How to choose and replace Well Water Pressure Tank

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  #1  
Old 06-03-13, 09:44 AM
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How to choose and replace Well Water Pressure Tank

Hi Everyone,

Our well pump kicks in very frequently even when we use a small amount of water. My guess is that the old bladder water pressure tank is the cause. It is very old and when we bought the house a few years ago the inspector alerted us that it had limited life left. Here are my questions:

- How do I size a new pressure tank? This is a 3 bedroom 2 bath with 4 occupants. I used one of the charts on-line and came up with 14 Gpm, translating to a 40-50 Gallon bladder tank. Is that about right?

- Should I get a bladder tank or the other kind (not sure what the other kind is)?

- Is this something I could install myself - I've not done any major plumbing jobs around the house before.

As you can tell, I'm pretty clueless on this and I thank you in advance for your advice.
 
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  #2  
Old 06-03-13, 09:53 AM
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Got a picture of what you have now?
Hard to know how hard it will be to change without seeing it.
Most oten you just shut the water off drain the system and unscrew the old one and install the new one, DIY 101.
 
  #3  
Old 06-03-13, 10:46 AM
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I'm not sure there really is a "right" size pressure tank. You have to balance a large tank/infrequent pump starts/"storing" xx gallons of water in your basement vs. a small-ish tank/colder "fresher" water/more pump starts. My wife feels it's "icky" to have so much water sitting in a tank so I have one that's probably much smaller than recommended. I still got over 20 years out of the last pump.
 
  #4  
Old 06-03-13, 11:10 AM
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Yes. You need a new tank and it should be a bladder tank.

My rule of thumb is to get the biggest bladder tank that your space can accommodate. A 40 to 50 gallon tank is a pretty big tank and will probably meet all your needs and then some. Keep in mind that the maximum amount of water a bladder tank can provide is 50% of it's size and in most cases if you get 1/3 of the tank size, in water drawdown, you are doing pretty good. So with a 50 gallon tank, expect to get about 15 to 17 gallons of water between pump cycles. That is a lot of water. Just so you know, I have a 20 gallon tank and it does everything I need, but as I said, bigger is better if you can accommodate it.

You will need to know what your cut-in and cut-out pressure levels are on your pump. Cut-in is the lower pressure reading where your pump turns on and the cut-out is the higher level where it turns off, after filling the tank.

Whatever your cut-in pressure setting is, ensure the air in the bladder tank (when the tank is completely empty) is about 2 psi below that number. So if your pump kicks on at 20psi, the pre-charge on the tank should be at 18 psi. If it kicks on at 30psi, the air in the empty tank should be 28psi. If the air pressure is lower, using a compressor add air, and if it is higher, just release air at the schrader valve on the tank. This step is very important to ensure you get the maximum amount of water from your tank and for it to operate properly.

When connecting up the tank, I highly recommend putting a ball valve just before the tank, if you don't already have one. This valve does two things for you. It becomes your emergency shut off valve. Without it, if you burst a pipe or anything like that, even if you shut off your pump, the tank will still spuooo about 20 gallons of water onto your floor before the flow stops. 2ndly, if you work on your pump and the tank is full, once you open that valve again, it will prime your pump for you. This is very useful for jet pumps and unnecessary for submersibles. Anyway, I find a tap there quite useful.

After that, all you do is look at the pipe diameters you currently have and look at the opening diameters of your new tank and get all the pieces to fit. Ask the hardware guy for advice if you need to. Use 2 layers of teflon tape on all threaded connections and I think you are good to go.

A very easy job.
 
  #5  
Old 06-03-13, 12:17 PM
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tarzan it is important to know whether cheeta will be assisting you or not? LOL (just kidding).

I re-did my entire system (but kept the pressure tank) with no problems and I agree with what Optsy says, except I do have one question. I thought you could always replace a bladder tank with a diaphragm tank, and the diaphragm tank is superior? Or is that marketing hype? I found this Q&A !

