Monday, December 17, 2012

PEX Tubing - New Tech in an Old House

After spending some time working on the kid's room , I finally got around to working on the kitchen again.  Over the weekend I pulled down all the old copper pipe that supplied water to the various 2nd floor bathroom fixtures.  It all has to be re-done so that the plumbing fits up in the original ceiling.  Now that the waste lines are basically done, it was time to work on the supply lines. Before I could cut it all down, I had to turn off the water and sweat some caps on the 3/4" trunk lines that come up from the basement.  This allowed me to immediately turn the water back on to the rest of the house.  I decided that I wanted to try my hand at PEX.  I figured the PEX tubing would be easier to install than copper.  I would be cheaper too.  Also, it should be more reliable than PVC.  I also liked the idea of being able to bend it around corners so that it requires fewer connections/fittings. The biggest downside with PEX is that it requires an upfront investment in tools.  For about $100 I bought a crimp tool, go/no-go gauge and tubing cutter. Not terrible I guess, but certainly more than a $10 hacksaw and $7 in PVC primer/glue.  Dad and I spent a couple hours in the home center picking out all the tools and tube and fittings for our project.
PEX manifold with 3/4" inlet and 1/2" outlets. One for hot water and one for cold.
The above manifolds also added a bit of cost to my installation.  Manifolds are not strictly needed, but are pretty spiffy.  These copper manifolds cost about $20 each and require a special mounting bracket that costs another $15.  The water is supplied from the right side and then is distributed to each fixture.  They actually sell really fancy manifolds too.  Some people install a "home run" system where every run goes all the way back to a centrally-located (larger) manifold.  These larger manifolds often feature cutoff valves for each branch.  Pretty neat idea, but not very practical in retrofit applications.
My more observant readers might have noticed that several of my manifold ports have a little 3" piece of tubing.  This little piece of tubing has a plug in the end of it.  These ports are reserved for future use. Someday we will remodel the upstairs bath, and I might decide to add more fixtures.  If so, then I can tap into this manifold and be golden.  These 6 port manifolds cost $20 while the 4 port versions cost $18, so getting the larger size was a "no-brainer" for me.

Hot and cold water to the shower.  Connected to the existing copper stubs with a copper elbow and PEX adapter.
I have completed the run to the shower (shown above) and the toilet.  Both went extremely smoothly.  It is really cool that I can make the entire run with basically no fittings.  In the shower pic above, you can see the I sweated a copper elbow+ adapter to transition from the PEX.  On the toilet, I was able to make it all the way to the toilet shutoff without any need for elbows or any other fittings.