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Old 08-18-2008, 10:09 AM   #1
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


Progress continues on the vacation/project/retirement home. The rest of the winter time there will be spent working inside, but already I'm scheming and dreaming of next summer's big project--replacing the water supply lines to and in the house!

Recently I came across a supply of 1" copper tubing that might be of adequate length to make it from the meter into the house (the current galvanized pipe is probably 80 years old and you can't even get a drinking straw into the 3/4" pipe, that's how rusted and corroded it is!). Once I'm into the house, I'll switch to some sort of PEX or PEX-like product.

For right now, though, I'm focusing on the outdoor part, so I'm asking for opinions here. I have my choice of what material to use, had thought PEX looked like the winner, but this copper tubing is free and if it is the best product for the underground service entry, I'll go with it.

So, what say you all? The run is between 50' and 75', and I may have to splice two rolls together to get that length, but given that copper has been the gold standard for so long, what do you think now that there are alternatives out there other than galvanized or brass?

Thanks for the advice you can offer!

Dugly

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Old 08-18-2008, 10:11 AM   #2
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


Gold is the key word there. Copper these days is expensive! If you can get it for free, you're doing great! We generally use PVC for water service (meter to house), making a transition at the house shut-off valve, but there shouldn't be any reason why you can't use copper unless there's a local restriction... Good snag on that 1" !!!

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Old 08-18-2008, 12:47 PM   #3
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


Dugly:

Copper water supply tubing comes in three different wall thicknesses;
Type M for residential use will have red printing on it (thinnest wall),
Type L for commercial use will have blue printing on it, and
Type K for underground use will have green printing on it (thicknest wall).

You should check your piping to see if you can tell what kind of copper pipe it is, and whether or not your local plumbing code requires Type K for underground use. You don't want to use the wrong kind of copper pipe and then have to do it all over again in something else cuz the inspector isn't happy.

So far as I'm concerned, copper was, is and always will be the gold standard of water supply piping. The reason why is that copper will gradually react with oxygen in the air to form an oxide layer on it's surface that is quite impermeable to air and water. Consequently, as this oxide film grows in thickness, it better and better protects the underlying copper metal from further oxidation. This is why new pennies are an orangy gold colour, which is the real colour of copper, but old pennies are brown, which is the colour of copper oxide.

Did you know that the ancient Egyptians used the same symbol, the ankh, to both represent the metal "copper" and the concept of "eternal life". Also, crude copper piping to carry water to the workman building the pyramids has been found in the pyramids in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians must have been well aware of copper's ability to resist corrosion, even when wet. And, so far as I'm concerned, no one's found a better water supply piping material in 6,000 years.

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Old 08-18-2008, 01:49 PM   #4
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nestor_Kelebay View Post
Dugly:

Copper water supply tubing comes in three different wall thicknesses;
Type M for residential use will have red printing on it (thinnest wall),
Type L for commercial use will have blue printing on it, and
Type K for underground use will have green printing on it (thicknest wall).
You should check your piping to see if you can tell what kind of copper pipe it is, and whether or not your local plumbing code requires Type K for underground use.
So far as I'm concerned, copper was, is and always will be the gold standard of water supply piping....And, so far as I'm concerned, no one's found a better water supply piping material in 6,000 years.
That's good enough for me, Nestor--thanks for that excellent technical explanation as well as that cool historical info .

I'm on this--taking the trailer to my friend's house today--free copper pipe, free copper fittings, a free brand new 1 hp jet pump (will come in quite handy on a rainwater capture project I have in mind for garden irrigation), much more. My friend's brother passed on a couple of years ago and was partners in a plumbing business. The partner sold the business off, the truck was sold, but nobody did anything about this old shed holding a lot of raw materials--at least 3 coils of copper tubing sitting there, he doesn't want them, just wants the shed cleared.

Like I said, I'm all over this !!!

I'll check on the type of pipe today, but in the end I won't have to worry about codes, this old house is in a town that is 4 blocks long and 3 blocks wide, 118 population--no codes, no inspectors, just one city handyman and he's not really interested--his advice is always the same, just make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing put it in.

Keeping that in mind, let's suppose that the available tubing is the thinnest of the bunch, they Type M residential variety. Is it possible that this pipe might collapse under the weight of the soil above it (it will need to be buried at least 5 feet deep, I would like to go 6 feet if I can)? If so, what do you think about using some PVC as sheathing with the copper inside it? Even if I had to use Sch40, it would surely be less expensive than buying the Type K underground variety.

Like I said, still scheming and dreaming, will know in a few hours what type the copper is.......

Thanks, again!

Dugly
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Old 08-18-2008, 04:08 PM   #5
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


I'd scrap the copper if it is not K and buy pvc. You will have money left over. BTW if you scrap the copper, you should split it with your extremely generous friend.
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Old 08-18-2008, 05:04 PM   #6
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


I agree with 47_47 that if you can't use it, you should scrap it and share it with the person who gave it to you. Clean copper will pay a pretty penny these days.

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Old 08-18-2008, 10:47 PM   #7
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


if it's new copper, go sell it to a plumbing shop for the price of scrap. They will appreciate it, and it won't go to 'waste' that way.

Isn't rolled copper usually type L ? We are allowed to use L underground here.
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:48 PM   #8
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


I really don't know if the thicker wall for type K is to prevent it from collapsing under the ground weight, or just to ensure that the wall thickness is high enough that it'll never corrode through, even in acidic soils.

