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Gate Valve Vs. Ball Valve

Gate valves and ball valves are both types of valves that are used to control the flow of a fluid in a piping system. Both types of valves are widely used in a variety of applications, including oil and gas, chemical processing, water treatment, and power generation. However, there are some key differences between gate valves and ball valves that should be considered when selecting the right valve for a specific application.

Operating Differences

Ball valves use a rotating ball with a hole and a stem. When the handle attached to the stem is turned, it causes the ball to rotate, thus opening or closing the valve. This type of valve is also known as a quarter-turn valve because the handle only needs to be rotated 90° (a quarter turn) to allow or stop the flow of media. When the handle is parallel to the pipe, the valve is open, and when the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, the valve is closed. (More detailed technical articles about ball valves)

Gate valves use a gate to control the flow of media. The gate is a solid disc structure that is attached to the valve stem. The gate is lifted to open the valve and released back into position to close the valve. The valve has a bonnet that controls the position of the gate when rotated. This type of valve is also known as a multi-turn valve because it requires more than 360° of rotation to fully open or close the valve. (More detailed technical articles about ball valves)

Another difference between gate valves and ball valves is the way they seal. A gate valve relies on a seal between the gate and the body of the valve to prevent leaks. This seal can be prone to wear and tear over time, which can lead to leaks. Ball valves, on the other hand, rely on a tight seal between the ball and the valve body to prevent leaks. This seal is typically more reliable and durable than the seal in a gate valve, which makes ball valves less prone to leaking.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Due to the differences in operation and design between gate valves and ball valves, both have certain advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your application, one is usually better than the other. Check out our table below to learn the key differences between gate and ball valves.

Ball valveGate valve
Shut off mechanismFast shut-off with only a quarter turn (90° turn) to close the valve.Slow shut off as it requires more than a 360° turn to shut off the valve.
Water hammerFast opening and closing may cause water hammer.*Slow opening and closing reduces the risk of water hammer.*
Visual detectionOpen or closed state of valve can be visually detected with position of the handle.Difficult to detect the open or closed state of valve.
CostTypically more expensive than a gate valve of the same specifications.Typically cheaper than a ball valve of the same specifications.
Installation spaceRequires more space than a gate valve to accommodate for quarter turn handle.Requires relatively less installation space than a ball valve.
SizeBetter suited for bore sizes below 2".Better suited for bore sizes above 2".
LeakageProvides tight seal even if used after a long period of time.More prone to leaks than a ball valve.
DurabilityDurable and less prone to damageValve stem can be prone to corrosion making the valve less durable.

If the flow is abruptly stopped by rapidly shutting off the valve, pressure builds up due to the momentum of the moving medium and this causes a short pressure surge. The pressure surge causes a noise which sounds like the pipes were struck by a hammer. A powerful water hammer can cause a rupture or leak in the system. 

Overall, gate valves and ball valves are both reliable and effective options for controlling the flow of a fluid in a piping system. The right choice for a specific application will depend on the specific requirements and conditions of the system, as well as the specific needs and preferences of the user.

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Selection criteria

The following criteria can be considered before selecting between a ball valve and gate valve:

Ports: A gate valve has 2 ports, while a ball valve can have more than 2 ports.

Flow Capacity: A gate valve can provide larger flow capacity than a ball valve as they are typically offered in larger diameters.

Opening and closing speed: A ball valve is better suited for applications that require faster opening and closing speed or during emergencies due to its quarter turn on/off operation. A gate valve requires more than a 360° turn, making it slower than a ball valve to operate.

Sealing: A ball valve provides a tight seal and has complete shut off characteristics as compared to a gate valve. Therefore, ball valves are better suited for applications like natural gas where a proper seal long-term is important.

Pressure: Both ball valves and gate valves are suitable for low pressure applications. However, for high pressure applications a gate valve is better suited. This is due to the fast opening/closing of the ball valve that may cause a water hammer.

Cost: A ball valve is generally more expensive than a gate valve of the same specifications. However, a ball valve is typically more durable and requires less maintenance compared to a gate valve. So, a ball valve may be more economical long-term.

Connection: The choice of connection to the pipe is an important factor for both valves. To learn more about this important subject, read our Ball Valve Connection Types technical article. 

Common applications

Both ball valves and gate valves are commonly used in residential and industrial applications.

Gate valves are generally found in older plumbing systems and in applications where frequent shut off is not required. Large water supply lines use gate valves due to their straight flow path and less flow restrictions. Ball valves are increasingly used in new plumbing systems with frequent shut off requirements.

Gate valves are used for application with slurries and viscous media because they are easier to clean and maintain. Ball valves are not desirable because they are difficult to clean, and the slurry particles may damage the rotary ball.

Gate valves are used in power plants, mining and water treatment applications which are high temperature and high-pressure environments.

Ball valves are commonly used in fire protection systems and marine applications. They are best not used in food, beverage and pharmaceutical applications as ball valves are difficult to clean and may cause contamination.


Which is better gate valve or ball valve?

It depends on the application. A ball valve is better suited for smaller flow rates, anything requiring more than 2 ports, or for durability/sealing concerns. A gate valve is typically cheaper, better for higher flow rates, and requires a smaller installation space.

What is the difference between gate valve and ball valve?

The main difference is in the operation. A gate valve moves a solid disk up and down to open/close the orifice. A ball valve rotates a ball (the orifice) with a bore in it 90 degrees to open/close the valve.

What is a ball valve used for?

A ball valve is used to control the flow and is typically used as a shut off valve.

When would you use a gate valve?

A gate valve is ideal for applications that have slurries, large flow rates, cost sensitive, and for shut off purposes.

Which is better ball valve vs gate valve?

Ball valves are more effective at forming a tight seal and have more reliability and longevity than gate valves, but tend to be more expensive. They are often used for shutoff and control applications. Because ball valves can open and close immediately, they are more likely than gate valves to cause water hammer.

What is a gate valve for?

Gate valves are typically used to completely shut off fluid flow, or to provide full flow in a pipe in a fully open position. Therefore, it can be used in the fully closed or fully open position.

Can a ball valve be used instead of a gate valve?

If you already have a gate valve installed and have to replace it, you can of course replace it with a ball valve. You will need a flashlight to heat the parts and remove them. Shut off water and drain it from pipes and valves. You also need to open the valve.

Do ball valves reduce water pressure?

To answer your question; ball valves only control flow and not pressure. After the water has flowed for a few seconds, the ball valve will limit the pressure according to the flow. Pressure regulators do not require more plumbing than ball valves.

Does the ball valve restrict flow?

Ball valves are used to open or close fluid flow through pipes. There is a hole in the center of the ball - when the hole is aligned with the pipe, fluid can flow. ...if the hole through the ball is smaller than the hole in the pipe, the flow will be restricted. This design is called a reduced port valve.

What is the best valve for flow control?

Globe valves are considered the industry standard for control valves because they are good at regulating flow, while ball valves are better for on/off control with no pressure drop.

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