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Old 03-19-2014, 09:06 PM   #1
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


As the title reads, I want to replace my domestic hot and cold water copper pipes with PEX. (not any of my 3/4" heat piping...just water to the fixtures)

The driving force on this is the fact that out of the filter (immediately downstream of the well pump and pressurizer tank) the cold water line into the house drops down to 1/2" and I want to upgrade it to 3/4 at least until the downstream of the boiler and hot water maker lines.

I am a little intimidated by the task but here's what I have been told to start with. First off buy the correct compression tool for the PEX I'll be working with. Second, don't buy tube/fittings from the big box store, stick with FWWebb etc. (something about the tube and fittings having different tolerance that can cause issues if you later try and mix and match...)

So to start off with I plan to replace from the pump to the pressurizer tank, (a few feet of...3/4"?) at this point I would raise the tank up off the floor. Next replace the piping from the tank to the filter (another few feet, and I would actually put in an isolation manifold with a bypass here...the existing filter is junk...and I cant even open it.). From the filter it drops to 1/2" but I would assume stay with 3/4". from here, the cold water "feed" into the house essentially has 4 takeoffs: 1) boiler makeup water, 2) feed to the hot water maker, 3) 1/2" feed to a tee that supplies exterior spigots on the front and back of the house, and 4) cold water into the house. I want to replace everything up to 1) the boiler, 2) the hot water maker, 3) all the way out to the spigots, and 4) tie into the copper before it heads into the house.

I will plan to replace the rest of the piping in the house eventually, but for now I just want to take care of the plumbing in the basement where its easy to access and I can work on it comfortably.

So my big questions are what to use for fittings. Is there a type of compression fitting I should be using? Staying away from? since the PEX is flexible, how do you put an isolation valve in and not have it bounce and flex all over the place? (are there valves with mounting tabs that i can screw to the joists?) Also what should I do about the spigots? Currently there are interior shutoffs for each of them that I close in the winter, but with very hard water, the globe valves are very tough to operate, I would just assume use ball valves everywhere...

Sorry for such a long drawn out post, but like I said, I am just a little overwhelmed and need a starting point!!!

Thanks in advance!
Phil

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Old 03-19-2014, 09:34 PM   #2
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


We'd need to know how many, and what kind of fixtures in the house to properly size the tubing. From there, you'd probably just want to install separate manifolds for both hot & cold that will feed every bathroom, or every individual fixture in the house.

I've only used Wirsbo, so I'm kind of partial to it - very easy to work with.

How to put in valves so that they don't flop around? Some rigid manifolds come with valves built-in for every branch. Another option is to use lots of clips to support your work. I think by Code here in MA, we have to support PEX every 30" (which really means every 32" when running perpendicular to joists).

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Old 03-19-2014, 09:47 PM   #3
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Thanks for the reply.

Ok so..

Kitchen: Sink, dishwasher, and feed for refrigerator (ice maker only). (and potentially another small feed for a hard plumbed keurig coffee maker...someday)

1st floor bath/laundry: HE washing machine, toilet, sink.

2nd floor bath: Sink, toilet, bathtub/shower.

Future expansion for master bath: Shower (no tub), sink, toilet. (I want to plan ahead with at least capped valves)

That's all the fixtures in the house (and planned) plus the two exterior spigots.
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:12 PM   #4
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Quote:
Originally Posted by freeclimbmtb View Post
Thanks for the reply.

Ok so..

Kitchen: Sink, dishwasher, and feed for refrigerator (ice maker only). (and potentially another small feed for a hard plumbed keurig coffee maker...someday)

1st floor bath/laundry: HE washing machine, toilet, sink.

2nd floor bath: Sink, toilet, bathtub/shower.

Future expansion for master bath: Shower (no tub), sink, toilet. (I want to plan ahead with at least capped valves)

That's all the fixtures in the house (and planned) plus the two exterior spigots.
OK...assuming (1) Your two tub/shower valves are 1/2" valves (if you have high flow 3/4" tub/shower valves, then you'd have to recalculate everything), and (2) Sized to accommodate the future master bathroom:

By my Code here (NH may be different) you'd need a 1" cold water main from the pump to the well tank and filter. (Add just 2 more fixtures to what you've already listed, and it'd have to be increased to 1 1/4"). If you split off from there to feed the water heater (3/4"), then the cold water can be reduced to 3/4" at this point - a 3/4" manifold (add just one more fixture, though, and you'd have to increase it to a 1" manifold). You'd also have a 3/4" manifold for the hot (with capacity to feed two more fixtures).