If the tubing isn't type K, then I expect you could even run it through some 1 1/4 inch ABS drain piping for that matter. I'd phone up your local trade school, talk to the Plumbing Instructor and follow his advice. I'm outta my area of expertise talking about running copper pipe underground and outdoors. That's just something I've never done, so I've never learned anything about it.
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Old 08-19-2008, 06:30 AM   #9
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


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Originally Posted by Alan View Post
if it's new copper, go sell it to a plumbing shop for the price of scrap. They will appreciate it, and it won't go to 'waste' that way.

Isn't rolled copper usually type L ? We are allowed to use L underground here.
They sell soft copper in M, L, and K at our supply house. We are only allowed to use K underground however I know many states do allow L underground. Check your local codes to see if you can use it. Soft tubing also does not have any colored lettering on it (the stuff we use anyway). The type is stamped into the tubing.
I think many shops won't buy material from someone who comes by for fear that it may be damaged. You have no idea what's happened to it when in the previous owners hands. Or that it might be stolen. I'm not implying that it's stolen but the shop you walk into has no idea.
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:33 AM   #10
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


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I think many shops won't buy material from someone who comes by for fear that it may be damaged. You have no idea what's happened to it when in the previous owners hands. Or that it might be stolen. I'm not implying that it's stolen but the shop you walk into has no idea.
I live near Houston, TX and the metal recycling businesses are under tremendous pressure from the legal authorities to verify the source of any copper they buy. Seems every day you hear about another school or church whose A/C system has had the copper stolen.

I now have the copper tubing in hand, the only marking I can find on it is a very faint "Howell" printed in black. There are no M, L, or K markings anywhere, nothing else printed on it or stamped into it. In addition, I just measured it and it isn't 1", it's 3/4". There isn't adequate pipe there to reach from the meter to the house, I estimate using my basic geometry skills that there is around 25' total and it would require 2 solder connections to make it up to that length.

While it may not be usable for the purpose for which I had intended, it most assuredly will be usable for running inside lines--I think I'll keep it, but obviously it's going to get expensive to buy that 50'-75' of 1" copper I'll need--I really do want for the supply line to the house to be one solid copper pipe with no unions. Oh, well, it's only $$ .

I'll do it right in the end--I've always been a believer in "If you don't have the time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over". With my only opportunity being 5 or 6 feet underground, I'd rather NOT have to find the time and $$ to do it over!!

There is still that "motherlode" of copper sweat fittings to be salvaged, too. Now, if I could find a plumbing supply store, or a plumber who wanted to buy a lot of fittings, perhaps I could recoup enough $$ that way to purchase enough 1" underground copper tubing. I have just yet begun to scratch the surface in that old storage room.

The jet pump was as-new, I don't believe it has ever been installed.

My friend is truly very generous, I will reward him with half the proceeds should I find a buyer for any of the materials I don't keep.

Dugly
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Old 08-19-2008, 12:27 PM   #11
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


Dugly,

You can check with your local inspector (or not), but 1" Polyethylene should be plenty big enough for an average house. It comes in both 100' and 300' rolls and is virtually indestructible once buried. I use Sharkbite connectors and have zero issues here in Georgia.
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Old 08-21-2008, 10:17 AM   #12
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


Are you not allowed to use PVC, or hesitant to do so for some reason?
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:10 AM   #13
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


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Are you not allowed to use PVC, or hesitant to do so for some reason?
Hadn't thought about it, I guess--I had thought of PEX and liked the idea and then this free copper popped up.

I guess my problem is that I'm dealing with a whole bunch of issues related to my mother's tendency to cut corners to save pennies. The local electrician says that he and the city's only employee replaced part of the supply line from the meter to the house about 10 years ago, but my mom wouldn't let them replace all of it b/c she had some bird feeders and birdbaths in the way. Little stuff like that, like using 12-2 wiring rather than 12-2 with ground just to save a couple of bucks on each roll of house wiring, and using the lesser grade of pine for the door facings and now 40 years later the knots are all showing up like beacons in the night. Little things like that have a way of popping up as I proceed with the budget-conscious remodeling of this delightful older house......

I just want to do it right and do it only once, don't care if it costs a bit more as long as there is a payback of some sort. I don't mind going bigger/better/badder than necessary, in fact I'm a big believer in "overengineering" if it yields increased lifefspan, reliability, or convenience.

This old house has existed for a century and who knows, as strongly as it is built it might last another century in some form--I like the idea of whatever I put in the ground for a supply line still being functional at the turn of the next century. The current supply line is so clogged I'm surprised there's adequate flow for a shower. I guess you could say it's still functional, but minimally!

Right now both copper and PEX look good, and the price on PEX is quite a plus. I could use PVC, but it would need to be glued up, whereas the copper and PEX can be run uninterrupted. Every junction is an opportunity for Murphy's Law to become effective...

Would PVC offer any benefit over the copper or PEX other than price?

Dugly
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:17 AM   #14
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Is copper still the "Gold Standard"?


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Are you not allowed to use PVC, or hesitant to do so for some reason?
For some reason, we NEVER see PVC used for water supply here in Kansas, except for irrigation. Might be a regional thing. Maybe it is our expansive soils.
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Old 08-21-2008, 09:05 PM   #15
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PVC IMO is much easier to work with than anything in a roll. If you get something on a roll, you have to wrestle with it. PVC, you get however 20 foot lengths you need with bell ends, glue a bunch of them together, let it dry a little and chuck it in the ditch, make connections on both ends, finished.

I hate wrestling with crap on rolls, ESPECIALLY PLASTIC thats all. Gluing is not that bad in comparison.

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