Plumbing Part II: Hot and Cold water lines

Background and Research

With the Drain Waste and Vent system in place (except for the connection to the road), installing something to flush became important. Again, I had to dive in, as this is something I don’t know much about. Thankfully, water lines just get the water from point A to point B, and there isn’t much to know.

I decided to go with Pex and a water manifold (kind of like a breaker box, but for water instead of electricity). The idea is that you run your main water feeds into the manifold, and then distribute them throughout the house from a central location (“the manifold”). The most straightforward way to distribute the water lines is to make a direct connection to each fixture (1 hot, 1 cold for the sink, 1 cold for the toilet, etc.). The house I currently live in has a plumbing system where, if one fixture (like the dishwasher) starts to leak, you have to turn off the water supply for the whole house until you get it fixed. This is very inconvenient. With a water manifold, if you have a leak, you just turn off that fixture, and keep the rest of the house running while you make repairs.

I added up the number of connections I would need, and it is more than 20, which means I would need a very expensive manifold, a lot of pipes, and a lot of space. But there are a few variations on this set up – one where you run a main line to each area, and then branch off from there. This made it so I just needed a manifold with 5 hots and 5 colds. Once I reached the general area, I used T-connectors to distribute the water to each fixture. A tiny bit more prone to leaks, but not by much – Pex is pretty tough stuff. It also takes up less space, and I can still turn off the water if I need to fix something.

Materials

I needed a few items for this project:

  • Pex tool
    • I bought this tool – comes with cutters, a bunch of rings and says it’s good for 10,000 crimps before it needs recalibration. There was also a compression tool, but you need a special die to tell if the connections are properly connected – no way to tell just by looking at it. The clamping/crimping tool makes it easy to tell – if the band is “crushed”, then it’s been secured.

iCRIMP Ratchet PEX Cinch Tool
  • Pex pipe – Pex B is what I’m using
    • Some people think Pex A can leach chemicals from the manufacturing process into your water. I didn’t want to find out if this was true. There’s also Pex C, but since B has the most parts available, and seems to be the easiest to work with, I went with it. Pex is susceptible to UV damage from sunlight. I was going to make all my runs in the open crawlspace, but quickly realized that running between the joists would require a lot of drilling and with the tight corners I would have to use a lot of elbows (meaning: more susceptible to leaks). Also, I was worried about freezing pipes, so I put as much as I could inside the house. No sunlight should ever shine on my plumbing.
  • Connectors and support brackets:
    • I like the brass connectors the best. The plastic ones have a warning about BPA and cancer or something. No thanks. Going to drink out of these pipes….
  • A water manifold:
    • Make sure it doesn’t require special attachment parts – some of them do, and you have to buy the tool and connectors to make it work. I bought this one off Ebay as an “open box” item – you can connect any kind of pex pipe to it – either crimp or clamp connectors:

Apollo 6907912CP

Putting it all together

The 1″ black line comes up from under the house – main feed.

I had already picked out a spot to mount the manifold – had it in mind for years, actually. Make sure you get a manifold with some way to attach it (brackets or something) to your framing. Then, for the first floor, I just drilled down into the crawlspace and ran my pipe there. This is the pipe I installed way back when I first got the water hooked up. I left a long length of pipe under the house ready to connect and plugged it off.

For the second floor, I ran the pipes in the main bathroom water wall and then up through the floor.

I had to dig a trench and move the main line over about 4 feet. I wanted that pipe vertical so it will be easy to insulate before winter.

For the water heater, I branched off the main feed before running it into the manifold, and put this line directly into the (future) water heater on the second floor. I then added a 3/4″ red pex line back down to the manifold to feed all the “hots” to the rest of the house.

Next Steps

I will write about getting the sewer line trenched and connected to the street. Had some trouble getting the engineer from the utilities company to call me back – I wanted to do both electrical and sewer line trenches at the same time – they are on the opposite sides of the house, and I only want to call the excavator guy one time. I left a message for the utilities guy to see if I could put the power meter at the road on a pedestal instead of on the house. He called back later and said that’s how they would prefer it. I read in their regulations that they are required to provide up to 130 feet of cable, but that won’t help me much – I would have the meter halfway into my yard, and still have to allow access to it by truck. So, out by the road it goes. It’s cheaper for them anyway – not as much cable for them to run. For me, it’s somewhat expensive for 4/0 electrical cable @ 230′ – about $500. And about $200 for a place to mount it – I have to build a pedestal – they have instructions. Yay.

Still need the water heater – I’m looking for deals right now.

Also, looking for the next big project: “HVAC”. My brother-in-law owns an HVAC business and is working on the calculations for plenum sizes and whatever else is involved in a system like this – I have no idea… 🙂

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