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Alternative plumbing w/PEX


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Tim's Forum Posts: 35

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By Tim in Philomont, VA on 5/3/2002


Plumbing by an O-B. Has anyone (who is NOT a plumber) done their own plumbing for their first house? I have read that PEX tubing (such as that made by Kitec - see kitec.com) is excellent for running the water lines in a home. It is totally safe, very resilient to extreme temperatures, and uses a lot less fittings than copper due to its ability to bend instead of needing elbow joints and such. It is very easy to install, since unlike copper, there is no need to "sweat" the fittings on; as compression fittings are used instead. However, I am wondering if it is a crazy thing to consider installing my own plumbing. I imagine that even if I had a licensed reputable plumber come in and check my work, he wouldn't be cheap, and may end up charging me very high rates to make up for any mistakes I may make. However, will the savings be worth it? Estimates for labor + pipes and fittings is running about $20K on our house. Any suggestions or warnings, about doing the plumbing myself or using PEX instead of copper?
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By Aron in Bellevue, WA on 5/14/2002


I am interested to know this as well.
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By Christopher in WA on 5/23/2002


I've seen PEX used many times on new construction (esp. in areas where you have corrosive soil.) It's a great product to use, and I suppose if you have a rudimentary knowledge of plumbing, you could probably do it yourself. However, I'd want to get to know the plumbing inspector on a first name basis, and on new construction (depending on the state), you may be required to use a licensed plumber.

Good luck,

Chris

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By Shaun in Sturgeon Bay, WI on 9/17/2002


I've looked into PEX plumbing a bit, and found that it has been in use for as long as thirty years. I'm not sure how long polybutylene had been in use before it was found unreliable. I talked to a mechanical engineer who is an experienced owner-builder in my neighborhood (on his sixth home) and he has been exploring the option of PEX plumbing in his home, but he hasn't found a contractor who is willing to make the change. I seems that it doesn't take as long and the contractors don't make as much with it, and rather than increase their volume, they prefer to stay with the conventional tubing.
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By Ruth in Bountiful, UT on 9/20/2002


It is my understanding that many production builders, such as Ivory Homes in Utah, have currently gone to PEX. Perhaps this is a savings to them, as they are selling a total package, and they don't decrease their price when they find a time and money saving option.
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By John in Los Angeles, CA on 1/8/2003


I'm doing my own, but using conventional copper. I'm going with type K, the thickest wall, even though type L is accepted here. I'm also sizing a bit large to get the flow rates and erosion down. The only tricky part to sweating copper fittings is doing valves, because you can easily melt the internal plastic parts. To avoid that, I use threaded valves, and sweat adapters to the copper. That costs some extra time and extra parts, but eliminates the need for a high degree of soldering skill. -- J.S.
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By Kenneth in Clarence, NY on 1/15/2003


I too am interested in PEX. I have done some preliminary research on this product and have yet to find ANY disadvantages - quite the contrary. Typically, the advantages are more and just as important - the price is less. I do know a few local volume tract builders that have gone exclusively to it. My only concern is this... does it adversely affect the value of the home because it may still be an unknown commodity and it "appears" to be PVC to many. In fact, I have had a few people tell me particular home builders built with PVC (their ignorance) - and because of that - they wouldn't consider building with them - CHEAP materials. Their ignorance can do a bit of damage to this builder and myself, for that matter if not given the opportunity to explain.
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By Jeff in Provo, UT on 1/16/2003


I used PEX in my house and I love it... Next time, I might even think of running the PEX myself to save a little money - I would still use a plumber for the connections and copper work.
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By Joel in Lincoln, NE on 1/22/2003


For your shut off valves just remove the guts of the valve and solder the valve body to your copper pipe. After the valve body cools put it back together. This will keep you from melting the washers in the valve. Joel Z
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By John in Los Angeles, CA on 1/22/2003


That works, too, depending on how hard it is to get the valve apart. Another advantage to threaded adapters and valves is that in the future when you have to replace a valve, you can do it without having to mess with fire. -- J.S.
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By Jim in Reno, NV on 2/20/2003


What are the pros and cons about using PEX tubing in a home in Reno Nevada where temperatures range from -10 in winter to 110 in the summer.
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By Mike in Carson City, NV on 2/20/2003


Jim, I don't know anything about PEX; however, I live in Carson and my wife and I have land in Washoe Valley we plan to build on and would like to hear from someone local who has or is planning on building O-B. Mike
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By Jim in Reno, NV on 2/20/2003


Mike, I am not doing an O-B but am considering buying a new home in the Arrow creek area of Reno. The house has PEX plumbing lines in it and I don't know anything about PEX. I remember a few years ago a lot of people were having problems with plastic plumbing and I am a little wary of PEX. Jim
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By Jeffrey in Vail, AZ on 2/21/2003


As I understand it PEX has been used for many (30-40) years in Europe, with performance as good as copper. It is supposed to be much more tolerant to freezing. It is supposed to be faster for the plumber, although it requires special tools, which make it a bit more problematic for DIY. I don't think that the material itself is cheaper than copper, but I could be mistaken. Some change the whole plumbing scheme, and use PEX to home-run everything to a central manifold, our new house was done with PEX, but in a more traditional fashion. All fixture connections are to copper stubs. We asked our builder what he would use in his home, and he said PEX (not a definitive answer, but he seemed to give good advice in most areas, and not always to his advantage.)
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By Kenneth in Clarence, NY on 2/22/2003


I just did some further investigation with my building codes in the Northeast (Buffalo). We cannot use PEX for potable water. We can use it for radiant floor heat - that's about it unfortunately. In other words, as always, check with your local inspector and codes.
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By Reed in TN on 1/19/2004


We are in the plumbing process now. The framing is finished and we're tackling all the plumbing ourselves. Maybe I'm crazy. I've never done this before, but it seems easy enough if it is thought out and planned and researched. We're about half done with the waste water pipes, all PVC (though I've considered some cast iron in the walls). And we plan to install Wirsbo PEX for all supply lines and in-floor heating. There are several PEX systems and around here the Wirsbo seems to be the most popular and appears to be the better system.