Q: Is there a benefit over using a bladder vs. a diaphragm?

A: No. A bladder tank uses a bag-type membrane that is subject to creases and folds. This can lead to reduced drawdown and trapped sediment. A diaphragm operates in a uniform and repeatable motion, promoting full drawdown and a clean water reservoir.
 
  #6  
Old 06-03-13, 01:14 PM
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hi again tarzan Ė

I agree with the other guys here - itís a pretty easy job. But in my case my original setup didnít have the standard tank tee and union, etc. that you can see in the picture in the link below. So it took some cutting soldering etc. to move/replace the tank. In other words, my setup was non-standard, not like the setup below.

I think the picture on the following link shows the standard kind of setup, I believe the other guys here would agree. That silver colored object near the tank is a union and that is what you are supposed to open with wrenches to replace the tank. If your setup is like that then you have it made (except for the cost of the tank. lol). Just thought Iíd mention that because I thought if you havenít done much in the way of plumbing you might not know that was a union. Thatís there to make it easy to replace the tank.

The other thing is the 50 gal tank you are contemplating (thatís what I have) is not that heavy when itís empty and can be moved by one person (at least I did and Iím near 70 and not strong by any means).

I think as the guys are saying, the bigger the pressure tank the better for the life of the pump. Apparently start-stops are tough on the pump. So if the tank is bigger the pump will run longer when it starts , and thatís good. I think pump manufacturers recommend that your pump run for a least one minute when it starts. Anything else is too short.

So you could choose a size thatís too small, so I guess you are right to do the calculation. But I think you would look at a number as a minimum size tank, bigger is not worse.

(But guy48 makes a point about water sitting in the tank longer)

Well head & pressure tank pictures / illustrations
 
  #7  
Old 06-03-13, 01:20 PM
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Yes. I think the diaphragm is the one you want. I usually think of them as the same but I believe there is a difference. Whether it is a big difference, I cannot say.
 
  #8  
Old 06-03-13, 02:04 PM
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Everyone has been giving you amazing help, I only have one simple thing to add to the check list before you change to a bigger tank.. My question first is how long has the problem been happening.. if this probably comes and goes then my tip is to check your region's aquifer system as there is a finite amount of water in the ground during hotter times of the year.. We are in the beginning of summer now, that is the only reason I mention this. I hope this helps even a little bit, good luck on your well pump. Let me know how things go!
 
  #9  
Old 06-03-13, 02:39 PM
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Boy, am I glad I reached out to you folks for advice .... thank you. I'm going to spend some more time on this in a couple of days and can post a picture.

OptsyEagle: How do I measure or figure out the cut-in / cut-out pressure settings for the pump?

zoesdad: not only cheetah won't be helping, Jane is also not going to be there - so I'll be doing this all on my own :-)
 
  #10  
Old 06-03-13, 03:56 PM
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Most set ups have a pressure guage that you can read. If you have one on your current set up just watch it closely and see what pressure it gets to when the pump kicks on. That is your cut-in pressure. You may not be able to read it closer then 1 or 2 psi of accuracy. If you see that it is somewhere between 18 psi and 20 psi, for example, then set your air at 16 psi. You don't want that air pressure of your tank above the cut-in pressure of your pump. If you are much lower, like 15psi for air pressure on a 20 psi cut-in, it just means that you will get a gallon or so less water from the tank between cycles. Not as big a problem as if you were 5 psi above the cut-in pressure. At that level, your pump may start doing some wanky things. You might think that your pump just smoked some crack or something. lol.

If you don't have a pressure guage on your system, you can try to measure the air pressure of your current tank just when the pump kicks on, but that is quite difficult. You would need to be at the ready, once the pump kicks on, kill its power and then measure the air pressure in the tank at the Schrader valve. Not a very accurate system and then I would want to subtract a few PSI so I don't make that crack mistake, I alluded to above. Subtracting PSI air pressure in the tank is the same as subtracting a lot of useful water, so it is best to have a pressure guage on your system so you can get as accurate as possible.



