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Non-stove Plumbing question...

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Gooserider, Apr 24, 2007.

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  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I discovered an oops today... I was sort of afraid that I might, and I was right! :shut: We have a pipe that goes from the cold water line in the laundry room out through the garage to feed an outside faucet next to the garage door, and another faucet on our front porch. It has frozen on us before, so I'm careful to shut the line off and drain it in the fall - not a big deal... However the shutoff is a ball valve next to the drier, and during the winter I was fixing the drier and accidentally bumped the valve on, refilling the pipe.... It didn't want to blow out when I realized what happened, so I was afraid it had frozen, but didn't worry about it at the time - can't do much in the winter...

    This afternoon I turned the line on, and sure enough it was frozen and cracked in at least one or two places (I found one split, and there was a damp spot that suggested a second...)

    Currently the line is copper, I think 1/2" and sweated fittings. I haven't done much copper plumbing, but I've done some other copper sweating work, so I don't see much problem there.

    1. Is copper the best thing to replace this with? Or is there a better material I should look at? Probably I'm just going to want to replace the part where the break is, though I could be persuaded to replace the entire run. The run does go around some corners.

    2. Any reason not to recover and re-use the elbows and other connectors on the pipes?

    3. Given that this is the middle of a run, should I dry-assemble all the joints first, and solder, or try to build each joint one at a time? My current plan is to take the existing plumbing apart, then cut new pipe to match the lengths of the old peices and then put it back together - is this a good approach?

    4. Any other "gotcha's" I need to watch out for?

    Gooserider

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  2. HalJason

    HalJason Member

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    If it were me, I'd just replace what was damaged, and if after the repair nothing leaked, call it a job well done.

    There are a few options as far as materials, but I'm not sure it makes sense to replace the whole run with another material (PEX, for example) unless you're just aching to learn something new.

    In general I can't bring myself to throw anything out so I do re-use fittings :)

    I usually dry fit everything to make sure I have enough parts and that the parts I have get me where I need to get to. Sometimes it makes sense to put several pieces together on a table, then fit the whole mess into the existing plumbing. Sometimes it's just as easy to build in place.

    The thing to watch out for (which often decides where to put the fittings together) is "what can I burn with the torch". Make sure you clean all of the mating surfaces with some fine sandpaper and/or wire brush, use flux, and decent solder w/o lead.

    If there's water in teh pipes, even what seems like a little, it'll suck the heat right out of them, so shove a ball of white bread upstream to keep the water away from where you're heating. Don't worry, the bread will disolve and find it's way out.

    -Hal
  3. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I agree with Hal on almost all points but dissagree with re using elbows For the money a few elbows cost I replace all with new Why leave an old film of solder in an existing elbow and develope a leak and have to re-do it again. One could swap to PEX but any money saved would be eaten up with conversion fittings and specialty crimping tools. It would cost you considerably more

    the key as Hal mentioned is to get the water out Bread is a good idea chean your joints well wire brush and plumbers sand paper and fkux both surfaces to every joint then salder I would psolder all things on the ground or bench shop and make a cut where it is easiest to make a connection and solder
  4. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    What Hal says, but I disagree with Elk on re-using fittings/pipe. As long as it is in good sharp (not scaled up, bent, etc), no reason not to, just clean them well. I would just repair the splits by cutting that section out, then use repair couplings (no ridges on the inside so you can side them all the way on the pipe then back onto the splice pipe if the space is tight) and a new piece of pipe to splice. Make sure to clean the fittings well and flux 'em, you can go either way on dry fitting or sweat as you go, for me it depends on the job and space. Lastly, and it sounds like you've sweat before so may be a moot point, but don't chase the torch with the solder or visa versa. Heat the joints from below, put a hook in the solder and apply it to the top of the joint until it flows. Once it flows down either side of the joint, that's enough, wipe the the hanging drop with a gloved hand so it looks nice! The only other gotcha is to watch the solder drips, wear a tight collared shirt, my belt line has many scars from drips that went the wrong place. At least I had a belt on I guess... You may want to remove the handle on the ball valve next fall to prevent it from getting turned on accidentally again, loop it to the pipe with a wire tie so you don't lose it.
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I don't see anything wrong with reusing the fittings, but my approach is usually to buy new fittings and save the old ones for those "when you really need a 1/2-inch elbow and the store is closed" events. That way, over time, you build a nice collection of usable parts that can be used in a pinch. Only replace those fittings that are leaking or need to be removed to fix a leak. No need to fix pipe and fittings that don't leak.

    Clean is essential (emery cloth or steel wool), and clean more of the pipe than you expect to use. And don't overdo the flux--you don't need much. Don't overdo the heat, either. With 1/2-inch copper, it doesn't take much heat.

    If possible, crack a valve somewhere so that you don't get pressure building up in the piping as you heat it. Pressure (especially steam) will keep the solder from completely filling the joint and it will leak

    Also, cut the bad section out. Don't try to break the line by heating a connection--water in the line will screw you every time.

