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Old 02-12-2012, 09:57 AM   #1
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


Okay, let me have it!

I am buying a house that is plumbed with PB and I am looking to replace it with PEX. I am sure that this is a job that I can do myself, as the house is on a full unfinished basement, so all of basement & 1st floor lines are clearly visible and easy to reach. As for the 2nd floor, they are not hard to get to either & I am really good at drywall, so I am not worried about that!

About the house:
- 2 story home with a full unfinished basement
- 2 & 1/2 baths + other lines (kitchen, washer, refrigerator water line, etc...)
- water heater located in the basement
- incoming water line located in the basement
- PB run to the street (I will have this replaced professionally)

So here are my questions:

- On a scale from 1 - 10, 10 being the hardest & never to be attempted by anyone except a professional, where does a whole house re-pipe with PEX fall?
- Is this a job that you would recommend to someone who can handle almost anything in the house up to a 9 on that scale?
- Where would I find some basic information on installing PEX? (when/where do I use fittings, what type of fittings, etc...). My biggest question on this is when I need to make a right turn, I use a fitting to do this right, and not bend the PEX at all? I'm pretty sure of the answer to this, but I am just double checking.
- Any other advice that you guys might have to throw out there for me.


Thanks! I look forward to the answers and the butt-chewing that I am sure to be receiving!

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Old 02-12-2012, 10:17 AM   #2
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


It's a pretty simply job, and pretty much only needs two basic tools that cost about $100.00 to crimp the rings and a cutter.
Just make sure to make all your main runs at least 3/4" and the supplys can be 1/2"

A 90 can be done several differant ways, there is of cource slip on 90's but there's also a snap on plastic piece that holds the tubing at a 90 deg angle and can be nailed onto something.
If it's a slow 90 the tubing can just be bent. You just have to be careful not to kink it.

They make 3/4 X 3/4 X 1/2 tees to make it simple to run your main line and tap off for your supplys.
Where you run your lines up a wall and have to make the 90 to come out of the wall for your supplys to the sinks and toilet you use a stub out.
It's a 1/2" copper tube with a pex barb on one end and a caped off end on the other end. It's best to use one of the copper strips that gets nailed to the wall studs, the stub out is fed though one of the holes in the strip and you solder the tube to the strip to hold it in place.
Leave the stub out uncut untill you do a pressure test on the whole system.

http://www.pexsupply.com/

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Last edited by joecaption; 02-12-2012 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:18 AM   #3
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


I re-plumbed my 1500 sq ft ranch (with an open crawl space) by my self and I think it is doable by a reasonably handy DIYer.

Plan on how you will route the piping. My water heater and water supply from the well are in a garage on the right side of my house. I ran 2 runs of 3/4" PEX (hot and cold) from the garage the full length of the house and teed off individual runs to each sink, tub, toilet and shower. I installed 1/2" ball valves at each tap off the 3/4" trunk line. This lets me isolate everything individually without turning off the rest of the house.

Decide what type connection system you will use (expansion or crimp). Find out what you can get in your local area. I used the copper crimp ring system. Many people like the expansion system better but it is pricey and the fittings are hard to find in my area.

I assume you will be living in the house and need to keep the water on as you will not complete it in a day. Plan on how you will get the water turned back on with a mixture of PB and PEX. I used the crimp couplings made to transition from PB to PEX. You can also use Sharkbite couplings for this. Sharkbites are not rated for PB but they work (and are reusable) and you will only be using them temporarily.
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Old 02-12-2012, 12:12 PM   #4
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


It's pretty easy to do. You can follow the original layout as far as design goes and crimping is as easy as falling off a bike. Expansion joints, Wirsbo system, has a bit a of a learning curve and the tool and parts are a bit more pricy and only available at plumbing supply stores or through the web, but is another good option.

The crimp tool comes with a go no go gauge,
It tells you if the crimper is properly adjusted or not. After making sure the first few are good, then you should be off to the races.

Personally I prefer to use the least amount of 90's that I can, flow restrictions, as pex can be curved/flexed to where you need to go. Careful planning and the spaces you'll be working in will dictate whether 90's are needed or not. Remember though that once it's pinched it's no good and that section needs to be replaced. I believe that the minimum radius needed is 6" on the bend.

