Working with PEX Tubing

Intro

Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is strong, durable, and can handle hot as well as cold water. It is approved for interior plumbing in many areas of the country -- especially the South -- and is gaining acceptance elsewhere.

PEX is an installer's dream. It is easily cut and flexible enough to make gentle bends around corners. To join compression fittings, no special tools or materials are required -- just a pair of pliers or an adjustable wrench. More permanent fittings require a special crimping tool (see Steps 2 and 3). Where approved by local codes, PEX is an ideal material if you want to replace old galvanized pipes because it can be snaked through walls.

PEX systems can use a manifold fitting (Step 2), which allows you to install one water supply line to a location and then add branch lines to various fixtures.

Checklist

Time
About an hour to run and install about 50 feet of pipe with five fittings

Tools
Drill, plastic tubing cutter or plastic-pipe cutter, crimping tool, reaming tool, adjustable wrench

Skills
Understanding of supply pipes

Prep
Bore holes for running pipe through joists or studs

Materials
PEX tubing, compression fittings, crimp rings

Step 1

Holes for PEX tubing need not be carefully laid out in a straight line. PEX can be bent around corners, but don't make too sharp a bend or the tubing may kink. In most cases you can run the pipe through the holes and then cut it in place. Drill 1-inch holes for 1/2-inch tubing.

Step 2

Make sure the tube end is cut straight and that the cut end is free of burrs. To make a crimped connection, slide the crimp ring onto the tube and slip the tube onto the fitting.

Step 3

Grasp the ring with the crimping tool and squeeze until you feel the ring compress. Tug on the connection to make sure it is solid.

Step 4

To install a stub out, temporarily screw the drop-ear elbows, mark the tubing for cutting, and cut with a tubing cutter.

Step 5

Remove the elbow, attach it to the tubing using the crimping tool, and reattach the elbow. To ensure against rattling noises when water is turned on and off, clamp the pipe firmly every couple of feet. Where pipe runs through a hole, tap in a wooden shim.


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