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By Jacklyn in Hillsdale, MI on 8/17/2005


We would like to plumb our own house using PEX. Does anyone have any experience in undertaking such a project? What did you do to prepare? What materials did you read or learn from?
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/22/2005


I didn't plumb it myself, but I did use PEX with a home-run-style system.  Watching the plumber do it, there is no question I could have done it myself.  The key is a good set of crimpers. The PEX simply comes off the coil, one end goes to the fixture and the other is crimped to the manifold (alternatively you can use compression-type connectors). The PEX is supported at every truss with a talon-type tube hanger (I found talon-type tube hangers for copper to be cheaper than talon-type tube hangers for PEX, same plastic, same size, same brand, different price - go figure).
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By Netie in Salt Lake City, UT on 8/22/2005


My DH and FIL had the walls open on a remodel of a four-story 1929 brick Tudor - ONE day - that's it - with planning - to completely re-plumb the entire house with all new supply lines with PEX. 

When we build, DH will plumb the supply and we'll bid out the sewer. We'll do a comparison on bid cost vs. time off work vs. sanity - on the remodel project - it was way more time-consuming than just snaking and hooking up the supply lines.


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By Gary in Kingston, NY on 8/25/2005


I had PEX installed in my current home. Since I live in a municipality that requires licensed plumbers, I could not do the work myself. I live in a colder area, and chose to keep the plumbing manifold off of the exterior wall and to keep the plumbing away from the perimeter of the house with the exception of hose bibs, which have to go through somewhere.

I used a system made by Viega pipe - they have ViegaPex tubing and the MANABLOC manifold system. I have a photo somewhere, but it was before I got a digital camera, would need to find it and scan it to show it here...

You can get more info at Viega PureFlow Plumbing

The biggest differences I could tell from traditional plumbing (I am a computer techie, not a plumber) are:

1) Inside diameter of the pipe is smaller with PEX. This results in lower flow rates and in multiple-story homes, a pressure drop.

2) The PEX system allows for "home runs" for each branch off the main manifold, which means fewer individual connections for a particular run.

3) PEX bends easier than hard copper, and will not kink as easy as soft copper, so it makes for graceful routing of sweeping bends throughout the floor joists and wall cavities.

4) Plumbers who have not worked with PEX may not charge you less to learn on your project.

5) Inspectors that are not used to the "next new thing" may only remember the bad experiences with CPVC, which had to be replaced in many homes, and you may need to show the markings on the pipe and the hard-copy reports by the water  quality and other regulatory bodies that have approved PEX.

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By Mark in Redmond, WA on 11/2/2005


I'm also planning on PEX plumbing in my house project starting in January. Anybody have a cost comparison on PEX vs. copper?

Regarding the pressure-drop issue, I read somewhere that you could loop multiple manifolds together to help equalize pressure. Anyone try this?

Also, with plastic piping I would be concerned with damage such as nail/screw penetration specifically during drywall installation. Do installers usually protect the tubing where it penetrates studs?


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 11/3/2005


I used two manifolds, but this was a function of serving my plumbing fixtures and the size of the manifolds I could get. I was going to use a 36-port manifold, which would have served me fine. However, at my plumbing supply house the 36-port manifold was special order, while 24-port, 14-port, and 18-port were off-the-shelf, although when I went to purchase them they were out of stock on the 14-port manifold. So a 24 and an 18 were it.

Actually this worked out better for me. I tried to keep my plumbing grouped during design, so I have three bathrooms very close together at one end of the house, and my kitchen, and laundry at the other. I ended up separating the manifolds so they would be very close to the fixtures they served, and then using a loop of 3/4" PEX to tie them together. By using two manifolds, I eliminated a significant amount of 1/2" PEX (from the laundry room/kitchen end of the house), thereby ultimately saving me money on materials, as well as making it easier for the plumber, further saving money on labor.

The only downside is in the kitchen.  It takes longer to flush the 3/4" PEX line to the manifold with hot water and ultimately get hot water to the kitchen sink. The lag time is unacceptable, but I also anticipated this and plumbed for a recirculating line in this area, I just haven't put in a pump yet. Even with the pump, two manifolds was still a cost savings.