Home run and manifold installs are two types that you can research to decide if that's the way you want to go, or stay with the current set-up, whatever you're most comfortable with. They require a little more planning than your existing install but can clean-up a mish mash of diy work, additions to the original water supply system and offer some good benefits, ie - more direct/efficient flow to the furthest fixture(s), etc...

Personally I'd rate this as a 2, on a scale of 1 to 10, but then I haven't seen what you're working with. The more planning & research you do, the better prepared you will be & easier it will be. The devil is in the details, or so I've heard. One suggestion I'd make it to install a 1/4 turn ball valve with a drain, a stop and drain, where the water enters your house. It's in case the entire system needs to be drained.


And I agree with rjniles and install stop and drains in each individual run for ease of future service requirements. That depends on future access of course, so never inside a wall without an access panel, only attics and crawl spaces.

Good luck. You might want to post your progress here, http://www.diychatroom.com/f49/ to let us know how you get on and for others for their reference.
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Old 02-12-2012, 12:55 PM   #5
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


Quote:
Originally Posted by rjniles View Post

I assume you will be living in the house and need to keep the water on as you will not complete it in a day. Plan on how you will get the water turned back on with a mixture of PB and PEX. I used the crimp couplings made to transition from PB to PEX. You can also use Sharkbite couplings for this. Sharkbites are not rated for PB but they work (and are reusable) and you will only be using them temporarily.
I am actually fortunate enough to have a few weeks to do this, and other projects, before I need to live in the house, so I don't need to worry about keeping the water on. I am just going to cut it off at the street and leave it off at the street until I am done.

I will take the advice of installing the cutoff/drain right when the piping enters the house and I am going to use a manifold system and install a cutoff/drain at the exit of each one of the manifolds.


I do have a question about the actual exchanging of the pipes. Should I plan on just connecting the PEX to the PB and pulling it from the other end? Have others on here had success with this concept?

Also, how often should I secure the PEX to the frame of the house? Every how many feet?

Any other tips? Keep 'em coming!
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Old 02-12-2012, 12:58 PM   #6
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


I agree with above posts, PEX install is relatively easy, not a 2, but perhaps 6 out of 10 IMO.

Couple of details to consider. First, PEX degrades rapidly if exposed to sunlight, so do not store it where it will be subject to direct sun. I bought my PEX in 100 foot coils, if you have a lot of work to do you can also get 200 and even 500 foot coils, saves on the per foot basis.

I use the Wirsbo expander system, which as has been mentioned requires a tool that costs about $300. Given the overall cost of the project, I did not feel that a $300 tool versus a $100 crimp ring tool made that much difference, and I like the simplicity of the system, but there are those who swear by the crimp ring system, and I defer to them as I have never used crimp rings. I have a couple of sharkbite fittings in my system, which I like where you need a disconnect. Sharkbites are a bit pricey, so you would not want to do your whole house in them, but as a disconnect for PEX they are great.

Make a careful study of the fittings you wish to use. There have been numerous problems over the years with poor quality brass fittings for PEX, see the Zurn lawsuit, and Wirsbo now offers polysulfone (plastic) fittings in addition to brass because of issues with their brass, or so I understand. I use entirely plastic fittings now, except where a special fitting is only available in brass (used to be you could not get plastic valves, now you can get them). Brass fittings are particularly troublesome in acidic water such as I have, plastic is totally inert.

One advantage of the expander fitting versus the crimp ring is the ability to actually decouple the expander fitting by heating the ring with a torch. The fitting comes right off, and you can reuse both the fitting and the pipe. This is very handy if you need to replace a valve, for example. I don't know if you can disassemble crimp ring fittings, I kind of doubt it, but perhaps someone who uses them can comment.

There has been a fair amount of discussion on this forum about the types of PEX. This relates mostly to the manufacture process, as there are three different techniques used (ion beam, polymerization, and something else I can't remember). I believe the three types of PEX are labeled A, B and C. I never could figure out if there was really that much difference between the different types, certainly the diameter is identical (ASTM standard), but you may want to research durability. I get my PEX from a plumbing supply store, not a big box store, and I am pretty confident it is high quality.
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Old 02-12-2012, 01:28 PM   #7
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


I was going to get most of my stuff from http://www.pexsupply.com/. Does anyone have a better source? I always like to buy a few extra of everything, in case I break it while installing it or in case I need it down the road. I like having a plan 'b'.

