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Old 06-02-2008, 12:36 AM   #1
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Forum noob needs info on using PEX tubing


Good day, I just registered and have high hopes this forum can help me with a plumbing replacement project.

Our family owns a home in a VERY small SW Kansas town. This town is so small it has only 118 residents, so it should come as no surprise that the town also has no inspectors or codes. I spoke with the town "superintendent" regarding an upcoming electrical project and he told me just to have it done by someone who knows what they are doing.

I'm hoping to become that person, and now I could use some help figuring out how to use this PEX tubing to replace the nearly 100 year old plumbing in the house. I doubt I could get a pencil in the 3/4" inlet pipe, there is that much corrosion in there.

My main question regards which of the "clamping" systems is best. It is my hope to replace all the old galvanized plumbing in the house with PEX and the multitude of clamping systems out there is incredibly confusing.

Just so you know a bit about me, I'm 59, retired from a career in education, and have been doing DIY projects of virtually every kind since my mom bought this home when I was 16. I have even repaired/replaced much of the current galvanized plumbing in the past few years, now it seems like it might be worth it to just replumb the entire home.

Please extend to this newby the benefit of your experience. I need some specific recommendations. I have no problem spending the $$ for a good attachment system and it has always been my practice in life to buy the best quality at the beginning so that I don't have to redo the job. I want to do it right, not over!

Oh, yeah, I did a forum search for PEX and came up with 0 hits--hard to believe, this stuff is so popular.

Thanks, everyone!

Dugly

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Last edited by YerDugliness; 06-02-2008 at 12:42 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old 06-02-2008, 09:55 AM   #2
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Forum noob needs info on using PEX tubing


Welcome to the forum. I'm in Kansas, and I'm an inspector, so I'll try to help you!

PEX is easy to install. You'll have to transition from your water service entrance pipe (threaded galvanized) to the PEX tubing. PEX uses brass couplings, and they're available in a multitude of configurations to transition from threaded and sweat plumbing systems.

PEX is widely used in this area and it performs very well. I replaced my old corroded copper in my own home last month, and used a combination of PEX and copper. I like copper risers to the fixtures, but the rough supply plumbing is all PEX. Doing it in 100% PEX would be cheaper and easier.

I used Zurn's tool. Buy the kit with at least 1/2" and 3/4" dies, as well as the tool to cut out fittings that you screw up. I did well over 100 connections and never had a single leak...It is stupid simple. The removal tool is handy in the event you measure wrong or set a fitting at a bad angle. You also need to make sure that you gauge all your crimped rings.

Home Depot sells QuestPex, Lowes sells Zurn. You can use them interchangeably. I bought Zurn pipe in red and blue (hot = red, cold = blue).

There are systems out there that use a tool to expand the pipe, so their fittings don't neck the pipe down at the fittings. For me, that type of system was cost-prohibitive because of tool cost and fitting availability. I never see it used around here. I used 1/2" pipe in place of the old 1/2" copper, and even though the fittings' inside diameter is 3/8", I saw no perceivable reduction in flow.

Holler if you need anything!

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Old 06-02-2008, 10:53 AM   #3
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At my shop we use the wirsbo pex that originated in europe as radiant floor heating, and has been a tried and true method for many many years. We just don't like these new clamping systems that aren't proven yet.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:56 AM   #4
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Forum noob needs info on using PEX tubing


Quote:
Originally Posted by thekctermite View Post
Welcome to the forum. I'm in Kansas, and I'm an inspector, so I'll try to help you!

PEX is easy to install. You'll have to transition from your water service entrance pipe (threaded galvanized) to the PEX tubing. PEX uses brass couplings, and they're available in a multitude of configurations to transition from threaded and sweat plumbing systems.

I used Zurn's tool. Buy the kit with at least 1/2" and 3/4" dies, as well as the tool to cut out fittings that you screw up. I did well over 100 connections and never had a single leak...It is stupid simple. The removal tool is handy in the event you measure wrong or set a fitting at a bad angle. You also need to make sure that you gauge all your crimped rings.

Home Depot sells QuestPex, Lowes sells Zurn. You can use them interchangeably. I bought Zurn pipe in red and blue (hot = red, cold = blue).

There are systems out there that use a tool to expand the pipe, so their fittings don't neck the pipe down at the fittings.

Holler if you need anything!
Thanks for the advice, KCT--I can surely use the help.

If you're in KC, you're located diagonally across the state from me, I'm in Stanton County in the SW corner--10 miles from CO and 30 miles from OK--very remote!!. Like I said, no codes there, but not much help down there, either, hence my intention to to do it myself and do it right the first time.

I believe I'll have to replace the entrance pipe--hoping to do that with PEX, too. This old house was built before 1916, and I'm certain the entrance pipe is the original. It is so clogged with corrosion that I'm surprised I have any flow at all. I'll check with the town's ONLY employee to see if he knows what size pipe is used, I may have to get 1" fittings, too.

