Saturday, February 4, 2012

Working with PEX Plumbing.

Over the years, I've struggled with galvanized and copper plumbing for water supply and an assortment of materials for drain pipes. Just another tricky day for the fix it guy around here, and let me tell you there is no worse item then trying to fix plumbing in a house. To add to the frustration as well as the four and five letter words, PEX, or cross linked polyethylene is also becoming more common in residential and commercial developments. It's been a fixture in mobile and modular homes for at least 30 years because of its light weight, lower cost and greater flexibility.
As with any novel product, there are new methods in using it. You can't just solder it together or thread it, but you can cut, clamp and use some special fittings to work with this stuff. If you have to work with it a lot, you might want to invest in a tool to clamp the bands to hold the various fittings. Hose clamps will not not always work very well on on PEX pipe because it doesn't yield like vinyl or rubber hoses do. The aforementioned tool is expensive; upwards of 80 dollars or more, but worth it if you're going to remodel your house or have a lot of fittings to upgrade in your mobile home.
If you're just trying to spot fix plumbing issues, there are push on connectors that eliminate the need for bands and tools. Just use a PVC or tubing cutter to cut the tubing off square, then push the fitting on, turn on the water and you're done. The only brand I've personally found to work is called Shark Bite and it'll hook copper to PEX and any other material without leaking. It's expensive if you use these for remodeling, but they will save you hours of headache in a pinch. I used two of their right angle fittings to bypass a water softener and another to replace leaking connectors on my bathroom sink. They took less than 30 seconds to install. You can't do that with copper or galvanized pipe. Maranatha!

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