Also, I don't mind spending some money on the tools. I mean, I need the job done right & I paid a plumber it would be $4k, so what is a $300 tool in comparison?
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Old 02-12-2012, 01:57 PM   #8
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
I use the Wirsbo expander system, which as has been mentioned requires a tool that costs about $300. Given the overall cost of the project, I did not feel that a $300 tool versus a $100 crimp ring tool made that much difference, and I like the simplicity of the system, but there are those who swear by the crimp ring system, and I defer to them as I have never used crimp rings. I have a couple of sharkbite fittings in my system, which I like where you need a disconnect. Sharkbites are a bit pricey, so you would not want to do your whole house in them, but as a disconnect for PEX they are great.
Yeah, after researching the Wirsbo some, I think that this is what I am going to go with. It seems pretty simple to use & somewhat foolproof, if you take your time.

I will use that & PEX type 'a' piping. I notice that the pipes come in white, red and blue. I was going to use red for hot, blue for cold and white for supply, does this seem pretty standard or am I giving it too much thought?
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:33 PM   #9
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


If I am wanting to use a manifold system with the Wirsbo system, it looks like I have to use one of these (http://www.pexsupply.com/Wirsbo-Upon...alve-8-Outlets), but what I wanted to use was one of these (http://www.pexsupply.com/Viega-36142...cold-Zero-Lead).

What I have read so far says that the Wirsbo system is not compatible with the Manabloc manifolds. Does anyone have any comment on this? I was really hoping to go with this type of manifold because it seems pretty simple to use.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:47 PM   #10
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


Wirsbo uses exactly the same tubing as everyone else, at least in terms of size. If you want to connect the tubing to the manifold using Wirsbo fittings, you need a Wirsbo manufactured manifold, since they are the only ones who use expansion fittings, at least so far as I understand. But you can use any manifold as long as you make the connections to the manifold using manufacturer specified connections, which could be press fit, sharkbite fittings, or crimp ring type.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:51 PM   #11
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
Wirsbo uses exactly the same tubing as everyone else, at least in terms of size. If you want to connect the tubing to the manifold using Wirsbo fittings, you need a Wirsbo manufactured manifold, since they are the only ones who use expansion fittings, at least so far as I understand. But you can use any manifold as long as you make the connections to the manifold using manufacturer specified connections, which could be press fit, sharkbite fittings, or crimp ring type.
Okay, that makes sense. I was just trying to avoid buying two types of tools for the one job, but I guess that is what I will have to do if I want to use this type of manifold & the Wirsbo system for the rest of the connections.

Thanks!
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:58 PM   #12
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


Any tips on how I exchange the two pipes out? Do I just use a connector to put the PB & the PEX pipe together then just pull from the other end?
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Old 02-12-2012, 03:41 PM   #13
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


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Any tips on how I exchange the two pipes out? Do I just use a connector to put the PB & the PEX pipe together then just pull from the other end?
I have done this on PB in mobile homes but I doubt it will work for you. But I don't know your layout. Pex needs to be anchored every 32" and should be supported when you stub out. Consider stubbing out the floor and into the cabinet bases instead of the walls. This will cut back on drywall patching.
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Old 02-12-2012, 08:03 PM   #14
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I have done this on PB in mobile homes but I doubt it will work for you. But I don't know your layout. Pex needs to be anchored every 32" and should be supported when you stub out. Consider stubbing out the floor and into the cabinet bases instead of the walls. This will cut back on drywall patching.

Really? When the plumber came out to give me his quote (which is what started me on this journey) he said that is what they usually do. He said that it works in most cases. Then all he has to do is cut some small holes to put in the anchoring.
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Old 02-12-2012, 08:19 PM   #15
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Polybutylene replacement with PEX - Can this be a DIY project?


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Really? When the plumber came out to give me his quote (which is what started me on this journey) he said that is what they usually do. He said that it works in most cases. Then all he has to do is cut some small holes to put in the anchoring.
I've never re plumbed PB in a house. Only Mobiles. I cut the vapor barrier, pull new lines through the cheap strapping they used. Then poke new lines up. Hurricane magnets are only single story too.

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