Extensive home renovation projects mostly involve the breaking of floors, walls and ceilings, offering a good opportunity to take a look at aged plumbing pipes and carry out any necessary replacements.
It is vital to inspect water supply pipes because they move water under pressure, and any major leak can have devastating effects.
Copper Pipe Replacement is common with aged plumbing systems, and every home will need to do this eventually.
Although copper pipes and fittings are still generally available, many expert plumbers make use of flexible PEX for repairs and new construction, and also for extensions to existing copper pipes.
PEX appeals especially to DIYers, who find it easier to connect rather than using a torch to solder copper connections.
There are several options available when you encounter leaking or corroded pipes while undertaking your renovation projects.
Apart from the cost, re-piping your whole home plumbing to replace copper pipes with PEX provides the best solution in the long term.
Here, all existing copper pipes have to be disconnected and bypassed in order to run fresh PEX pipes all through the house.
You have the options of either following the existing pattern or using a new PEX manifold-and-branch system.
With leaks in copper pipes, you can take the least approach and replace the bad sections with PEX. Most times, you can simply install a single push-fit connector there.
Have Visible Runs Replaced
Somewhere between spot fixes and a complete re-pipe, you can consider replacing whole sections (10 feet or more) of open copper pipe with PEX, and branch out where necessary.
Many DIYers choose to replace visible runs because it is neither as costly nor ambitious as complete re-piping.
Though this may seem like a complex option, it is really not much more difficult than spot-fixing.
When installed properly, a copper pipe replacement lasts very long (over 50 years), but eventually they go bad.
It isn't very easy to determine when original copper pipes need to be replaced, no matter how old they get.
When corrosion first starts on copper pipes, leaks may not be noticeable, but there are some early indications you can watch for.
After a while, you will notice a musty, stale smell which you can't quite put a finger on.
You may even be confused all the more if the smell is noticed in the bathroom, laundry or child's room since you may think that it has something to do with the room.
However, this smell is more like persistent, stagnant pond water.
You may also notice bulges on the walls or ceiling, resulting from pinhole leakages.
You may observe copper pipes in walls, ceiling or floor cavity have turned crusty, green and corroded.
Those pipes may have existing pinhole leaks already gradually oozing water, even though not so observed.
If you notice any of these indications, it means your copper pipes need to be replaced.
Copper Pipe Replacement: Turn Water Main Off
Before working on water supply pipes you'll have to turn off the water supply and drain the pipes to relieve the pressure.
Simply turn off the main shutoff valve in order to stop the water supply to the whole house when you're carrying out repairs.
After shutting the valve, the water pipes will still hold water, so you should ensure to drain the pipes by opening a faucet situated at your home's lowest level, such as the basement or a bathroom or sink in the first floor.
- Have the section on the copper pipe to be replaced marked
- Ensure the area to be replaced is extended well beyond the
corroded area at the two ends
- Cut through the copper pipe at the ends of the replacement
section with a copper tubing cutter
Copper Pipe Replacement: Cut the Branches
If the section to be replaced includes branch lines which run to plumbing fixtures lie sinks, toilets, bathtubs, or showers, you'll have to remove the connections with the tubing cutter.
If the connections consist of compressing fittings or couplings instead of sweat-soldered fittings, use a wrench to disconnect them.
You may also consider replacing the copper fixture supply lines at this time with PEX.
If that is the case, then remove the copper fixture lines too.
Or else, let them remain to be reconnected to the fresh section of the PEX piping.
Copper Pipe Replacement: De-Burr the Pipe
- The copper pipe cut ends have to be perfectly clean and smooth
in order to fit properly
- Smoothen the internal and external surface of the cut copper
pipe using a copper de-burring tool
- Run the tool a few inches up the pipe to ensure the removal of
Insert the Fresh PEX Pipe
- Measure the length and cut the PEX tubing enough to replace the copper pipe's cut section
- Ensure to cut the PEX tubing a bit longer to permit for some contraction and expansion
- Push one side of a push-fit straight connector towards the copper pipe's cut ends
- Ensure the pipe seats properly on the connector's base
- Insert one side of the PEX tubing into an opening on the straight connector
- Do the same thing on the other end of the area to be repaired
Copper Pipe Replacement: Connect Fixture Supply Lines
In the case where the replaced sections also fed fixture supply lines, you'll have to connect them now to the fresh PEX section.
You simply need to use a PEX tubing cutter to cut into the PEX line, and then patch the line using a push-fit tee fitting.
Connect two outlets on the tee to the PEX line, and the third outlet to the supply line feeding the fixture.
If you like, you can also now replace the copper fixture supply lines with PEX.
Caution With Regards To Electrical Grounding
When changing out metal plumbing pipes with plastic, it is important to check to ensure your system's grounding is still in place.
If you notice that outlets are no longer grounded, contact an electrician to restore grounding.
This is usually done by having the main service panel connected to a grounding rod planted into the earth, through a bonding wire.
However, circuit breaker systems rarely have this issue since they're typically well-grounded upon installation.
It is occasionally observed in older systems with fuse protection.
Please read our next post on pex pipe replacement!