    Good advice on the bread. That's an old plumber's truck. Just don't do it if you're working on a heating system.
  6. Bill

    Bill Minister of Fire

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    If your going to soldier by a combustible, (wall) get one of those heat proof pads, you put it behind the pipe so not to start the house on fire. This may not be possible, but it's sweet to have the pipe angle down a little to drain better.

    This place is better than Do It Yourself Network.
  7. titan

    titan Minister of Fire

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    Goose,if you were to run good pex tubing through the sub-zero locales you wouldn't have to worry about the lines freezing and splitting.Also remove the handle from your ball valve after you shut it off in the fall-then it can't be opened up accidentally.
  8. HalJason

    HalJason Member

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    I was going to mention removing the handle, but if it were me, I'd just lose it, turn the water back on with some pliers in the spring, and then be in a world of hurt when I needed to shut the thing off quickly.

    -Hal
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I have no experience with PEX-do mice like to chew on it?

    I don't see why you just wouldn't repair the split sections.

    I put in a couple of hose bibs this fall (even had a thread here, somewhere).
    I laid out the copper (which is quite expensive) runs in the basement and was going to sweat the joints (at least 'til the first isolation valve) the night before.
    Alas, I did not know how to do a good job with the lead-free solder and was going out of town the next morning.
    Did I mention I had to take a whole-house water outage?
    It cost me $400 for a professional to do the job (labor only-no material).
    I STILL haven't practiced soldering with the the stuff!

    Edit:
    I was in HD the other day and saw that they have these gel tablets that you jam into a pipe to stop the water dripping, and then when you apply heat directly to that section after you're done, it melts and flows downstream. Don't know if it works well though.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    It's really not hard at all. As long as you can control the water, you should have no problems.
  11. slowzuki

    slowzuki Feeling the Heat

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    I just got done running hot and cold lines in a neighbours house to replace frozen/burst ones. They had a plumber repair it once before, he used copper and they froze again so I used PEX. It might freeze but it won't burst in all likelyhood.

    I love soldering but I won't do it where it gets covered in. In this house the section that froze is in the middle of the floor with 3 layers of flooring (old farmhouse) on top and plaster + lath below. Was able to leave the old copper in place and push new pex through to where it needed to go.

    I used to reuse copper elbows but I only do that now if they aren't going to sit around and get cruddy.
  12. titan

    titan Minister of Fire

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    I'm not aware of any instances where mice were known to eat PEX tubing but the little buggers can eat just about anything if it's in their way.I often find them after they have chewed into copper wiring-they typically only do it once though.
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well, much thanks to alll for the advice... I went with replacing the copper since I already had the tools for it, and I'm not sure PEX would have done well in that location cause it had to make a couple of bends. I desoldered a joint on each end of where I thought all the breaks were, and pulled out the entire suspect area of pipe. It was all exposed, but part of it was behind a shelving unit so this was the easiest way to access it.

    I then started at one end and worked to the other replacing each section with a break in it (I found three), and re-cycling the connectors - I also had a length of scrap pipe left over from some other project, so I ended up not having to go to the hardware store at all :coolsmile: Stuck the assembly back in when I got to the last little bit that had two 90's, re-connected the far end and then came back and got the last two 90's so that everything lined up. Only trouble I had at first was having the first joint I did on a coupler come loose when I was heating up the second joint, but once I learned to keep most of the flame on the pipe rather than splitting equally between the pipe and the coupler, it worked better and I didn't have any more problem.

    Took me about 3 hours in all, but came out pretty nice, and when the GF came home I leak tested it - no problems, it held! :coolgrin:

    Figure it took me about 4-5 times as long as the plumber would have, but saved me a couple hundred bucks, I think it was worth it...

    Gooserider
  14. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Great news Goose, glad you got 'er done. It's not what you saved in dollars, it's all pride in saying "Hey, I did that!" That said, you may want to check things with Elk just to be sure on stuff, he's really good. ;-)
  15. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    Congrats goose.
    An easy fix is easier on the mind. My only fear with copper pipes that have frozen is, if there are other weak spots that have not ruptured yet, you may be patching more spots in the future. Hopefully thats not the case.
    The pex I have been researching. I am going to do my addition with it. It is very flexible, no fittings needed for 90° bends. They even make lil brackets for the bends.
    Less fittings, not as prone to freeze problems, and cheaper than copper. Mind you, you would need a pex ring crimper for the fittings. Can be had on ebay for anywhere from $30.00 to a kit for a couple hundred bucks. I am going to broaden my horizons and go with pex. I used steel studs also, so fishing it through with minimal fittings will be easier & less time & material cost consuming.
  16. titan