As to nailing or screwing when doing sheetrock, this is a very real potential not just for plumbing but for sheet metal, plumbing drains, copper plumbing, and wiring - a nailer or screw gun will penetrate any of these items. The sheetrockers will hit the studs, so where the lines go through the studs or are secured to the studs, keep the lines in the center of the studs.  Where the lines go through the top or bottom plates, use nail guards (the sheetrockers will remove these, but at least they will know to be cautious in this area). Keep them away from the stud faces, and secure them in the wall before the 'rockers get there. After the sheetrockers are done, pressure-test with air before hooking up the water line. Pump it up to 100+/- psi, you will know if they hit anything.


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By Chris in Oregon, MO on 11/3/2005


I'm also planning on installing PEX and a home-run system in my new house. I have never worked with PEX or a manifold system before and decided on using Viega because I've found them to be very helpful and eager to help the owner-builder. Can't say that about every company or subcontractor I've talked to. Their products, not to mention installation guides and support documents, seem to be the most user-friendly also. 

Ken, I also ran into the same issue with some fixtures being on the opposite end of the house. In my case, it's the master bathroom. I've been debating putting in two manifolds, but was told by a gentleman from Johnson and White out of Kansas City that with approximately 90' of PEX from the manifold to the fixture, the lag time for hot water wouldn't be that long. How long is the run to your kitchen sink and should I be worried? How about installing a small tankless water heater under the sink?


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 11/3/2005


You can figure the lag time yourself; it is a simple equation. I don't recall the inside diameter of 1/2" PEX, but from this you take the area of the pipe multiplied by the length (in your case, 90 ft). Now you have the volume of water that must be flushed out; convert this to gallons. A faucet moves how many gallons/minute, now you just figured lag time.

My manifolds are almost 100' apart. I purchased three rolls of 3/4" PEX, each roll was 100' long, although each was also cut. I would have purchased a larger roll, but the next roll size up was 500' and I simply didn't need that much, so better to cut 20' +/- off each roll than end up with 250' extra.

As to an undercounter hot-water heater, I could do that as well. The key when you are building is to anticipate "issues" you may have down the road, and incorporate the infrastructure to address these issues when items are needed behind the wall. For a small electric HWH, you just need an extra outlet, and since you need outlets for dishwasher and garbage disposal anyway, just put in a double box and now you have two extra plugs. Not a big deal to retrofit later, but it sure is easier to have the cabinetmaker cut the cabinets for the electrical boxes when they install them; no extra work for them. I figured I might have an issue here, and didn't want to commit to one future solution over the other, so I set up for either/or. I don't like the small hot-water heaters because they don't regulate like typical large ones, so once the intake water is hot (the line gets flushed), the small heaters will continue to heat the water and provide a scalding potential - not a good thing for an unsuspecting individual (most of them shouldn't be hooked up to a hot-water line).


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By Netie in Salt Lake City, UT on 11/4/2005


Placing the manifold on an interior wall is a great idea.

We had our first and only leak in the radiant tubing a few weeks ago, small drip. We thought 'Ugh! this'll be a PITA; pulled down some ceiling drywall & the culprit was a manufactured connector - not our handiwork. Hubby went down to our supplier, Standard Hydronics (Sandy, UT); they were really helpful - as normal - gave him the fix, just plain ol' joint compound.   

We had it done in less than an hour. Of course, we had to fix the ceiling - but after singing the praises of PEX - we had a moment of pause -  but remembered, leaks can creep up in any type of plumbing.

Ken - your wife will be soo happy not to have to wait for hot water (motivation). Get that hot-water return mixer installed, maybe you'll get a extra nice supper out of it!  :-)


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By Earl on 11/6/2005


Did a price comparison for you guys at Ferguson's here in TN: PEX ½x100 was a little less then $50 a roll. Copper ½x60 was $58 a roll. I have found that most people who have had a bad experience with PEX are the guys who try to save a buck and link several lines together and have joints inside the walls. The first house I built, the plumber had done this. He chained the two sinks and the toilet together in the master bath as well as the tub and shower, so that he would only have two runs up to the bathroom. This ended badly, with some of the joints leaking and causing trouble. Sad thing was when I priced everything out, I found he only saved maybe $50 with all the fittings he had used.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 11/7/2005


You should be able to get your PEX price down considerably from $.50/foot. I paid less than half of that amount ($.19/foot for 1/2" PEX). These were 500' rolls though, so some economy of scale. You use a lot of tubing when you home-run.


