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Plumbing 101: Deeper Understanding Pt. 2

Plumbing 101: Deeper Understanding Pt. 2

Back to your TV announcer voice . . .

In the next installment of Plumbing 101 . . .

We take a closer look at working with common plumbing pipes, shut-off valves, and fittings.

TV announcer voice fades away.

For basic home plumbing repair, working with pipes isn’t necessarily hard for homeowners to do, but it can be intimidating if one has never done it before.

If that’s the case, it’s best to call your Decatur or Hartselle, AL, plumber or plumbing contractor for repair and renovation needs.

In any case, this look at working with common plumbing pipes, shut-off valves, and fittings will give Decatur or Hartselle homeowners a convenient understanding of what’s involved.

Cutting and Fitting

Cut plastic pipe to length with a hacksaw, or abrasive disk for a miter saw. After each cut, clean out the small burrs/shavings that remain inside the pipe with a knife, rag or emery cloth.

Dry fit the entire run of pipe you’re installing before gluing pipe and fittings together.

Check small pipes and fittings for plumb/level with a torpedo level. Also, double check the drain flow; about 1/4″ per 1′ as a general guide.

A fitting that’s glued crooked can sometimes throw off the whole run and/or won’t fit properly with the next piece. This is important because if the pipes are off even a bit small, sometimes hard-to-see leaks can develop, forcing you to repair before you proceed. Discover these problems during the dry fit rather than after the pipe is glued.

Gluing Pipe

Plastic pipe joints are connected with glue that actually melts the pieces together. The joints for both PVC and ABS are glued the same, but the types aren’t interchangeable and only a special fitting can connect them together.

To glue ABS, check that the cut ends are fairly straight. Remove any burrs with a knife or emery cloth and clean both pieces with a rag. Apply ABS glue to both the pipe and fitting.

Push the joints together with a twisting motion to spread the glue. Hold the joints together for a few seconds so they won’t push apart while the fast-drying glue sets.

Gluing PVC pipe is a similar process, but a cleaning chemical (primer) that prepares the plastic goes on before the glue. CPVC pipe also has its own type of glue so be sure to purchase the glue that matches the plastic you’re working with.

Once the joint is primed, apply the glue, push and twist the pipe or fitting and hold them in place for a few seconds.

Glues for PVC and ABS and primers are readily available at any Decatur or Hartselle-area home improvement center or plumbing supply store. They are inexpensive. Unless you plan to fit a lot of plumbing pipe, buy the smallest amount available because there is a chance it will sit on a shelf in the garage for years, or until the next time you need to make a small plumbing repair.

Sweating Copper Water Lines

Copper is a popular material for water supply line. It’s durable pipe that handles high water pressure loads and is relatively easy to work with.

However, copper is expensive and may cost up to three times more than plastic CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipe.

Copper lines fit together with lead-free, solid-core solder. The soldering process involves heating the pipe and is commonly known as “sweating.” (Images)

Prepping & Soldering Lines

Before cutting any “live” water lines, make sure the supply valve is off. Open the house’s highest (upstairs, if applicable) and lowest (basements, outside) faucets to drain the water line.

Be aware: Even a small amount of water in a copper line can prevent the joint from heating up enough to accept solder and provide a secure join.

Cut the pipe with a hacksaw or a tube cutter (available at any Decatur or Hartselle-area home improvement centers or plumbing supply store) by gradually tightening it to score and cut the pipe. Some cutters also have a triangular reamer that remove burrs.

Sand both the fitting and pipe surfaces to be soldered with a wire brush or emery cloth and wipe clean with a rag. Then apply flux on both pieces. Flux prevents the joint from oxidizing and helps solder flow and bond to the copper.

Fit the pieces together and heat the joint with a propane torch. It should only take up to 30 seconds to get the temperature hot enough to melt solder. Obviously, take care when using a propane torch, something that most homeowners will not have much experience using.

Pull the solder across the heated joint. The solder will visually “suck up” in and around the joint. If the joint still doesn’t melt solder, there may be water in the line.

Quickly wipe away any excess solder with a rag and allow the joint to cool and set up.

Shut-Off Valves

Well-placed, convenient placed shut-offs are nice to have when working on plumbing fixtures, a washer, or water heater. Their main purpose is any time a fixture like a toilet or sink needs repair, it can be shut off to stop water flow without having to stop the overall flow to the house.

In-Line Shut-Offs

In-line lever or “wheel” shut-offs are popular types of primary shut-off fittings. They’re usually made of brass with copper fittings for soldering.

Install an in-line shut-off — copper to copper — by marking the center of its location on the existing water line.

Shut off the water supply and cut the line. Sometimes, the pipe will spread enough to accommodate the shut-off. If not, cut back the pipe so the valve sets in-line.

Clean both ends of the fitting and both pieces of pipe. Open the valve before heating it to protect the rubber seal from being damaged.

Flux all four ends and fit the shut-off onto the pipe. Position the valve straight and heat and solder each joint. Wipe away any excess solder with a rag.

A bit of advice: There are many types of in-line shut-off valves. If you are replacing an older shut-off, snap a picture of it with your phone and take it to a home improvement center in the Decatur or Hartselle-area and ask a plumbing sales rep if more modern valves will meet your needs. Also, this helps making sure you buy the right size valve for the installed pipe.

Compression Fittings

Compression fittings were a great invention for residential plumbing. Shut-offs to toilets and sinks are generally chrome-plated, oval handled compression fittings.

However, if you have an older home, it’s very possible that compression fittings were not used. It that is the case, follow the advice above. A plumber or sales rep will make sure you have the right material and know-how to update the fittings yourself.

Assuming you’re ready to go, turn off the water supply and cut off the end cap of the copper water line, leaving enough pipe exposed so the new shut-off with compression fittings will fit properly. This may not be easy because there may not be enough pipe “stubbed” from the wall to work with. If that’s the case, call a professional plumber or plumbing contractor to help.

Fit any decorative cover (escutcheon) over the line first, followed by the compression nut and compression ring (ferrule). Test-fit the valve over the line and position the ring to meet the threads.

Screw on the compression nut by hand, then tighten it down firmly with an adjustable wrench while holding the valve in place with another wrench. There is no need to over-tighten.

Next Up: Bathrooms

A closer look at plumbing in the bathroom.