In zoesdad's post you see the type of guage I am talking about. Just a standard round guage with a dial on it.
 
  #11  
Old 06-03-13, 04:04 PM
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If you don't have a pressure guage you can just add one when you set up the new tank. Since you won't know your cut in pressure, just put the air at something fairly low, like 15 psi (I doubt your pump kicks on below 15 psi). Turn on the system, fill the tank and let it switch off. Now with the new guage take your reading for the cut in. Now turn off the pump and empty the tank. Add air to the tank until you read 2 psi below that cut in number you just read. Now turn on the pump, refill the system and you are set to go.
 
  #12  
Old 06-03-13, 06:01 PM
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if this probably comes and goes then my tip is to check your region's aquifer system as there is a finite amount of water in the ground during hotter times of the year..
I know you are correct. I have a pump protector I installed ahead of my pressure switch, and a few times the well water ran low in the summer and i got some really funny things happening while the pump protector was doing its thing.
 
  #13  
Old 06-03-13, 08:18 PM
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tarzan I donít know what the other guys think but this seems to be a pretty good place do a calculation:

Amtrol- Well Tank Sizing

You will get a recommended tank model and then you can look up the model on this page:

http://www.amtrol.com/media/document..._WellXtrol.pdf

I believe Iíve heard that the ďWellXTrolĒ tank is a really good tank, thatís why I had these links saved. Thatís what I plan to use when I need a new tank Ėif I can figure out where to buy one.lol Don't know if the other guys would agree.

Don't forget to come back with a big tarzan yell when you have success ! lol

(I had a friend as a teen that could stop the entire boardwalk in Wildwood NJ. when he did his tarzan yell. lol Great imitation. lol long long ago!)
 
  #14  
Old 06-03-13, 10:20 PM
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usually the installers rule of thumb is to match the tank drawdown to pumps gpm output. you'd like at least a 1 minute run time, more is better.

i prefer diaphragm and agree the WX series are good tanks.
 
  #15  
Old 06-05-13, 12:28 PM
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Thanks again everyone. I have a few more details:

- The current installation looks very standard (posting picture)
- There is an interesting pipe configuration right after the tank - looks like it's for collecting sediments, etc? I'd appreciate your thoughts on that. (posting picture)
- The curent pressure gauge reads at 100 psi, when pump starts it goes to about 90. This can't be an accurate reading, right?

As far as I can tell the current tank does basically nothing ... as soon as you turn on water the pump kicks in.
 
  #16  
Old 06-05-13, 12:34 PM
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Here are the pictures ...
 
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  #17  
Old 06-05-13, 03:48 PM
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hi tarzan Ė

Iím no expert but that looks like the right stuff Ė although a little bit old.
From left to right Ė

1. the black pipe looks like it is black pe (polyethylene ) from your wellhead (I have black pe also)

2. that black pe is connected what looks like a check valve, and thatís where one should be. It keeps the water from going backwards towards the well. It allows water to flow in one direction.

3. then there is the tee Ė with the pressure switch, pressure gauge, and boiler drain (blue handle) on it.

4. I donít know why the fitting is with the little square plug on the top is there. A well guy or plumber would have to tell you what itís for.

5. The valve with the green handle is a shutoff valve to shut off the water to your house. (I'm pretty sure Ė because thatís where one should be. you can easily test it.)

I donít see a pressure relief valve. I think all new installations need them today. They are for safety because as I understand it, if there is a failure the pump has the capability to really put a lot of pressure into the system. They look like this and they are usually on the tee (thatís where I put mine).

Red Lion Pressure Relief Valve - Mills Fleet Farm

And one on a tee if you scroll down 2 pictures on the following link:

Well Pressure Tank ę Homeowner's Blog

I canít see behind the tee but hopefully there is a union there.