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By Marc in Defuniak Springs, FL on 11/7/2005


Here are some cost from the Florida Area

Reahu tubing:

1/2" $.35 foot

3/4" $.61 foot

30-port manifold $162, 24-port manifold $145


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By Mark in Colorado Springs, CO on 1/29/2006


Kenneth: It reads like you used 1/2" PEX for each of your home runs... Is this correct? Was this a conscious decision over another size, or happenstance? One of the many purveyors of PEX that also offers MANABLOC is suggesting that 3/8" is sufficient for most household fixtures. This might be true, but it seems a bit shy on flow rate (up to 2.5 gpm they say...). Do you have any information or research you've done that might be beneficial here? Thanks!


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 1/30/2006


Mark,

I used 1/2" PEX for all of my supply lines from the manifold. As you identified, I could have used some 3/8" PEX, but I didn't for the following reasons:

1) The PEX crimpers available for purchase locally were from the plumbing-supply house, probably a bit nicer than the ebay.com models. Anyway, aimed at professional users, they didn't have interchangeable heads, so I would need a separate set of crimpers for 3/8" PEX and 1/2" PEX. Using all one size, I was OK getting just one set of crimpers.

2) Using all one size of PEX, I was also able to buy in larger quantities of material. PEX comes in rolls, the larger the roll you buy, the less cost. By using all 1/2", I upsized my rolls and saved money. Ultimately it was cheaper to use all 1/2" PEX.

What I lose is a bit of time to flush the hot water through the lines from the manifold, which since my hot-water runs are all fairly short, isn't much (If you note on my house plan, my bathrooms are all grouped together and my manifold is close to all of them). The only hot-water run I have that is too long, and the flush time is unacceptable, is my kitchen sink - and I have a couple of other solutions to take care of this.


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By Arnold in Colorado Springs, CO on 1/31/2006


Kenneth,

Do you (or anyone)....

Know whether or not I can take a 1/2" PEX pipe to a bathroom, and then 3/8" T it for the sink and toilet?

This would really simplify my design as I have too many bloody fixtures!

AG

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 1/31/2006


You can put a T-fitting in PEX pipe. You can use a traditional-plumbing (daisy chain, like copper) method and simply use PEX instead if you wish. There is no requirement to even use a manifold when using PEX plumbing (or to not use a manifold when using copper).

I did what you are suggesting for my dishwasher. They draw such little volume, I didn't think it would adequately flush the line and get hot enough water to the dishwasher, so I used a T-fitting at the hot-water tap of my kitchen sink, and flush the line from the sink before turning on the dishwasher. Dishwasher technology has changed a bit since I last replaced mine. My new dishwasher heats the water if it is not hot enough as part of the sensor cleaning - so not really an issue.

If I'm pulling off the manifold, and I have enough manifold ports, I would probably just run the additional line. It looks like a wad of colorful spaghetti in some places, especially in my master bathroom (two shower heads, bathtub, two sinks, toilet, 11 lines total sharing a common wall; one other full bath and one 1/2 bath, so 8 more lines - lots of colorful PEX in those stud cavities).


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By Arnold in Colorado Springs, CO on 1/31/2006


Kenneth,

I read your message above about the only using 1/2" pipe and I thought that was cool. 

My buddy said that if I pulled a 1/2" line to a powder room, then added a T-fitting over to the toilet (reducing the number of lines I have to pull, and reducing the number of manifold ports), that I might run into some problems with the inspectors. My argument is that a 1/2" line is nearly twice the interval area of a 3/8" line. I'm really only thinking of doing this with the cold lines... so I guess I don't see the issue.

Thanks for your help!

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By E.M. in Tryon, NC on 2/23/2006


I'm going to spec PEX too, in my upcoming construction. One thought of protecting the PEX is to make sure the rockers use the right-size screws and keep your PEX out of range of the screw depth, if possible. Also, you can take digital photos of the wall and print out the photos for the rockers etc. to see where plumbing and wiring are located. These photos could be helpful for future wall intrusions, too. I'm looking for helpful specifications for all areas of construction if anyone has ideas we would all appreciate them -- especially "after the fact" specifications.

These are the recommended-size fasteners from the Hometime.com site:

When nailing drywall into wood framing use ring-shank nails. These hold into wood better, and will prevent "popping" later on. Standard length is 1-1/4" for 1/2" drywall, and 1-3/8" for 5/8" drywall.