I'll probably go with HD's product, there's a HD 90 miles northeast of my town in Garden City. It's the closest, I think, although the owner of the local hardware store in the county seat mentioned PEX during one of our conversations, so I'll hold off until I find out what brand he carries.

Are the connections interchangable between brands of PEX? I have been doing quite a bit of research and notice that many brands of tools use their proprietary line of rings only--just want to make sure that whatever brand of crimper/rings I get will work with watever PEX product is available. The Zurn products you mentioned were on my short list, although I have heard that Zurn has had some PEX failures, any knowledge of that?

I saw the expansion type tool on a recent episode of "This Old House", it was interesting but looked like it required a power tool that was useful only for that purpose. I do plan on using PEX on future endeavors (still planning on building another house or two before I hang up the tool belt), so I want something that will last. I like the idea of the old fashioned hand operated, air cooled variety more than the power tool type. In addition to plumbing, I'm also interested in using PEX for solar and radiant heat projects....it seems like it would be suitable for all those uses.

Thanks again, I'll probably be in contact as this is a new learning experience for me and I'm anxious to avoid the inevitable screw-ups that come with that!

Dugly
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Old 06-02-2008, 12:47 PM   #5
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Zurn and QuestPex fittings and rings are interchangeable. (Lowes and Home Depot). To say that all PEX fittings are interchangeable would probably be a stretch.

I don't think that Zurn's fittings have any problems. There were some that supposedly did, but the class-action folks can make that look a lot worse than it ever was.

I'd suggest replacing the buried service entrance pipe with copper tubing. It is the best grounding electrode you can get, and PEX doesn't work for that. You can transition to PEX once inside the house.

Alan's system is a good one, but pricey for a DIY-er. As far as the crimp rings not being proven, they've been using them here in the KC area for at least a decade. I've inspected THOUSANDS of homes plumbed in PEX, and have yet to hear of a fitting failure later on...Hence its popularity.
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Old 06-02-2008, 08:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekctermite View Post
Zurn and QuestPex fittings and rings are interchangeable. (Lowes and Home Depot).

I'd suggest replacing the buried service entrance pipe with copper tubing. It is the best grounding electrode you can get, and PEX doesn't work for that.

I've inspected THOUSANDS of homes plumbed in PEX, and have yet to hear of a fitting failure later on...Hence its popularity.
Thanks for that info, KCT! I'll probably go with the HD product, there's a HD store 90 miles away in Garden City. Haven't seen any Lowes' closer than Wichita (220 miles to the east ) !! However, I'll might be able to buy the PEX supplies from the hardware store in the county seat 8 miles away, we'll see what variety they carry.

This whole plumbing issue came about b/c of my decision to install a rather large electric HWOD heater (large enough to have 3/4" inlet/outlet fittings!!). It requires two 60 amp circuits, pulls 100 amps at full power. I found out that I only have 100 amp service, and after about a month of negotiations with the local electrical coop I decided to upgrade to 200 amp underground (my choice) service. The electrical company had to install a new pole and transformer, that happened today, so it's time to get back to KS and get the electrician over there to bury the wire and install the new service panel and connect it all up. He did mention there is a problem with the electrical ground at the house, something about the neutral wire I didn't understand, but I'll make sure we get the grounding issue in good shape. If we do that, do you think I need to use the copper for the service line? The city "super", the only city employee, suggested 1" PEX. The hardware store can get a ditcher over to the house that will bury it 4 1/2 feet deep, that ought to be adequate.

It's wonderful to know that PEX has such a good reputation for reliability--that's good enough for me!!

Please let me know what you think about the necessity for copper supply line, considering the electrician will be dealing with the grounding issue.

Thanks so much for your help!'

Dugly
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Old 06-02-2008, 08:42 PM   #7
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I will catch h ll for this but I am in somewhat the same boat here I live in a small town in PA. for new build they have codes. For renovations do what you want as long as it don't fall on your head no codes and believe me I checked.I replaced all the pipe in my house 2.5 years ago with pex but used the shark bite fittings and I know they are a bit expensive but also reusable I know they are not approved in all areas yet but I am sure they will be down the road and at this point neither I nor YERDUG have a code problem to worry about and this way no tool to buy.They have held up great for two winters now and except for the price I don't see a down side.They are easy to put in and now they have all kind of connectors for them and as I said they are reusable
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:34 AM   #8
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The fittings Clasact suggests are great. They haven't secured the codes approvals yet, and they are VERY expensive. But, they're great for remodeling situations for homeowners with PEX but no PEX tools. I wouldn't spend the money to do a whole house in them though . There's no logical reason I can think of to do that. I hate to hear someone "worrying" about codes...They're just a minimum standard for safety and quality...Most of us would like the bar set higher in our own homes.