I think Optsy and the other guys laid it out and I donít think Iím contradicting any of them, but to replace the tank you would:

a. Shut off the power to the pump

b. Shutoff the water to the house (green handle)

c. Open the boiler drain (blue handle) and drain the tank.

d. Open the union and move out the tank.

e. Put the new tank in place and tighten the union (see note 1 below)

f. Make sure the air pressure in the new tank is 2 psi below the cut-in pressure of your pressure switch. Add/remove air if needed (Iíve used a bicycle pump and tire gauge already). The cut-in pressure should be written somewhere on that switch cover Ė I think Ė maybe on the inside? But as Optsy says to find the cut-in pressure:

Most set ups have a pressure guage that you can read. If you have one on your current set up just watch it closely and see what pressure it gets to when the pump kicks on.
g. Make sure the boiler drain is closed (blue handle) and turn the power back on to the pump. The pump should then pump up the tank smoothly and stop at the cut-out pressure. You should then check to see that the union is not leaking. Sometimes they have a very slow drip and you have to really really tighten the union to make it stop.

h. You can then open the valve to the house (green handle) and you should be OK.

note 1 : That looks like a pretty old tank. I know on my tank and I believe most (or many)of the newer ones, there is a 90 degree elbow with a female pipe connection that is connected to the bottom of the tank, it comes with the tank. I think when you move out your old tank and turn it over and compare it to your new tank, you would see what needs to be moved from the old tank to the new tank to make it so it can be connected to your tank tee.
 
  #18  
Old 06-05-13, 04:16 PM
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Thanks again everyone. I have a few more details:

- The current installation looks very standard (posting picture)
- There is an interesting pipe configuration right after the tank - looks like it's for collecting sediments, etc? I'd appreciate your thoughts on that. (posting picture)
- The curent pressure gauge reads at 100 psi, when pump starts it goes to about 90. This can't be an accurate reading, right?

As far as I can tell the current tank does basically nothing ... as soon as you turn on water the pump kicks in.
Don't know how I missed the above?

I'm no expert but that looks like a sediment filter with 3 ball valves setup to do a bypass. If I'm seeing the picture correctly, it looks like the ball valve on the vertical is closed and the 2 near the filter open. So the water is forced through the filter.

But if you open the ball valve on the vertical and close the other 2 - you bypass the filter. I don't know why you would need a bypass to service the sediment filter. I didn't put a bypass on mine - but the well guys might say that's the right thing to do. I don't think they normally leak or break and you can change the filter in a few minutes, so why a bypass (if it is a bypass.lol) - but what do I know? lol


As far as I can tell the current tank does basically nothing ... as soon as you turn on water the pump kicks in.
My understanding is that is a symptom of a bad tank.

I bet you can't trust the gauge reading one bit with a flaky tank. Maybe the gauge is OK and once a good tank is in there it will give proper readings. But hopefully one of the well guys would chime in. A new gauge isn't very expensive and they are very easy to install.
 
  #19  
Old 06-05-13, 06:20 PM
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I just noticed a union (yes Iím slow lol) to the left of the red handle on the top ball valve in the picture. Thus you could close the 2 ball valves you see with the red handles, and then open that union and take the entire sediment filter out by unscrewing things.

And if you wanted to you could supply unfiltered water to the house while having fun with the sediment filter or replacing it with a new one, by opening up that vertical ball valve with the other 2 ball valves closed.
 