When using a screw gun, use drywall screws. 1-1/4" screws are needed for 1/2" drywall, and 1-5/8" screws are needed for 5/8" drywall.

Of course, only use screws.


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 2/23/2006


Simpson Strong Tie makes a steel plate that taps onto wood studs. It is mainly used to protect wires, but they are used to protect plumbing as well. Of course, if you're using steel studs you can use short screws. International Residential Code states screws must penetrate wood studs a minimum of 5/8" and steel studs 3/8".


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By Brian L. in Reno, NV on 4/17/2006


Hi Kenneth,
When using PEX in place of copper, is there any advantage to using the home-run system? I have a plumber who says he installs the PEX much in the same fashion as copper; it's just that he uses PEX in place of the copper... no manifolds... single cold run with "T's" for each fixture and a recirculating hot-water line with "T's". The installation has not happened yet, and I am looking for advice. Cheers, Brian
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By E.M. in Tryon, NC on 4/17/2006


Brian:

The benefit of the home run is for a continuous line to the fixture. No joints to leak, etc. And the manifold provides a place to turn off the water for that line. Your choice if you want the fittings, but that defeats some of the purpose of PEX.

EMS


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/4/2006


Ken,

      My first rodeo, and the plumbing aspect is a bit of a mystery, with PEX/manifolds/T's/home runs... etc... Can someone give me a "Plumbing 101" or "Plumbing for Idiots" that simply explains the basics of what I should be looking for both in my plans and in the building phase? As I continue in the planning stage, I'm going to try to tag along with a plumbing crew and offer free labor for knowledge, but right now I'm lost. Any good websites or other resources that explain the basics and can help me to know what I'm looking for when I smooth my plans?

Randy


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/5/2006


I would start at the Vanguard Manabloc site for a good overview of a manifold system using a home-run installation style - vanguardpipe.com/mbloc.html. There is enough content from this single site to answer most questions you may have concerning PEX plumbing. There are other suppliers using similar products or techniques, but Vanguard is something that can be done DIY (some of the other systems don't provide warranty unless installed by professional). This is the system I used in my house, with professional installation. 

As to the Drain/Waste/Vent side of plumbing, I really don't have a clue. I had a good plumber though.

[Editor Note: Vanguard no longer carries the Manabloc or provides service parts. viega.net is the new distributor.]


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By Chris in Oregon, MO on 6/5/2006


Same advice as Kenneth. In researching and deciding on plumbing for our new house I decided on Vanguard. Saw lots of recommendations for Wirsbo, but after deciding on doing it myself, I found Vanguard to be the most DIY-friendly. They had the most documentation, including fairly-detailed installation instructions. I even contacted the company a few times with questions and got prompt responses. I was able to get everything I needed from a local plumbing-supply house (including some handy advice). 

I also hired out my DWV. Gluing PVC is pretty easy, but proper planning and design of the DWV (including any underslab work) is a different story. I felt better having a pro do that part of the plumbing so that 1) it would be done right or, 2) I would have someone to go back to if there were problems. Plus, it didn't cost very much.

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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/5/2006


Ken,

Many thanks for the great info. Do you mind sharing the size of the project you mention and the cost to plumb it? Did you buy the materials yourself? Did the same sub do the PEX and the DWV? Do you know how the cost of PEX compares to "traditional" methods? Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

Randy


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/5/2006


Chris,

Many thanks for the response. Did you end up DIY on the PEX side of the house?? If so, would you recommend it? Can you tell me the size of your home and your total plumbing-cost breakdown of the PEX and the DWV? I appreciate the info.

Randy


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/5/2006


Ken,

Follow-on question: does the PEX need to be accounted for in the plans, i.e. does my designer need to know that info before he smooths the plans?

Randy


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/5/2006


No, to ask the designer to route PEX is a waste of time and effort on his part, translating to a waste of money on yours. PEX is flexible, it routes into a wall and is secured about the same as electrical wiring.
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/5/2006


You can get a good idea of the size of the job at my website. Here is a breakdown:

1) Underslab and underground materials ~ $650 (all PVC drains, copper water supply).

