About Us

United Valve – About Us – Company History

Aerial viewThrough alliances and partnerships with almost 30 of the world’s top valve manufacturers, United Valve provides factory authorized valve modifications and repair services to a broad spectrum of distributors and end-users.

Our 104,000 sq. ft. facility is located in Houston, Texas, in the heart of the Gulf Coast refining and petrochemical belt. Our shop is equipped with state of the art machining, welding, pressure testing, and non-destructive evaluation equipment.

From X-ray radiography to CNC machining equipment, United Valve is vertically integrated to handle virtually any type of valve service in-house, with work performed by an experienced staff of technicians and craftsmen.

Both valve manufacturers as well as end users have hailed our computer tracking system, which provides traceability and report generation for every valve that moves through our shop. Advanced digital imaging equipment and software is also used to enhance our information gathering capabilities.

Our well-equipped facility, specialized technical and engineering staff, and decades of experience in the industry means we have unparalleled expertise to handle virtually any industrial valve repair, modification, or testing requirement.

United Valve – Our History

1950s and early 1960s – Selling Surplus Valves After WWII

United Valve Company HistoryAfter serving as a drill sergeant and overseeing German POW’s returning home on liberty ships in WW2, Leonard D. Johnson started his career in the valve industry. Prior to starting United Valve, Leonard was in partnership with Gus Solberger in a company specializing in the buying and selling of surplus valves and fittings.

During the late 40’s to mid-50’s, the government was disposing of huge amounts of unused surplus valves, flanges, and fittings stockpiled first for World War II and later for the Korean conflict. As a WWII veteran, Leonard was eligible to bid on and purchase these items. In 1961, after 10 years in the partnership, Leonard took a portion of the inventory and started United Valve.

Business during United Valve’s early years consisted mainly of reselling “new” surplus valves. The surplus valve reputation had yet to be tarnished by crooked opportunists selling rebuilt valves as new surplus. These new and unused products were in great demand, especially as the Gulf Coast refining industry was in its biggest boom.

After a few years of farming out valve refurbishing and machine work to other companies, United Valve purchased Marvel Valve Repair, a small company located on the corner of Wayside and Navigation in southeast Houston. In 1965, the operations at the Navigation shop were merged with the 6833 Ave W. United Valve location, a few blocks from the Houston Ship Channel.

1960s and 1970s – Adding Valve Repair and Modification

As the sixties rolled along, repair and modification operations began to eclipse the sale of valves as the prime profit generator for the company. During this period, Leonard’s wife, Wilmogene, and his eldest son Joel, began working for the company, making it a true “mom & pop” valve shop.

In 1967, United became an authorized Crosby relief valve repair center. A mobile unit for in-plant repair work helped usher in more and more industrial valve repair business. The company continued to expand in 1968 with the addition of a second facility located in Texas City, TX. Some of the key Texas City customers at that time were the Texas City Refinery and Union Carbide.

The decade of the 1970s brought more change as the repair function began to be phased out in favor of a new business focus: modification of new valves for distributors and supply houses. This new focus grew rapidly as the boom of the 70s exceeded the delivery capability of domestic manufacturers for “special” valves. The distributors would generally just stock “vanilla” valves and have them re-trimmed, or have special facings or packing and gaskets added to meet customer requirements.

In those days, typical deliveries for modification orders were four to six weeks, due to the size of the orders. Comparatively, today’s modification work deliveries run one to two weeks. Some of the key customers during that era were Gulf Supply Co., the Wallace Company, Zidell Explorations, Grant Supply, and Tyler-Dawson.

In 1978, Leonard’s son Greg joined the business after a five-year stint outside of the valve industry. That same year, United Valve moved from its east Houston location to new facilities in the city of South Houston.

Coinciding with this move, the last bits of surplus valve inventory were sold or scrapped, and the initial valve sales era for United Valve came to an end. By this time, the core business was 98% valve modification, a trend that was to continue for the next 20 years.

Late 1970s and 1980s – Adapting to Imported Valves

In the late 70’s, the steel valve business began perhaps its most dramatic metamorphosis, as a new entity, the imported valve, landed on the American industrial scene in force. In an ironic twist, it was the tremendous worldwide demand for U.S. manufactured valves that opened the door for the imports. Huge worldwide petrochemical and refining projects completely depleted the U.S. valve manufacturers’ production capacity and forced refiners to look elsewhere to meet domestic valve demand.

Valves from Italy, Eastern Europe, Japan, and Korea helped fill the gap. It didn’t take long for the U.S. consumers to become accustomed to the lower price of the imports. The low-priced imports spelled doom for the large, high-overhead, integrated U.S. manufacturers. The next ten years would see Crane, Lunkenheimer, Walworth, and Jenkins close their integrated valve plants.

large butterfly valveThese imported valves were rarely brought into the U.S. in anything other than standard trim, so United Valve benefited from the additional industrial valve modification work they created. During the early 80’s United Valve attained the first of its OEM modification authorizations. The number of authorizations would continually increase over the years.

Mid 1980s and 1990s – New Management

The company struggled through the huge industry-wide recession of the mid 80’s to emerge stronger than ever. The 1990’s were a time of energetic growth for United Valve. During this time, the physical plant expanded from a single 12,000 sq. ft. building to a 32,000 sq. ft. complex. In 1992, Leonard Johnson retired, and Greg became president and his wife, Paula, became vice-president.

To be as vertically integrated as possible, the company added NDE capabilities, automated heat treatment furnaces, CAD, and sophisticated testing machines to its equipment inventory. An extensive computer system transformed a paper driven shop into an almost completely digital one, where all shop operations became continuously logged and all materials totally traceable.

The first year of the new millennium saw the company become more involved in industrial valve repair at the request of both OEM’s and end-users. While continuing a strong presence in the factory-authorized modification and service field, United Valve made a commitment to match its unique facilities and personnel to solving specific end-user valve repair needs.

2000 and Beyond – New Locations

Aerial viewIn 2004, the company moved into new facilities conveniently located on the Gulf Freeway, one of Houston’s major highways. The 40,000 sq. ft. facility only lasted a few years as the company moved up the street into a new 64,000 sq. ft. facility.

The 64,000 sq. ft. facility was soon outgrown as well, and a 40,000 sq. ft. dedicated repair and engineering testing building was completed in 2017, bringing the total facility capacity for industrial valve repair, modification, and testing to 104,000 sq. ft.

To further expand its rising and rotating valve repair capabilities, United Valve purchased the assets of GRS Services, a leader in repairing those uniquely designed valves based in Lake Charles. The grinding and machining equipment was moved from Louisiana and installed in the Houston plant.

In 2019, United Valve opened its Corpus Christi location. Initially designed for actuator maintenance and repair, the facility is actively being expanded and a wide range of equipment installed to meet the repair, testing and modification needs of customers in the area.

Almost 65 years later, United Valve remains committed to providing complete and quality valve services. Under the direction of Greg, Paula, and their daughter and son-in-law, Kelly and Matt Lovell, United Valve continues to grow while providing new service offerings, and unsurpassed customer service, to the companies in which they serve.