The engineered plastic (EP) manifolds, btw, can be expanded; you can start with (say) a 3-branch manifold and cap the end, then when you're ready to build the master bath you remove the cap and add on to the old manifold and then cap the end of that new extension

Last edited by Ishmael; 03-19-2014 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:57 PM   #5
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Are you having water pressure/volume issues?
What is the inside diameter of a 3/4 pex fitting?
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Old 03-20-2014, 01:02 AM   #6
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


I love running PEX and prefer to use it whenever possible. I know all about copper pin holes etc. but unless new walls are going up or something with the plumbing is dramatically changing, why change out good copper? If the reason is to increase the size of the 1/2" line, OK, but as broox points out the inside diameter of 3/4" PEX fittings, even Uponer, is close to the same as 1/2" copper. If freeclimbmtb really wants to change the 1/2" copper line, change that line but leave everything else as is. I think changing everything "just because" is a waste of time and money.

Regarding what pipe and fittings to use, there are whole threads on the subject and I strongly recommend searching for and reading them. And I have to state I strongly disagree with the don't buy PEX supplies from big box stores statement. Someone has been feeding a bunch of wrong information. The only rock solid rule is buy pipe and fittings that will work together, ie: Uponer and AquaPex. That combination seems to be a favorite of plumbers, but requires an expensive tool to install.

Last edited by SHR Plumber; 03-20-2014 at 01:10 AM.
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Old 03-20-2014, 06:07 AM   #7
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Ishmael: THANK YOU. This is really what I was hoping for and sort of what I had in mind anyway, but you helped to un-muddy the water for me. Now let me ask you this. If I were to run 1-1/4" through the tank and then take off my spigot feeds at this point, then I could continue with 1" through the filter and to the cold water manifold. Would this solve my sizing issue by dropping two of the fixtures before the filter and thus being able to drop the pipe size earlier? I would also like to be proactive and incorperate a manifold for a softener in as well. (so when the time comes it would be plug and play...and not have to break into the system again.)

Broox: Surprisingly, no pressure/volume issues. Just a looming feeling every time I put eyes on the system. (Similar to the feeling I get when I look at the brake lines on my '79 CJ-7)

SHR: It's the "perfectly good" part that points me toward the changeout. If the copper were perfectly good (like in the case of my heating system) then I would leave it alone, but the domestic side of things was very poorly planned out on initial installation. Like I stated initially, the tank is right on the floor (where its impossible to keep clean and the drain valve is almost on the concrete where I can't get a hose onto it to direct it outside if I drain it.) Then there is the issue of the water filter which I cant open to inspect/change. The filter is also isolable by 2 globe valves that are in such rough shape that the handles are twisted apart so I have to grip whats left with channel locks. (and the seats dont hold pressure back). As I said, after the filter, it all necks down to 1/2" copper where im feeding all the cold, all the hot, exterior spigots, and the boiler makeup. Even after you get past all of that nonsense, the hot and cold water runs have no shutoffs to the house and also have this wierd sort of switch back going on in the cieling of the basement before running up into the house. (I would say for expansion/movment of the pipe, but this should be unnecessary wit the PEX.) I will add that after I had one of your pinhole leaks in the toilet shutoff valve (in the middle of the night...found it in the morning) I cut in a pair of sharkbite ball valves in the hot and cold lines up into the house...but that was always meant to be temporary.
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Old 03-20-2014, 09:22 AM   #8
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Quote:
Originally Posted by freeclimbmtb View Post
Ishmael: THANK YOU. This is really what I was hoping for and sort of what I had in mind anyway, but you helped to un-muddy the water for me. Now let me ask you this. If I were to run 1-1/4" through the tank and then take off my spigot feeds at this point, then I could continue with 1" through the filter and to the cold water manifold. Would this solve my sizing issue by dropping two of the fixtures before the filter and thus being able to drop the pipe size earlier?
Absolutely.

Edited to add: The pipe coming from the well pump is likely 1" (if not 3/4" depending on what kind of pump you have). So unless, you're planning to replace all of that (yeah right), then just bring 1" to the inlet side of the pressure tank and then use the sizing recommendations above for the outlet side of the pressure tank.