    titan Minister of Fire

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    Hogwildz,good PEX tubing is tuff stuff but be careful when fishing it through any steel studs.I'd use plastic bushings wherever you pass through a steel stud 'cause it's not hard to cut that PEX while fishing.It will also move a bit during expansioncontraction;I've seen it chafe a hole in itself over time.Good luck with your reno.
  17. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I just priced some 3/4-inch pex for an addition to my heating system, Hogz. There's regular pex and pex with a layer of aluminum, which allows you to bend it without the little hangers. The pricing I got (300' and 500' foot rolls only) was about 79 cents for the regular stuff and 96 cents for the alumipex. Sure beats the living daylights out of copper, although I like working with copper. That's heating system pex. The stuff for domestic water is cheaper, I think.
  18. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    While on the subject and since copper has replaced gold for price stupidness what is pex made of anyways? How is it related to that grey stuff my 1984 trailer has for plumbing. I hate the stuff but in all the years and all the freeze ups it has yet to break.
  19. titan

    titan Minister of Fire

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    There are many brands of PEX tubing,I believe it is extruded polyethylene.Certain types do have an aluminum barrier in them; this is fine but you can't make small radius bends with it or it will kink.Could the stuff in your home be P.V.C or C.P.V.C?
  20. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    It's not like pvc at all. I'd say it's more like plastic hose, though with thicker walls. One nice thing is that it comes in different colors, such as red for supply and blue for return. It's even become the tubing of choice for under-the-floor radiant heat.

    The last time I bought a significant amount of copper, it was about $1 a foot for 1" type M tubing--and I knew I was getting ripped off. Now it's over $3 a foot and climbing.
  21. titan

    titan Minister of Fire

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    Yeah,to hell with that pot o'gold;those leprechauns are probably hiding a big stack o'copper pipe now.
  22. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    EJ: The regular pex for potable water is around $25.00 per 100' I think at Home Peehole. Comes in blue & red color coded for cold & hot water lines.
    There is also a white which is supposed to be a lil better. For residential I think the blue & red are plenty fine.
    I like working with copper also. Had alot of special fun projects when I was roofing & siding. Plumbing on the other hand, I hate messing with copper piping.
    The aluminum stuff is for radiant heat & heavier applications other than just your average water lines to bathrooms, kitchens etc. I could be wrong. I did research IPEX which is the aluminum covered pex piping. More for commercial & industrial applications.


    Titan: I would most definitely uses the grommets for running through the steel studs. I used the electrical ones for the wiring, And will use the rubber ones for the Pex.
    I am almost regretting using the steel studs. They were actually a little more expensive than wood, but the running of electrical, water lines and ease of construction made it worth it. I am installing all 8" tongue & groove pine on the addition walls, and had to find #6 small square head trim screws to fasten the wood to the steel studs. There is just enough room to catch the tongue and not have the screws show at each seam. But it is a royal PITA to make sure each is placed just right not to show, and not to split the tongue. I will have to look for a smaller size if there is one.

    Driz: Here is a FAQ link regarding Pex, its quite an interesting read as to just how versatile this stuff is. Also gives an exact of what its made of.
    http://www.ppfahome.org/pex/faqpex.html

    Field mice can chew through Pex, but I am willing to gamble. I am sealing every nook & cranny as tight as I can. I think any mice will be looking for other things to chew than piping. Pex is much easier, cheaper & quicker to fix than copper.
  23. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I've heard a great deal of good stuff about PEX, and if I were doing a major project, it would certainly be on my list. However in this case I had about a 6 or 8' stretch that had several 90* bends at each end, connecting to additional copper on each end, so I didn't think it made sense for this application as opposed to just staying with the copper.

    I am somewhat concerned about the potential for other weak spots that didn't blow this time causing problems in the future, but at least the parts that I replaced didn't show any visible bulges or stress signs that I could see, so hopefully it won't be a big issue. Slightly more of a concern, but again I'm not going to worry about it that much is that there are, according to our plumber, two grades of copper pipe - red stuff and blue stuff, with the blue stuff being slightly better. (I believe he said it was slightly thicker walls) - what I put in was the red stuff, but that was what I was replacing as well, so I don't know that it makes a huge difference.

    Gooserider
  24. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I could be wrong, but I think blue copper is required by code for domestic water applications, while the red (type M) has thinner walls and is meant for hydronic heating, since it operates at lower pressures.
  25. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well I know a good bit of our plumbing in our house thats about 20-30 years old, supposedly built to code, with all the appropriate permits pulled, and inspections made, (For your safety, please pay at the window....) is done mostly in the red copper, some is done in blue (particularly the parts done by our plumber)

    Our plumber has complained about seeing the red copper, and told us that eventually it will give us trouble due to internal corrosion of the thinner walls, but didn't say anything about it being a code violation, just a future problem area. We also have problems with high pressure on our domestic water - we have measured over 110 PSI, measurement taken after premature failure of a hot water heater. We now have a pressure regulator on the incoming water line, set to give us about 60 PSI - the Town Water-works guy claims the town has no responsibility for this - that the rules say he has to give us over 40 PSI, but that he has NO upper limit...

    Gooserider
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