2) DWV materials ~ $650 (all PVC)

3) Gas line manifold, Gastite tubing, fittings ~ $650

4) PEX manifold, tubing, fittings ~$700

This is material only, no labor. This also doesn't include fixtures or hot-water heater.


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By Chris in Oregon, MO on 6/6/2006


Randy,

I subbed out my DWV and DIY'ed the PEX water supply. Our house is a 2,300 sq/ft 1 1/2 story. We have 1,450 sq/ft in a walk-out basement that we haven't finished yet, but had the DWV run already for a bathroom and small kitchen area. Here's our breakdown:

DWV - $2,600 (includes all labor and materials, including underslab work)

PEX - $900 (includes 36-port manifold, pipe, fittings, crimp tool)

This does not include the following, which may or may not apply to you:

Septic system, electric water heater, main water-supply line (we are 900 ft. away from our meter, so we went with polyethylene) pipe and fittings for basement, or fixtures.

I finally decided on DIY'ing the PEX after reading several forums, Ken's posts in particular, and I'm happy I did. Besides saving money, I feel like I benefit by having a complete knowledge of how the water-supply system is laid out and how it works. Just like anything new, there is a bit of learning curve when you first start installing the PEX, but each run gets a little easier.


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/6/2006


Chris,

Hey, thanks for the great insight, most appreciated.

Randy


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/7/2006


Chris,

A few follow-on questions: How did you prepare for the install? I know it sounds silly, but I have read that there are sufficient instructions with the manifolds to get a good feel for how to do the PEX portion of the project. Would you agree, or did you do some other sort of training to prepare? Did it take you longer than you anticipated to complete? Do you have any other recommendations for someone who plans to do the PEX portion DIY?

I'd like to tag along with a crew that was PEX-savvy myself, but not sure if that's necessary; what do you think? After all is said and done, how much do you think you saved by DIY? Any other cost-saving recommendations when purchasing the materials for PEX? Obviously you installed the manifolds where you have access to them. Where did you put yours? Seems to me you'd want them somewhere like near a breaker box or in a mech. space etc... Sorry for the ripple-fire questions, but I'm a PEX idiot!

Randy


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By Arnold in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/7/2006


I'll take a stab, and let Chris let me know how wrong I am.

How did you prepare for the install? 
I researched incessantly, and knew more than the plumbers I talked to. I don't know how familiar you are with a typical copper-plumbing system, but typically it looks like a river, a main line snaking throughout the house with tributaries going to the individual fixtures. A PEX manifold is like a bicycle wheel. The hub is the manifold with individual spokes going to EACH individual fixture. All you need to do is to find the most direct route from the manifold to the fixture and cut some holes in the walls. The crimp connections are really easy. I was amazed how easy. 

I know it sounds silly, but I have read that there are sufficient instructions with the manifolds to get a good feel for how to do the PEX portion of the project. Would you agree, or did you do some other sort of training to prepare? 
My manifold came with no instructions. 

After all said and done, how much do you think you saved by DIY? 
I'm building 6,000 sq ft. My plumbing bid was $13K. DWV is costing me $4K and the PEX parts cost me $900. So, an $8K savings.

Does anybody have a good on-line supplier? Unfortunately, the way I got mine has dried up.

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/7/2006


Even though you didn’t ask me, I will provide some input anyway, just because I am a nice guy (smiley face here).

 

The first thing you need to look at is where is your water line coming into your house; how many fixtures do you need to service (how many ports on your manifold), and from that, the best place to put your manifold. You want the manifold close to your hot-water heater, but also close to the fixtures you need to service. With a manifold system (home run), the hot-water line needs to flush completely before you get hot water; shorter lines makes for short lag time.

 

Working all of my feeds, I needed a 36-port manifold. However what I ended up using was a 24-port manifold and an 18-port manifold. Why - basically poor planning on my part. When I talked to my local plumbing supplier during preparation, I simply asked if they carried Vanguard Manabloc manifolds and they told me, yes, they stocked them on the shelf. I didn’t follow up, figuring they had a full range – bad assumption. When I went to pick them up, I found out they stocked 14-port, 18-port, and 24-port manifolds, and 36-port manifolds were special order – all good, except I needed it tomorrow. They were out of stock on 14-port manifolds, so I purchased an 18-port and a 24-port and set out on a rapid redesign.