Last edited by Ishmael; 03-20-2014 at 09:33 AM.
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Old 03-20-2014, 11:32 AM   #9
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishmael View Post
Absolutely.

Edited to add: The pipe coming from the well pump is likely 1" (if not 3/4" depending on what kind of pump you have). So unless, you're planning to replace all of that (yeah right), then just bring 1" to the inlet side of the pressure tank and then use the sizing recommendations above for the outlet side of the pressure tank.
Good point. Its a Goulds J5 pump so it has a 1" NPT outlet. I replaced the pump last year (and raised it up because like everything else in that basement...it was on the floor). When I plumbed it in I bushed down to 3/4" NPT for the priming tee and then used 3/4" copper with sharkbites to get to the existing piping on the tank. (Again this was all knowing that I would eventually re-do it when I was ready to move the tank up off the floor and fix the filter and pipe sizing issue.)

So I guess thats my answer then, go 1" all the way to the manifold. It might not be up to code (perks of being a home owner) but it will be an improvement no matter what, and a clean well planned plumbing system is a lot more attractive on resale than old copper with painting overspray, bits of old foam insulation, drippy solder joints, and green corrosion.
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Old 03-20-2014, 12:01 PM   #10
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


I also found a few pictures for anyone that may be interested.

First off the "utilities" corner of the basement when I moved in. (11/30/10)


Shot of the boiler that as I found out hadnt been serviced/cleaned in ~4 years. 7 days after I moved in, the front cover gasket let go and I came home to a house full of smoke.


Replacement boiler installed about a month later.


Nice clean installation, 5 heating zones with independant pumps and expansion room for a 6th. (hot water maker is one of them) Same zones as the original, but the original had one pump and valves for the 4 heating zones (seperate pump for the domestic HW)


Heating zone return manifold. I had them install a 5th return valve in case I decide to put a modine heater in the garage (or something similar) Unfortuantely I dont have a shot of the original boiler valves and associated rats nest that was here before.



Anyway, as you can sort of barely see in the first (and worst) picture, the pump originally on a cement block in the corner.

From the 4th picture you can get a better idea of what I want to replace. From the filter, there is a vertical branch that feeds the spigots and domestic cold, then the boiler makeup, then the feed to the hot water maker, then off the maker is a vertical pipe that feeds domestic hot for the house. Its all about a foot off the wall with next to no support too so any time I operate one of those hard turning globe valves, I feel like I'm going to bust a joint.
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Old 03-21-2014, 09:55 AM   #11
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Nice, clean installation. Buderus is a good choice.
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Old 03-21-2014, 01:38 PM   #12
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


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Nice, clean installation. Buderus is a good choice.
Thanks. I tend to be of the opinion "do it once".
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Old 03-21-2014, 08:49 PM   #13
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


Quote:
Originally Posted by broox View Post
Are you having water pressure/volume issues?
What is the inside diameter of a 3/4 pex fitting?
a 3/4 pex fitting has about the same open cross section as a 1/2 inch copper pipe.
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Old 03-21-2014, 09:05 PM   #14
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


I would do a draw down test on well to see how gpm its pushing,,, then calculate the demand of you fixtures... run full 3/4 for volume to as many fixtures as possible then to water heater,,, 3/4 out of heater to as many fixtures again as possible where you can't get 3/4 branch with 1/2 ... just because its a well system with limited pressure & volume I would install 3/4 copper.... in this case bigger is better
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Old 03-24-2014, 10:40 AM   #15
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Replacing domestic copper pipes with PEX: Where to start?


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Originally Posted by ben's plumbing View Post
I would do a draw down test on well to see how gpm its pushing,,, then calculate the demand of you fixtures... run full 3/4 for volume to as many fixtures as possible then to water heater,,, 3/4 out of heater to as many fixtures again as possible where you can't get 3/4 branch with 1/2 ... just because its a well system with limited pressure & volume I would install 3/4 copper.... in this case bigger is better

While I like this concept a lot, a large factor in me wanting to get into this project is to ELIMINATE sweat joints and cash in the copper. (no I am not trying to finance my project simply by selling the scrap.)

If it's not meant to be, then so be it, but I am not as skilled with a torch as I would like, and crimping PEX would go a lot more smootly than sweating joints. (probably cheaper too)

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