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Plumbing with PEX instead of copper

Filed Under: fix-it, plumbing, remodeling

Copper to PEXIn relocating the hookup for a washer and dryer I ran into a tricky situation. It was going to require six joints in both the hot and cold lines to maneuver around a beam, go under the joists, and then connect to the existing plumbing. Not looking forward to trying to sweat copper pipes in a cramped crawl space or cut ten different lengths of copper pipe, I decided to look into using a flexible length of of tubing called cross-linked polyethylene or PEX instead.

I still had to solder a few fittings to put in the coupling to attach the PEX to the copper. The high price of copper is a good reason to give plastic tubing serious consideration for your next plumbing job. After the jump I'll tell you about my first experience working with PEX and a few little tips for you to keep in mind if you ever need to do a remodel and want to work with flexible piping.


Valves with compression fittingsI installed a valve on each copper line with compression fittings. This allows me to isolate the clothes washer under the house in case something I install doesn't work out. I can turn the water to the rest of the house back on while finishing the rest of the job. Then I cut a short length of copper pipe and soldered a coupling and the barbed coupling on. On the washer end of the system I used the old valve and a length of the copper pipe and just soldered the coupling and barb to the end.

Cut your tubing with either a special set of cutters or carefully use a utility knife to make a clean cut. Slip the crimp ring onto the PEX and then push the copper barb into the flexible piping. Use a ratcheting crimping tool to close the copper crimp ring onto the barb around the tubing. The store I bought the PEX and fittings from let me borrow the crimping tool -- they run well over $100. Unless you plan on doing a lot of plumbing try to borrow or rent the crimpers.

PEX hot and cold lines and the drain.It took me less than an hour to wrap up what would have probably taken me about four or five hours and undoubtedly led to at least a few instances where I would have had to re-solder joints. The price was right and I did the job with just one trip to the hardware store! I now have a coil of left over tubing sitting with the assorted copper fittings in the work shop ready for the next time a foundation beam is in the way of my plumbing project. There are pros and cons of both PEX and copper plumbing but this situation the choice was easy -- make the job easy.

  • Charlie

    This is great stuff. We replaced all the plumbing under the house and used this same stuff. Only draw back we have seen is a very slight loss of water heat when it travels all the way to the back of the house for the shower. The old standard "just past half" turn of the valve just doesn't quite cut it anymore. "just past just past half" is called for.

    Reply
  • Barry C

    I just recently helped a friend run at least 250 if not 300 feet of this in his new house. He and his wife bought a house to gut and completely redo. (And I mean completely!) They are installing heated floors in the whole house and are using PEX tubing to pump heated water throughout the house. Very good stuff. Strong, flexible (although it did kink up on us a few times), and relatively cheap. I'm definitely using this stuff when I do my next plumbing job.

    Reply
  • jeff

    I just replaced all of my old galvanized basement plumbing with PEX and installed inline shutoff valves. I had newer copper run to the bathroom so I used a "Sharkbite" connector to transition from PEX to copper. I also had to transition from PEX to galvanized at one point to connect to my kitchen sink lines and outdoor faucets - no problem with a brass adapter. I'm a big fan of PEX and I would encourage anyone to give it a try - just make a plan of your plumbing and needs prior to starting the project. I used the crimp system and it was flawless!

    Reply
  • John Sak

    I am re-plumbing my whole house with Pex. I currently have polybutylene pipe. I am not a plumber, I am a do it do it yourself person.
    I got a 1/2" crimping tool at Home Depot for $80 and got a 3/4" pocket crimper for $10 on Ebay. The pocket crimper works very well. I bought 200 feet of 3/4" Pex for $100 at Home Depot and bought 200 feet of 1/2" Pex for $50. I have already installed about 50 feet of Pex and two shut-off valves. I replaced the shut-off valve in my house with a Shark-bite shut-off. I also installed a shark-bite shut-off in my crawl space so I can turn the water off and on while I am working in the crawl. The neat thing is that the whole house will have water, except for the current fixture I am working on. I do this by using a transition fitting from Pex to Polybutylene. So where the Pex currently ends the Plybutylene picks up. Here is how I isolate on one fixture without disturbing the whole system: I insert a Pex tee fitting in the main water line (for the fixture I am working on) but I cap off the output barb of the tee so the system does not see the fixture I am working on. Then when I have the fixture ready, I remove the cap from the tee and hook-up the new Pex line coming the fixture. I am installing new shut-off valves for all the fixtures. I purchased ball shut-off valves that have a 1/2" Pex barb as input to the shut-off, and the output is a 3/8" compression port that can accept the existing copper pipes for the sinks or the braided water lines going to a toilet tanks. I don't foresee any problem with the installation. I did download an install guide from www.Zurn.com

    Reply
  • Jordan

    Be careful with the Zurn products - they are having massive class action lawsuits due to the crimp rings wearing out. I recommend using the expanding method, or if you just have to use a crimp system, use the stainless steel rings. You cant even get Zurn products at my local Lowes anymore, Zurn has recalled the crimper from my particular store. It could have to do with weather, I live in Texas and it is hot and muggy here so who knows.

    Reply
  • Lonnie

    Just had all the horizontal galvanized pipe replaced in attic. My plumber buddy of 20 years did it. He used zurn piping and the brass fittings. He swore to me it was ok. I am reading so much bad stuff i had to question him. he said don't worry, but i am. Anyway i wish someone could tell me it is ok. Thanks

    Reply
  • 6 Comments / 1 Pages

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