Don't forget to clean up the cut.

After the pipe is out I would go PEX because soldering the copper-slip connectors sucks even when you don't have tight spaces.

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  • Sweating copper pipes isn't that difficult. My first joint (done as an early-20s rookie without 1000 how-to videos on youtube) is still holding 30 years later...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 26 at 12:46
  • Agreed. I'm very much an amateur - less than a dozen soldered joints - but after a bit of trial and error on the first one I was no longer scared of them
    – Bopsysdad
    Oct 27 at 10:50

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