Laundry Renovation – Part 2: Plumbing the Hard Way

After pulling down fibro wall sheeting, pulling up floor tiles and then removing an entire brick fireplace and chimney from the centre of the house, I was now ready to start running water and power. In every project I learn something, in this project I learned I really dislike plumbing.

The great plumbing plan.

All about plumbing. 
As much as I didn’t enjoy the process, I did learn a lot about plumbing. Unless you are really interested in learning the nitty-gritty of plumbing, you can probably skip this post. I had done a heap of repair work when we first moved in but this was my first time doing something of this scale. 

We are lucky in the fact that the farm house actually has a pressurized town water supply. Our water meter is 3km from the house on the main road and it goes from there to the house in 50mm plastic poly-pipe (more on that later). It enters the house in a few locations using a variety of materials including copper and galvanized metal and a few sizes including 1/2″ and 3/4″.

The first problem I encountered is that I could not turn the water off to the house without going 3km down the road to the metre, so the first thing I did is put a valve on the poly-pipe connection at the house. I then cut out and removed the existing plumbing for the old laundry which also took the bathroom out of action as it was all using the same line.

Types of pipe
I then had to replace the pipe I had pulled out. There are a few options for what kind of pipe I could have used, when I removed the pipe I actually went all the way back to the poly-pipe outside as most of the pipe used to enter the house was gal which isn’t really suitable for drinking water. At this point I could use hard-drawn copper which is rigid and harder to work with but cheaper than the alternative soft-drawn copper which can be easily shaped to go where you need it. There was also a third option called PEX which is a plastic pipe that is a lot cheaper than copper and is getting used more and more frequently in modern construction, however the life expectancy is not as long as copper (warranty is 25 years), and I was adverse to using another plastic pipe due to all the work I had had to do fixing and replacing the kilometres of poly-pipe that routinely failed around the farm.

I then just drilled holes slightly larger than the diameter of the pipe in the wall frame and pushed the copper pipe through. For joins, elbows and T-sections I used compression fittings, which work, but my goodness did I learn lessons the hard way with these things.

Copper compression fitting.

Compression fittings can be installed with just two spanners and so are a good option if you don’t own a blow torch and soldering tools which I do not. The middle ring, called a “ferrule” gets compressed and locks onto the copper pipe when the two ends are tightened. Usually each fitting comes with two ferrules, a nylon and a copper one. You only use one, however the nylon one is made to be removable, where as the copper one is longer lasting and permanent. To cut copper I just used a tube cutter which is pretty quick to use and you get a good cut. If you choose to use a hack-saw or similar you might get a rough cut which may leak with some fittings.

I had two major issues using the compression fittings: 
1. Tightening the fittings in tight spaces can be a bit tricky, especially as you need to hold the fitting still and tighten the other end. 
2. I would get one section perfect and be happy with it, then move onto the next fitting, however the process of applying the next fitting would end up causing the pipe to rotate just a little bit, however this was enough to cause the previous fitting to start leaking. It took me far too long to work out to start using a pair of lock jaw pliers to hold the pipe steady, but this also made it trickier as I was then trying to use two spanners (often including a shifter) and the pliers in a pretty tight space.

I could also have used quick-connect push on connectors which are more expensive, but you just push them onto the pipe and you are done. They have an o-ring inside the fitting so won’t last as long, but I eventually started using these in a few places just because it made life so much easier.

Probably should have started with these.

What do you think so far? Any questions or comments let us know.

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