You can do a PEX water service in your yard. Be sure to coordinate with the city to find out what they will let you use to tap their line/meter. I'd also seriously recommend burying a "tracer" wire with the pipe so you, a future owner, or utility company can locate the water line if needed in the future.

Electrically, since the PEX line won't function to earth a fault, I'd plan on driving two 8' ground rods at least 6' apart to serve as your electric service's grounding electrode. No big deal!

Message me or post in the electrical forum if you have questions or concerns about the new electric service.

Last edited by Termite; 06-03-2008 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekctermite View Post
I hate to hear someone "worrying" about codes...They're just a minimum standard for safety and quality...Most of us would like the bar set higher in our own homes.

I'd also seriously recommend burying a "tracer" wire with the pipe so you, a future owner, or utility company can locate the water line if needed in the future.

Electrically, since the PEX line won't function to earth a fault, I'd plan on driving two 8' ground rods at least 6' apart to serve as your electric service's grounding electrode. No big deal!
I know why people worry about codes--I've seen instances where city authorities have insisted that people "destroy" (for lack of a better term) entire projects just b/c one minor component wasn't up to code--it's a financial disaster for the less than wealthy and you can't fight city hall!

Thanks for the suggestion regarding the tracer wire--it is something that had never dawned on me! I'll be sure to do that---when they made the "one-call" for the new power pole there were painted lines all over my yard and in the alley--sewer, telephone, etc. It was like my yard got "tagged", but when you're digging something in 4 1/2 feet, you certainly want to know what's down there!

I suspect that the electrical ground issue will go something like you suggested, too--the electrician spoke in vocabulary to which I haven't been introduced, but I get the idea it is not limited to my house, so it must be some sort of geological issue or (more likely) related to the manner in which this sort of project has historically been approached in this small town. Like you say, sometimes "codes" are good things and when you have DIYers doing things who aren't specialists, I can see how it can get all fouled up!

Thanks again for all the great information, I really feel now like I can tackle this job. I spent some time in the local Lowe's today and found the PEX supplies, it's obvious will take some design work to know what will be needed in advance (with the closest source being 90 or 220 miles away, you don't want to make many trips for parts!).

Dugly

Last edited by YerDugliness; 06-04-2008 at 01:08 AM. Reason: misspelled word
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Old 06-04-2008, 11:57 AM   #10
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Yeah, be sure to stock up on fittings. I think I went back to HD three times during the course of plumbing my house. But, it is only 3 miles for me.
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Old 06-04-2008, 12:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YerDugliness View Post
I know why people worry about codes--I've seen instances where city authorities have insisted that people "destroy" (for lack of a better term) entire projects just b/c one minor component wasn't up to code--it's a financial disaster for the less than wealthy and you can't fight city hall!
That's why I'm a big advocate of a good channel of communication with the local building inspector before and during the project. Run everything by him! I proactively work my butt off to help people build to code instead of reactively catching their mistakes after they're costly or difficult to fix.

Some inspectors are difficult to work with though.
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Old 06-05-2008, 01:21 AM   #12
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[quote=YerDugliness;127660]I know why people worry about codes--I've seen instances where city authorities have insisted that people "destroy" (for lack of a better term) entire projects just b/c one minor component wasn't up to code--it's a financial disaster for the less than wealthy and you can't fight city hall!"

I live in Prince William County Virginia, and believe me, I've seen a couple of contractors have to rip out a weeks worth of work due to a "Code Violation" that the "Inspector" viewed as a grey area as per code.

My problem is that I just bought a house with that old outlawed poly butylene (grey) and I'm having a pretty rough time just finding anything that will enable me to install a new faucet in the kitchen without a team of NASA Engineers (or so it seems) to make sure I have a good relaible connection for the feed lines.
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Old 06-05-2008, 09:31 AM   #13
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I live in Prince William County Virginia, and believe me, I've seen a couple of contractors have to rip out a weeks worth of work due to a "Code Violation" that the "Inspector" viewed as a grey area as per code.
I've seen a lot of houses not catch on fire or have structural failures because as an "inspector," I caught "code violations" that the contractor spent a week screwing up. There are always two versions of this story.
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Old 06-05-2008, 10:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
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I live in Prince William County Virginia, and believe me, I've seen a couple of contractors have to rip out a weeks worth of work due to a "Code Violation" that the "Inspector" viewed as a grey area as per code.

Codebooks leave a lot of things up for interpretation. Thats why we have an 'Authority Having Jurisdiction' to make the call on whether or not he thinks (or knows from his experience) something will work or not.
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Old 06-05-2008, 10:26 AM   #15
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You mentioned no hits when you searched for PEX in the forum. This is an irritating feature of the forum - it won't let you search for any word less than 4 letters. So you can't search for PEX or PVC or ABS.

But if you add a * after the three letters it will do the search. So try putting in PEX* in the search function and you'll get a bunch of hits.

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