The valve makes or breaks a faucet. If the valve stops working, your faucet will no longer function. There are four types of faucet valves – compression, ball, cartridge, and disc.
Compression valves are the oldest of the four types. The valve consists of a screw stem that raises and lowers as it is turned and a rubber compression washer at the stem’s bottom. All compression faucets have separate handles for hot and cold water. You untighten these handles by turning them to let water flow out of the tap. Tightening the handles stops the water. Compression valves are inexpensive and are prone to leaking when the washer wears out or hardens.
Ball valves are used in single-handle faucets and are also relatively inexpensive. A ball valve is a steel ball that contains a network of grooves and holes. The grooves and holes align with the hot and cold water inlets. The faucet handle moves the valve to control the water temperature and flow rate. Because they contain numerous small parts, such as springs, O-rings, and washers, leaks will eventually develop as the parts wear out. However, older and inexpensive faucets will most likely have a compression valve or a ball valve.
Cartridge valves have a small plastic or brass cylinder with channels that direct water flow rates and control temperature. A rubber O-ring seals the bottom of the cartridge to prevent leakage. Cartridge valves can be used in a single-handle configuration like ball valve faucets or paired inside two-handled faucets. In addition, cartridge valve faucets are designed for ease of repair. A leaky faucet requires simply replacing a worn-out cartridge and O-ring with new ones.
Ceramic Disc valves provide for the most extended wear. This innovative valve design incorporates two rotating ceramic discs. The discs contain channels that align when rotated, allowing water to flow and water temperature and pressure modulation. In addition, ceramic is one of the hardest materials on Earth and will last a long time. Ceramic disc valves also resist the build-up of minerals that can clog your faucet.