 

I ended up using the 24-port manifold in my utility room, adjacent to my hot-water heater and close to where my water supply came into my house. This was also close to the master bathroom, half bath, downstairs bath, and convenient for several hose bibs. Understand that my master bathroom has two shower heads, two lavatories, whirlpool bath, and commode, and this equates to 11 home runs back to the manifold by itself. A full bath has tub/shower, lavatory, and commode, equating to another 5 home runs, a half bath equates to three home runs, and right there, I am using 19 home runs with just three rooms. 

 

I put the 18-port manifold at the other end of the house, where it services the laundry room (washer and shop sink), kitchen, and several additional hose bibs. I connected the two manifolds per Vanguard's instructions using ¾” PEX supply lines with a recirculating system for the second manifold. Given the distance between the manifolds (~85’ as the tubing bends) and the significant volume of water to flush the ¾” line, a recirculating system on this second manifold is basically a requirement, as otherwise you get no hot water to this end of the house without significant lag time. With recirc, I can flush the entire system with hot water in 15 seconds. I didn’t set my recirc on a timer, instead I have a switch in the kitchen to operate the pump when I need hot water in the kitchen (the washing machine draws enough water that it flushes quickly). Please note that even though this was poor planning on my part, it ended up being a cost savings as I needed much less ½” PEX as this manifold was much closer to the fixtures being serviced than my main intake, and I only needed three lines of ¾” (hot, cold, recirc), ultimately saving me money. A 14-port would have saved me a bit more, but was not in stock when I needed it.

 

Something else to consider here is where you need ½” PEX and where you need 3/8” PEX, and whether you want to have both at all. Light-flow circuits such as lavatories are fine with 3/8” PEX, and the bonus is the line will flush that much faster with hot water because of that much less volume in the line. If you are DIY, the downside is you get to purchase more tools (you need a crimper for both ½” and 3/8”) and your material price also went up. I found that by using all one size of PEX, I could buy a 500’ roll of red (hot water) and a 500’ roll of blue (cold water) (actually there is no difference other than color between hot and cold, you could buy all white; but I like colors). However, if I were also buying 3/8”, I would cut my roll length down to 100’ and 250’, increasing my per-linear-foot costs and ultimately not giving me a quantity-discount pricing (buying 500’ rolls saved me about $.06/linear foot over 250’ rolls). If you are buying this from a plumber who has rolls of both on his truck, not a big deal. If you are DIY and don’t have any way to handle the excess material, I would look at buying the most bulk possible, and saving some money on material and tools. I used a plumber, but he was set up for Wirsbo, which uses a different end connection, so I needed to purchase the crimper tools (which I still have). Also, given my relatively short lines between the manifold and fixtures, ½” PEX wasn’t giving me a volume increase that dramatically affected lag time to get hot water to the fixture. This makes a difference, as manifolds come with all ½” connections or all 3/8” connections, and you need to order the proper fittings to connect ½” line to a 3/8” manifold, and vice versa.

 

So far, this is all planning and no execution. Do you know any houses under construction in your area that use PEX-manifold-type plumbing?  Simply looking at a house that has this system is the most valuable item I did. Watching my plumber do this stuff (and asking him to show me how he was doing it), I am convinced next time I would DIY on the PEX. My plumber took about two days to do this. My cost was just over $1,000 labor for this part, which was pretty cheap – I figure I could do the whole house in less than three days as the PEX itself was not challenging so much as securing the line and drilling the plates. The PEX joints themselves are very fast.

 

At this point, you have manifold placement ideally located to your house plans; time to start running some PEX. PEX is flexible, easy to run and secure (I used plastic connectors to secure copper water lines, they are exactly the same as the ones for PEX, except the copper are black plastic, the PEX are gray plastic, and PEX cost about twice as much), and has no joints except at the fixture and the manifold. I also used copper stub-outs where the PEX terminates at the wall to the fixtures (similar to the above site I referenced, but mine were one-piece and stocked at the plumbing supplier and Kerri's were fabricated on site). Starting with your longest lines first, start at the fixture, run your PEX line to the manifold, one line at a time. Don’t worry about any connections at this point and leave yourself plenty of slack at the ends. PEX is flexible, but don’t flex too much, or you kink it and get to rerun your entire line. Label every line, much the same way the electrician labels his home runs. Secure the lines. Crimp your copper stub-outs on, secure to the wall studs. Make your joints at the manifold, and label the manifold. For your showers and fixtures that get mounted in the wall, make these connections. Pressure-test the whole thing using air prior to the sheetrockers getting there (or preferably water, if you already have a connection). If you have a leak, fix it prior to the sheetrockers getting there. There are only two potential places for a leak - at the joints, and the only joints are at the manifold or at the fixture. If you have a bad crimp (unlikely if you are using a new crimp tool), simply cut it off and use a new crimp ring and fitting. This is why a bit of slack is nice. I had a couple of leaks from not adequately tightening the fittings at the manifold.