The higher end houses here use mostly PEX over copper. There will still be some copper, but the majority of mine will be PEX. I purchased a PEX tool off eBay and plan to keep it, so problems or modifications in the future will be possible. Some PEX tubing crimps onto the fittings, whereas Wirsbo tubing is expanded and the fitting slips inside and the tubing then conforms back around the fitting. There is also a plastic band that adds additional support to the connection. I hope to finish up the waste lines and start on the supply lines in the next 30 days, but I hate working in 30-degree weather so it may be longer.
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By Walt in Superior, MO on 3/5/2004


I'm new to this group and found it while looking for info on installing PEX. I have home which is a combination of old and new and am now installing the PEX for a laundry room and master bath. One of the questions I've wrestled with is whether to run separate lines for each fixture. In some cases, it makes sense (like the shower) but in the laundry room, where a washer and utility tub could easily share lines, I've not been so sure. The main reason it seems, suggested by the manufacturers, is to avoid connections in the wall, i.e. a tee that branches to service two fixtures. Sounds good, but the fact is, other connections to the fixtures will be behind the wall anyway. So does it really matter? I'm leaning toward separate lines but not totally decided. I'm using 1/2" for most connections but thinking about using 3/8" for the sink fixtures to reduce the amount of water in the hot line that needs to be expelled before hot water gets to the fixture from the hot water tank. Any thoughts on these issues are welcome.
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By Reed in TN on 3/6/2004


I'm using a combination of both home runs and branch lines depending on the fixture. I decided to get a 12 port valve manifold and then just sat down and planned all the fixtures and what made sense on paper. I have managed to work things out so that only two connections are made inside walls. Any tee connections for branch lines are made in the crawl space or in the basement, and then a solid section of tubing is used. The two exceptions is the washing machine box and possibly the ice maker box, where the valves actually connect in the wall. You might want to consider installing a recirculating hot water system. We're putting one in. I hate turning on the tap and waiting for hot water, plus all the extra strain on the septic system and wasted hot water.
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By Connie in Syracuse, UT on 3/9/2004


We used PEX throughout our home that we just finished. We decided against the manifold system and went with the circulating instead. It is great except the kitchen is in the middle of the house and we don't get hot water there very fast.

We are now going to the expense of a pump. PEX is great so far just in how quiet it is. You still need some copper, but not much. Good luck.

Connie
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By Reed in TN on 3/9/2004


You must have tried using a gravity type of circulation system? I've read on forums that the convective nature of hot and cold water would enable a non-pumped system to work properly. But, it's seemed kind of iffy to me.
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By Christy in Dickson, TN on 9/24/2006


Hi guys,

I need help. We have spent the better part of three weeks working on our electrical and plumbing. We have hit a snag though, in that our manifold which is already installed in the crawlspace and connected to the tankless, etc. has many, many leaks. We tested this with the air hose, and the PEX connections are leaking. What is interesting is that we took soapy water to see where the leak is in the connecting, and it seems to be coming from the shut-off valve which we ordered from Wirsbo. We built our own manifold by soldering the copper and valves together. This leak is happening on at least 15 of the 'joints'...

I have just spent the better part of three hours researching this, and it seems as though we have either gotten quite a few faulty valves from Wirsbo, or we did something wrong in the soldering stage. In either case, does anyone know of a fix for this dilemma that won't require us spending another $200 on valves or rebuilding the whole manifold?

Any help at all is appreciated,

Christy and Tom


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Reed's Forum Posts: 6

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By Reed in TN on 9/24/2006


Is it leaking at the soldered joints, or is it leaking at the cut-off lever area?

If it's at the actual joints you'll just need to resolder them. Make sure you run the heat all the way around for best results. Even though it looks like the solder goes all the way around when only heated on one side, I've found it best to heat all the way around, but not get it too hot. I also find Mapp gas the best solution.

Did you use the 1/4 turn valves?

Reed

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By Christy in Dickson, TN on 9/25/2006


Hi Reed,

Yes, these are the 1/4 turn valves, and the leak is coming right from the middle of the valve... not at the joint.


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By Reed in TN on 9/25/2006


I've never had one of their valves apart, so not sure what there might be in there to replace. Possibly an O-ring. I've always been careful on soldering ball valves, opening them when applying heat. I suppose too much heat could damage something, but I imagine they are designed to undergo a certain amount of heat, they are sweat type fittings. You might try taking one apart and see what gives before replacing them.

That's a disgusting thing to have happen at this juncture. I had a couple of hose bibs that leaked (I still do - I haven't replaced them yet). I used a threaded PEX adapter on the end and I think I tightened them up too much and cracked the brass PEX fitting. Fortunately they are pretty easy to reach, and not that expensive to repair.

I hope yours turns out as well.

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