  #20  
Old 06-05-13, 08:58 PM
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tank definitely sounds waterlogged. you need to do something soon before it kills the pump motor. have you tried to blow the water out and see if it will hold a precharge? if not.. kill power, drain, and leave drain open. use compressor on tank schrader valve. hopefully this will blow the water out of the tank through the drain and begin to build air pressure in the tank. if so, once desired precharge is reached.. make sure schrader isnt leaking and wait a little while. check the precharge to see if it leaked down. if all seems well, close drain and turn power back on. then just keep an eye on it, draining and checking it every so often. some tanks just leak a little over time. i'm sure there are several factors that can contribute but i dont claim to know them, i just install/service well systems.

all you can really ask out of any bladder/diaphragm tank is to drain completely of water and hold a precharge. even a new top of line tank should be checked occasionally.

i think zoesdad was pretty darn accurate in explaining your setup. (wonder if that tee with the plug was orginally a pressure relief?? maybe started leaking so they plugged it. who knows). i'm one of the guys who disagrees with a check valve above ground and only likes the one in the pump... but whatever, its common in many places.
 
  #21  
Old 06-06-13, 04:31 PM
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Yeah, zoesdad gave a great description. That square plug to the left of the green tap is probably for the pressure relief valve that someone was going to get around to buying ... but never did.

Anyway, I doubt the system is putting out 100psi. If your current tank has a Schrader valve on the top you could measure it with water in the tank. If the tank was operating properly the air pressure will equal the water pressure (since it is the air that effectively delivers all pressure). All this step will do is maybe confirm if your guage is working right. Eventually you will need a working guage. They are not that expensive and are pretty easy to replace, if you find you need to. Just turn off the water and drain any tank and pipes above it. Unscrew the current one. Add two layers of white Teflon tape to the new one and screw it in tight.

Other then that you have a very nice looking set up. I took from your post that you were not sure what the filter system was. That kind of tells me that you are not changing that filter ... and you need to. Probably just a sediment filter. The bypass is for people who don't change the filter. You all of a sudden see your water coming out of a tap with a trickle of pressure and at the same time your wife needs to use the shower to get ready for her sister's wedding. Filter is all clogged up so you simply bypass it until you buy a new filter. Anyway, you should change that and keep a few spares. At least look at them once a year for changing.

All that being said, follow zoesdad and some of my suggestions and that tank will be easy to change. You do need to know an accurate cut-in pressure for your pump.
 
  #22  
Old 06-06-13, 04:39 PM
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Another thought. If your readings of the cut in and cut out pressures were being done as the pump cycled on and off fairly quickly, due to your waterlogged tank malfunction, then perhaps that is why you are not getting accurate readings.

If you want to get a better reading, you can always empty the tank and refill it. Just so you know what is happening. When your tank was new, someone precharged it with air, hopefully about 2 psi below your cut-in pressure. While the diaphragm was working, the system worked great. Overtime the diaphragm failed and the water now is mixing with the air in the tank. Immediately there was no problem, but over time (a month or so) that air slowly dissolves in the water and hence you have less and less air in the tank. The amount of water you get between cycles will always be a multiple of the air in the tank. As you lose your air, you lose your water to the point where the pump cycles on and off for piddly amounts of water, because there is only piddly amounts of air left in the tank.. To temporarily fix this, just empty the tank completely and then refill. When the tank is emptied, new air will enter the tank and as you refill it, the water will compress it and create new water pressure. Even though it will feel like the problem is gone, it will come back as this new air dissolves into the water, but for now your system will work right and you should be able to get more accurate reading of your cut-in pressure for your pump. You will need this.
 
  #23  
Old 06-07-13, 10:46 AM
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OptsyEagle

ÖThe bypass is for people who don't change the filter. You all of a sudden see your water coming out of a tap with a trickle of pressure and at the same time your wife needs to use the shower to get ready for her sister's wedding. Filter is all clogged up so you simply bypass it until you buy a new filter. Anyway, you should change that and keep a few spares. At least look at them once a year for changing.


I knew there just had to be a reason somehow for a bypass. Good information.

justwater

Ö i'm one of the guys who disagrees with a check valve above ground and only likes the one in the pump... but whatever, its common in many placesÖ
I know many of the other pros agree with that, in fact I think Iíve heard debates about that right on this forum. Not sure.
 