 

I’m sure others who actually did this will add some to this thread, as someone who has actually installed it (I only watched and realized I could install it). I know other people who installed it themselves and they universally agree, this is definitely within the realm of DIY.


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/7/2006


Ken,

As always, great info! I very much appreciate your time. One follow-on question: your decision to use 1/2-inch vs. 3/8 was or was not based on flow/pressure? Think I read somewhere that PEX is not optimal for good flow/pressure to second-story floors; anything to add? 1/2 inch must give better flow/pressure but the tradeoff is flush time on the longer runs?

 

Randy


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By Chris in Oregon, MO on 6/7/2006


Not much more I can add to what Arnold and Kenneth have said. I practiced crimping a few pieces of PEX and testing with the go/no-go gauge, but found out it was just as simple as it seemed. I tried laying out a preliminary design on paper of where to place each run even before I had framed my house, and found that when it came time to actually installing the PEX that I had to make several modifications. One thing that did help was my 9' foundation walls. This allowed me to run the PEX and DWV pipes under my floor joists and still have plenty of room later for a 8' ceiling in my basement.  

I didn't do any special training other than basic research. I tried talking to several plumbers abut PEX but couldn't find any who used PEX. Matter of fact, most of them tried to talk me out of using it, including a plumbing distributor at Home Depot (funny thing, I ran into him again a few weeks ago, he didn't seem to remember me, but he commented on how PEX was becoming increasingly more popular with the price jump on copper). I chalk their dislike up to 1) old-timers resistant to change, and/or 2) the money it's taking out of their pockets due to the DIY factor. After I installed my PEX I finally found a rural plumber who uses it and loves it.

My manifold is in the basement in close proximity to the water heater and where the water main enters the house. This is at one end of our basement in a mech room. This was a concern to me when I originally started looking at the placement of the manifold. I worried about the length of my hot-water runs to our master bathroom, which is at the other end of the house. After consulting several forums, my fears where dispelled. I did go with 1/2" manifold, as mentioned by Kenneth. 

When I was comparing plumbing materials, I found that PEX was considerably cheaper than copper and about the same as CPVC. The benefit over CPVC is that you don't have all the joints and splices that are potential leak points, you get quicker installation, and, in my opinion, the manifold system increases flow rate and reduces water waste (and I just thought it was cool concept).

Since I've only installed one system, I don't consider myself an expert and I'm sure there are some things I could have done different/better, but it works like a charm and that's what counts.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/7/2006


My decision to use SOME 1/2" PEX was based on flow and pressure. I wanted 1/2" PEX to high-draw units such as washing machine, big bath tub, master-bath showers (flow restrictors, what flow restrictors?), hose bibs (I run hot water outside to some hose bibs, nice to have hot and cold running water to wash dogs outside). I would have used 3/8" PEX for lavatory sinks, ice maker, dishwasher, toilets, etc. Given that I wanted some 1/2" lines, I wanted a manifold with all 1/2" ports. The decision to upgrade to all 1/2" PEX was primarily a cost consideration though. The upgrade saved me money and did not result in unacceptable lag time to get hot water. My runs are pretty short though...

I have a single story with partially-finished walkout basement. I am not needing to get any plumbing up to a second story. If you are concerned about second-story runs and pressure, run a 3/4" PEX loop and feed all of your second-story draws from a separate manifold; no different than I did, although both of my manifolds are in the basement. The second manifold can be easily concealed in a bathroom or other easily-accessible location. Most large houses use multiple manifolds to minimize the "spaghetti" you get by trying to run too much PEX in too tight a space and trying to keep it somewhat organized.


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 6/8/2006


All,

I appreciate all the great info and insight. Thinking of going with tankless H2O; that shouldn't impact any PEX decision, should it? The manifolds don't care where the hot water comes from, right? 

