How to Select a Pool Diverter Valve

Written by Michael Dean

swimming pool diverter valve

Does your swimming pool need a new diverter valve, and you’re worried about picking out the correct one for your particular needs? It’s normal to wonder how to select the best swimming pool diverter valve. However, it only takes a little research to figure it out.

Below, I go into all the different types of diverter valves, what they do, and the factors you need to consider to select the best one. Let’s jump right in.

Main Takeaways

  • Pool valves control the direction of the water flow to and from a pool.
  • There are two types of diverter valves: two-way valves and three-way valves.
  • To select the right replacement diverter valve, consider the size and number of ports and whether you want a valve with or without unions, lubrication, and/or a valve actuator.

Generally Speaking, What Are Pool Valves?

You’re probably familiar with how important it is to keep your pool’s water swimmable and clean via proper pool circulation.

Without water movement, your pool water wouldn’t achieve the correct amount of dirt and debris removal as it runs through the filter. It also wouldn’t get warmed up by flowing correctly through the heater before circulating back into the pool.

Your pool valves work to control water flow direction as the water makes its way in and out of the pool via the pool’s piping system.

What Is a Diverter Valve & What’s its Purpose?

You won’t hear too many conversations around the topic of diverter valves until you discover that you need to replace one.

Your swimming pool’s diverter valve exists underneath the skimmer’s basket. It works to divert water to the top or bottom of the pool as the water gets sucked through the filter.

Before the rise in popularity of suction side cleaners, dirt and dust left the pool through the top or bottom drain as a mechanism stirred up the water at the bottom of the pool. The diverter valve gives you a choice to divert water out from the top or bottom drains.

If you happen to live in a dusty area, such as in the high desert, or your home is located near a dusty road, then you’ll likely need to remove all that dirt accumulation by pulling the water up from your pool’s bottom.

On the other hand, you can divert water out at the top drain if your yard deposits leaves, foliage, or other debris into the pool. In this case, you can get rid of the debris before it can sink deeper.

By the way, one way to avoid running your pump for a long time is to use the diverter along with a dedicated line for a side suction cleaner.

For more on the basics, read my complete guide on pool skimmer diverter basics.

Types of Diverter Valves

A diverter valve flaps open and close. That’s why these valves are technically called Butterfly valves. Basically, what you’re dealing with is a large flap.

This flap blocks the pipe completely when closed, stopping all water flow. As you open the valve, the flap shifts over to the side to unblock the pipe. It’s a pretty simple concept.

Two types of diverter valves exist:

  1. 2-way diverter valves
  2. 3-way diverter valves

You can turn the water flow partially on or off, completely off, or entirely on with a 2-way diverter valve. This type of valve controls water flow to or from one port only. A handle is used for control and allows for a 90-degree turn.

Here’s an example of a 2-way valve you can pick up at any pool supply store. I found this specific one at Leslie’s swimming pool supply store in my town.

A 3-way valve possesses a middle port and two other ports that sit on each end. You can turn the swimming pool’s water flow on or off (partially or fully) through either one of the end ports. However, the center port doesn’t allow for a cut-off of water flow. Unlike the 2-way diverter valve, the handle on a 3-way valve turns 180 degrees. Here’s an example of a 3-way valve.

Always use caution and move slowly when closing or opening your diverter valves. You might cause water pipe damage if you close a valve too forcefully. If the water pressure is high enough, then all that water pressure hits the valve, and you might end up with an expensive pipe repair job.

How to Select the Right Replacement Diverter Valve

Finding the correct swimming pool diverter valve isn’t too complicated. Pay attention to the kind of diverter valve you already have that needs to be replaced. If you can’t get the same one or are looking to upgrade, the following details can help you choose the right replacement for your pool.


The first step to choosing the correct replacement diverter valve is determining what size of valve you need. Typically, you can find the size printed on the valve itself. If you can’t find it, you can measure the diameter of the pipe fittings directly.

On the off chance you don’t have the existing valve, you can simply check the current pipe size of your pool. You should be able to find the size printed on the pipe itself. The standard pool pipe size is 1.5″ or 2″.

Number of Ports

Once you have the correct sizing, you’d want to determine the number of ports you want for your valve. As mentioned previously, diverter valves can be 2-way or 3-way. Generally, a 2-way valve is enough for a simple pool system, but there are times when a 3-way valve may be more efficient.

You can use a 3-way diverter valve to fully or partially turn the drain or skimmer on or off via one of the port ends. However, you couldn’t divert water from flowing to the pump because the center port doesn’t close.

With or Without Unions

Unions are pipe fittings that allow you to connect two pieces of piping without glue or sealant. You can buy diverter valves with unions or without unions.

If you want to ensure the connection is watertight, you can opt for a diverter valve without unions and glue it in place. However, a diverter valve without unions may add difficulty to future maintenance. For example, if it’s not working correctly or got clogged up, you may have to cut it out to inspect it.

With a valve with unions, you can replace or repair your diverter valve without cutting it away from the plumbing pipe. It is easy to install and remove; you simply have to unscrew the unions. You don’t need to use a wrench to do this. It should fit properly if you have the sizing right and the O-rings sitting in their grooves. Of course, you could also add adhesives to the valve with unions to ensure there won’t be any leakage.


Older models of diverter valves require regular maintenance. Ideally, you should lubricate them once every year. However, the newer models on the market are mostly maintenance-free. You can install ones with NeverLube technology and never worry about them again.

Valve Actuators

While pool diverter valves are pretty straightforward to use, they can be inconveniently placed. If you want to enjoy your pool quickly, you may want to automate the process. You can install a valve actuator on top of your diverter valve and connect it to your pool controls.

With the actuator, you can easily switch the valves on and off with a button instead of going to the pipes to turn the valve handles manually.

Need Some Maintenance Help?

Send me a message! I can answer any of your pool maintenance, equipment, or other questions.

 Final Thoughts

There you have it! Remember that your pool valves have the same issue that all pool equipment struggle with. They don’t last forever and periodically require replacement. Once you pick out the right one, head over to my article on pool diverter valve setup for a step-by-step guide on how to replace it properly.

Check your valves often and look for anything that looks worn, brittle, or leaks water. If your pool happens to be old and dates back to the mid-80s or earlier, then it’s especially important to replace your valves. Pool valves have come a long way over the last three decades regarding quality and durability. Newer valves don’t require yearly lubrication anymore, so it’s worth it to invest in a newer model.

Your pool’s plumbing components aren’t something you probably think about often. However, it’s amazing how much of a significant effect they have on the functionality and health of your pool. Don’t underestimate the value of quality, well-functioning diverter valves when it comes to keeping your pool sparkling clean.

Select one of the leading valves on the market and get busy replacing your worn-out valves. You’ll find that taking control over your swimming pool’s water flow makes a huge difference in the pride you feel and in the way that your family enjoys pool time together for years to come.

Questions about diverter valves? Drop me a line.

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