Three Hints For Making PEX Plumbing Projects Go Smoothly

Posted on: 10 March 2015

Pipes made from a variety of materials have supplied water to American homes over the past 100 years. Lead, cast iron, copper and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes have been used during that time, and each has been supplanted by a superior option along the way. The most recent trend in water supply plumbing service is the use of cross-linked polyethylene tubing, also known as PEX. This material has completely changed the way plumbing is installed in American homes; that's why you should understand a few basics about how to work with PEX tubing if you are planning some do-it-yourself jobs. Below are three hints that will help you be successful with your home PEX plumbing projects:

Use the proper tools

Each kind of pipe requires its own special tools and materials, such as pipe wrenches, soldering torches, cement, and pipe dope, for installation and repair. PEX tubing is no exception as it also must be worked with specialized tools and fittings. Don't try to get by with other tools that aren't made for working with PEX; you will likely end-up with leaky connections and lots of frustration. Fortunately, working with PEX tubing requires only a minimal amount of special tools. Below is what you will need:

  • Crimp ring tool – there are two options for joining PEX tubing to other pipes and fittings: crimping and clamping. If you choose to join PEX tubing with crimping, then you will need to purchase a crimp ring tool. These tools squeeze a copper crimp ring around the PEX so it is held firmly in place. Crimp ring tools often come with a variety of inserts for use with crimp rings of varying diameters; the crimp rings themselves are sold separately and are available in bulk packages.

  • Cinch clamp tool – the other option for fastening PEX tubing is by using cinch clamps. The cinch clamp tool is similar to a crimp ring tool except it pinches a clamp and draws it tight against the tubing. The clamps are specially made for use with PEX tubing and are usually slightly more expensive than crimp rings. Do-it-yourselfers often find the cinch clamps easier to use than crimp rings, but both methods are perfectly fine for homeowners to use.

  • PEX tubing cutter – this is a scissors-like tool that makes a fast, clean cut across PEX tubing. You can use other tools, such as a utility knife or even a PVC cutter, but this specialized tool makes quick work of PEX if you are going to be doing a lot of cutting.

Color-code your PEX plumbing

There are three colors commonly available for PEX tubing: blue, red, and white. While you can use any color you wish, you will be grateful in the future if you install blue tubing for cold water connections and red tubing for hot water. If you need to perform work on your PEX plumbing in the future, colored tubing will be a welcome reminder of how your system is set-up. In addition, using colored tubing makes it much easier to trace potential problems and keep track of where tubing is routed. If you don't have access to colored PEX or would rather use plain white tubing, then be sure to wrap your tubing with short strips of red and blue duct tape every few feet.

Install direct connections whenever possible

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough that PEX offers the world of residential plumbing is the ease of making direct connections from water supply to fixture. This feature enables you to greatly simplify the process of installing plumbing by eliminating junctions and confusing pipe routes. Each fixture can be fed by its own source, and you need only a fitting at the fixture and at its origin point, the PEX manifold, the device where the home's main water supply is divided into the various branch lines.

It does take more tubing to run direct connections, but reducing the number of fittings that are necessary will help offset the added cost. In addition, reducing the likelihood of leaks by eliminating unnecessary fittings is also a worthwhile trade-off.


Knowing When It’s Time to Call the Plumber

My name is Jason Lawrence, or around my house I’m sometimes known as “Daddy Fix-It.” My wife Sarah and I have four children all under the age of ten. I didn’t start out as a guy who was handy around the house, but I am learning to become a do-it-yourselfer for sure. Did I mention that I’m a bit stubborn? There are times I struggle with projects a little too long, and it takes my wife stepping in to convince me that it’s time to call a professional. I’ve become especially handy with plumbing projects. I don’t know why kids think toys belong in the toilet and doll hair is good for the bathtub drain, but around here those are weekly events. I’m going to share some of my experiences, how I fixed some of our plumbing problems, and when it becomes time to call the plumber.

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