 

Randy


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/9/2006


I have tankless, also known as fire on demand. The source of hot water does not affect the PEX installation.
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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 7/5/2006


Ken,

Just love this thread, and thought I'd post some pics I took in a spec house that I toured in my area. Found the house before the rockers came, and took some PEX photos. A couple of things to note: couldn't find a manifold and all the T-fittings within the walls would indicate that this was a non-home-run (no manifold) install. I think the merits of the home run have been discussed on this thread, but these pics sort of tell the story of the excess joints/T's inside these walls/floors. Did have one question from my tour: some of the lines in this home have sleeving on them (not sure if that's the right terminology)? Can't figure out why? Is it because the lines in that area are touching the batts?? Insight would be appreciated and overall comments on the photos to enhance my PEX knowledge would be great.

Randy


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 7/5/2006


Hey guys,

Just a few more pics with the above post.

Randy


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 7/5/2006


Few more...

 

Randy


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 7/5/2006


Is the second photo with the black sleeves over the PEX (looks like a shower-mixer valve) what you are referring to "sleeving?" I have seen sleeves for PEX, but they are usually in tight areas to maintain an adequate bend radius for the PEX (and are referred to as bend supports, there are several different types of bend supports). If you bend it too tight, it will kink, rendering it useless. The photo you have that I think shows what you are asking about doesn't show a tight bend at all, so I don't know what this is for.

The photos are definitely not for a home-run-type system.


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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 7/6/2006


Ken,

How 'bout this photo, why would these lines be sleeved?

Randy


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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 7/6/2006


It looks like insulation, doesn't it? Maybe they're trying to "keep the hot side hot and the cold side cold." I don't know why they wouldn't run it for the full length of the tube, unless they just aren't finished.

Seems pretty crazy to have all those elbows and tees cut into the PEX. It defeats one of the big benefits of using PEX - fewer fittings and no fittings hidden inside walls. 

This install looks like it was done by a tradesman who's trying out PEX for the first time.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 7/6/2006


Are these on exterior walls? You don't want your water lines freezing, you want to keep them on the interior to the greatest extent practicable. However, if you have to run water lines in exterior walls, I would s'pose you want to keep them from freezing?

Looks like the PEX systems they use in my neck of the woods, traditional plumbing using PEX instead of copper. Not wrong, just not the best use of the material. I would think that people (either homeowners or building inspectors) wouldn't have such short memory on the polybutylene piping used not too long ago (apparently long enough that most people have forgotten). No PB failures, but the joints were failure prone, and you don't exactly want all of these joints buried in your walls. I thought most people would associate all flexible tubing similarly, but apparently not. 

This strikes me as an sub-quality installation (but not atypical), as PEX is inexpensive, manifolds are inexpensive, labor is reduced with home-run systems, the home-run system has many benefits (although there are drawbacks as well). But then, as builders pull the last dime out of the construction costs, what is behind the wall simply isn't relevant to most home buyers. You can hide a lot behind the sheetrock.


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By Jason in Dickson, TN on 7/8/2006


Anybody here who has used PEX and also installed a sprinkler system with it? Wirsbo has a sprinkler system for PEX, but I am having trouble getting info or finding somebody who knows anything about PEX sprinkler systems. I plan on maybe pre-plumbing for it or putting in some chases so that it can be added later, because the info I have on it so far suggests it might bust my budget.
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By David in Conroe, TX on 7/17/2006


To Kenneth and Randy, et al; I came in at the middle of this movie concerning PEX. I am also in the planning stages and ya'll's comments are a wealth of knowledge and information. I do have some info on the "recirculating" systems. As I write this I am reading an installation guide I got from "Plumbbetter XPA Composite Pipe and Fittings". I got an installation guide from the IPEX website. On Page 3, it states "Note: XPA pipe is made with PE-RT and is not approved for continuous recirculating hot-water systems". I have no idea what the reason may be for this prohibition. All I know for sure is that is says to not do it.

I don't know if the PEX from IPEX is different from the PEX that you get from Vanguard/Viega. I also don't know if the "recirculating" hot-water systems are the same idea that you are referring to regarding your "recirculating line". 

I don't know if I have helped or hampered your project. If I am way off base, please tell me. I had originally planned to have a recirculating line in my house until I read this. Now I don't know. 

I love this website.

David


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