  #24  
Old 06-07-13, 11:27 AM
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I always thought that those check valves came along when there was a leak and it was considered too difficult to do the job right and pull up the line and find it ... so they just stuck in a check valve and considered the problem solved...and for the most part it was.
 
  #25  
Old 06-07-13, 12:07 PM
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OptsyEagle

I always thought that those check valves came along when there was a leak and it was considered too difficult to do the job right and pull up the line and find it ... so they just stuck in a check valve and considered the problem solved...and for the most part it was.

Holy smoke! Thatís something I didnít think of!

I mentioned to tarzan that my setup wasnít standard. I had a check valve with the pressure switch and gauge mounted in tappings on the check valve, and that check valve was located about 6í from the tank, right where the well service pipe entered the basement before it dropped down to a tee: one side to the tank, the other to the house. Had me scratching my head.

And I did in fact have a leak in the old galvanized service pipe from the wellhead to the basement. When it finally just leaked so bad that the cut-out pressure couldnít be reached, and the pump wouldnít stop, I then knew I had a leak. I think the leak was probably there when I bought the house. I was a little (well a lot) naÔve and should have noticed that it took too long to pump up my tank for the pump size, and a leak outside was probably the cause. When I replaced the broken pipe the time to pump up the tank was cut in half.

Iíll be darned! It never occurred to me Ė that someone might just have put that check valve there to mask the leak! But thatís exactly what it did. Yes Ė that check valve would in fact make it look like problem solved as you say, or yes i guess for the most part it was solved.

But I guess it's not good to mask the leak.
 
  #26  
Old 06-07-13, 01:44 PM
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In my suggestion, I was thinking wells that use jet pumps with a foot valve at the other end, in the well, but I have a feeling tarzan has a submersible. If I recall, with a submersible they tend to use check valves every so many feet of line. If they didn't I think all the water would just flow back and everytime the pump kicked on the entire line would need to be re-filled again.
 
  #27  
Old 06-07-13, 06:42 PM
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aaaaaahhhh sooooooo ! lol

I learn a lot on this forum. Thanks!
 

Last edited by zoesdad; 06-07-13 at 07:00 PM.
  #28  
Old 06-08-13, 02:53 PM
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Just a quick update: I ordered a new tank (thanks for your suggestions) An Amtrol WellXTroll 250. It was supposed to get here next Tuesday, but arrived today! So, I'm making a list for the hardware store to get some tools, teflon tape, maybe sediment filter replacement, pressure relief valve, and a new pressure gauge among other things.

With your support, I'm thinking I may just be able to pull this off ... thank you again and wish me luck :-)!
 
  #29  
Old 06-08-13, 06:52 PM
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Good luck tarzan, bet it will go just fine.

p.s. I'm not a well guy or plumber like a lot of the guys that give expert advice here, but I added moved/changed/everything from my wellhead through the house, and everything works fine. So if you need any help, maybe I can be of assistance.

Good luck!

another p.s. lol

Maybe you can do a little research on your own if you want, but one thing I found out about doing threaded connections: I seemed many times to have little drips after I used Teflon tape. It seems to me that many plumbers out there use RectorSeal #5 (a pipe dope) over the Teflon tape when they do the connection. I tried that and I did at least 20 connections a few months ago and didn't have one drip.

The RectorSeal #5 is a gooey mustard color stuff. After I did a couple of wraps of Teflon tape I then coated the tape with some of the RectorSeal, and then really tightened it up with wrenches, really really tight. I didn't have one leak.

It's a tough decision: Teflon tape or pipe dope. But if I understand correctly many plumbers say use both. But I don't want to muddy the waters, you have enough to think about now (lol).
Just thought I'd throw that out - even if you had a minor drip I guess it wouldn't be the end of the world. That could be fixed Ė if in fact it happened. lol
 

Last edited by zoesdad; 06-08-13 at 07:24 PM.
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