Plumbing is a learned skill, but it is not beyond the scope of the weekend do-it-yourselfer. Often mistakes are made because the home handyman does not have knowledge of the proper tools, compounds or pipe for the job. A lot of time can be saved on a plumbing job is you follow a few simple rules. This article focuses on the tips and tricks of plumbing.
Know Your Material
Due to local building codes and even requirements of the mortgage company, knowing about piping materials goes a long way in starting any plumbing job. Each specific pipe has its own uses, and local code dictates the ones you will use. Here is a list of normal pipe used today:
Rigid plastic PVC
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
PEX (Crosslink Polyethylene)
Rigid copper is used for main water lines in many homes. You cannot bend rigid copper, so joints and tees must be soldered on. When soldering, always apply flux (also called soldering paste) to both surfaces. Flux retards oxidation when the copper is heated. Always use lead-free or nearly lead-free solder when sweating a copper joint. A modified acrylic polymer anaerobic in liquid form works very well, is strong and long-lasting like regular solder, and is great for working in tight spaces where fire from a soldering torch might be a hazard. This compound does not need a completely dried surface as solder does.
If there is a small drip from the existing water in the line while you are soldering, simply take a slice of white bread, remove the crust, and roll it into a tight ball. Insert in the pipe and the drip will stop. Turning on the water supply after the job is complete washes away the bread into the drain system.
Leaks and Things
If you have an inline faucet and it is leaking, you may be able to stop the leak by simply tightening the nut below the hand wheel. Never tighten more than 1/4 turn to avoid damaging the valve. If the valve needs to be resoldered, be sure to remove any hand wheels and interior parts, leaving just the base to work on. Drain down the water supply and resolder the joint. It is always best to completely remove the unit when resoldering.
If you find a leak in a copper pipe, it can be repaired by cutting the pipe after the water is drained down. Using a tubing cutter, cut the pipe at the leak, and use a union or coupling to make the repair. A union is nothing more than a length of copper pie that has the same interior diameter as the external diameter of the pipe. It has a ridge in the center which allows the pipe to be slid in and then stop.
The biggest mistake most people make when soldering is failing to get the interior of the fitting and the exterior of the pipe clean and shiny. Polish these surfaces with a fine emery clot until bright. When soldering, never heat the pipe, but instead heat the fitting. Doing so allows the solder to be drawn into the fitting by capillary action. Use a propane torch to heat the fitting to the correct temperature. Uncoil the solder so that it is easy to work with, and when the fitting has reached the proper temperature, apply the solder. It will be sucked into the joint as the proper temperature has been reached. It may take a bit of practice, so try this first on some scrap pieces.
The market today has quick-connect fasteners for every plumbing need. They work well with almost every kind of pipe. These connectors remove any chance of leaks, eliminate the need for high-temperature propane torches when working in a confined space and eliminate the learning curve for soldering. There are several different types of these connectors available. Some of them are even repairable, eliminating the need to replace the entire unit.
Whatever your plumbing needs are, it is always best to follow a few simple rules and do it right the first time. Plumbing can be frustrating, especially when working in tight places.
Always use safety precautions with a propane torch. Good safety glasses are a must, as is protective clothing. Hot solder dropping on an arm or leg can cause severe burns.