Need Help working with PEX

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by DonM, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. DonM

    DonM New Member


    I’m thinking of re-plumbing my potable water needs with a PEX system. I have a slightly aggressive water condition (although safe for consumption)that is pitting my copper pipes (22 year old home), plus my water pressure isn’t the greatest. I’m currently afraid to try and increase the pressure with thin (schedule M) pipes that tends to pit as it is.)

    My plumbing skills are limited- I can solder, however if I’m going to replace the copper- I don’t want to use copper again even with a better (thicker) pipe since eventually they will leak again- plus, I don’t relish the thought of soldering in tight places.

    Everything I’ve read about PEX seems to work for me. It will not be affected by the aggressive water, and can be easily installed. (I do have some concerns about mice eating at the PEX??)

    My first set of questions regard the different methods for joining the tubing to connections. It’s my understanding that the different systems are unique and must be used consistently. I was thinking of using the Wisbro system of compression and expansion. Does one tool do both? Can it be used in relatively tight spaces (under sinks)? Do I have to get special PEX tubing for this system?

    My current game plan is to modify my current copper plumbing with PEX. I have a two story home with an exposed basement ceiling. I can clearly trace where the ½†copper pipes branch off the ¾†main to the separate sites of the kitchen and ½ bath above on the first floor. I am considering disconnecting and sealing off the current ½†pipes that feed to the kitchen and re plumb PEX from a manifold to each fixture. The ¾†copper would then be connected as a separate line in the manifold as well to continue to supply water to the second floor.

    The reason I’m not thinking of redoing the 2nd floor plumbing immediately is because it presents some major obstacles for my limited plumbing and carpentry skills. The current pipes are hidden in the walls and ceilings, and I don’t know exactly where they are. (Ideally if I knew where they were I could cut them out and replace them with PEX tubing, fishing them through the same holes in the walls and joists. Instead I’m considering a new route maybe through closets etc. to reach the upstairs fixtures.

    I'm not concerned with the copper terminations on a pex system failing for many reasons, primarily because the copper failures that I have experienced are never on vertical members, only on the horizontal pipe.

    Any thoughts or comments are most welcome.

  2. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Other than the obvious pin hole leaks in copper, acidic/aggressive water eats all metals and adds them to the water. If you ingest the water, that's not healthy.

    So you should treat your water to prevent the corrosion in the entire system including any new (expensive) copper stub outs you'll prevent adding metals to the water.

    I suggest a correctly sized for the SFR your house and family size requires, backwashed acid neutralizing (AN) filter with a Clack WS-1 control valve.

    If you install one, then you can take your time replacing the old copper one piece at a time.
  3. DonM

    DonM New Member


    Thanks, I'll Triple check on the safety of the water, but my town health official, and all others involved in this process have told me that the water is safe to consume. BTW the water is not acidic, in fact it's about a 7.4 ph

    Can you give me any help with the questions I raised about the Wisbro tool, or about my plan in general?

  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    Making the connection with the Wirsbo (Uphonor) slide a pex collar over the end of the cut tubing. Slide in the expander tool...expand the tubing and the collar, slide the now bigger opening over the fiting, hold for a moment until the tubing contracts back to its original size making the connection and you're done. There is no crimping with this system.
  5. DonM

    DonM New Member

    So this is the only tool I need?

    Can you send me a link to these collars, because I don't see them on the Pex Supply site

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2007
  6. BAPlumber

    BAPlumber Plumber

    Vashon, Washington
  7. DonM

    DonM New Member

  8. BAPlumber

    BAPlumber Plumber

    Vashon, Washington
    yes, those are the collars. just make sure you use the wirsbo fittings and wirsbo tubing. You might be able to rent the expander tool, I think they retail between $300-400.
  9. Livin4Real

    Livin4Real New Member

    Indianapolis, IN
    I'm in the process of redoing our entire house with pex as well. If you have the funds you should pick up a manabloc and do all individual runs. I'm using the crimp method for my install, tool was $90 and does 3/4" and 1/2" pex. Just avoid zurn fittings if you go the crimp route, they have a class-action suit against them right now for them breaking. I picked up my manabloc and other supplies at got the tubing at m*nards.
  10. Wirsbo Pex

    This is the best system to use although it
    takes a little getting used to and some fore-arm work the expander too

    we use only the black plastic fittings with this system...
    and they seem to work great...

    the 1/2 pipe is very easy to work...

    the 3/4 can be very hard on the fore arms if you have a lot to do...

    try to think of it as a free work out at a jym
    I was a little scared of the stuff it at first

    you should try a number of trial fittings before you
    fly into it....fool around with it and get used to it....

    the secret with wirsbo is-----
    clean --non greasy oiley tools and or hands...

    if you can keep your hands from getting soldering flux
    on them or putty or wd40 oils, it all goes very well...

    it seems to transfer onto the wirsbo from your hands
    and when you try to expand the pipes the outer ring will
    slide up the pipe instead of expanding.....
    and then you have a real fight on your hands...

    the other important secret I learned...

    always adjust that outer expanding ring
    to where it barely lips over the actual inner pipe about an
    1/32nd of an inch...... or just a hair..

    that is something you basically just have to learn
    from sight... and after you expand the fitting you learn to
    move that ring with your hand or tap it with come channel locks
    into position.....

    you can re-expand the stuff all you want..

    but as long as the outer clampiing ring
    lips over the water pipe just a hair and then you install
    the fitting it always seems to work good...

    the reverse application of this process always leads to trouble

    enjoy .....
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2007
  11. DonM

    DonM New Member


    I've only seen these white rings:

    Do you have a source for the black one's you mentioned? Are they better than the white, or is it just the contrast vs the tubing to allow you to better see that 1/32" overlap?

    Thank you for these very insightful comments- very helpful!!

    Do you recommend using a copper transitional stub out from the Pex like this for hooking into sink faucets:

    or should I use something like this for sinks:

    and this for toilets:

    Thanks again for your help

  12. DonM

    DonM New Member

    Thanks for these tips about the manabloc and the Zurn. I'm leaning towards the Wirsbro system and they have a block system as well and I think you can also use the manabloc with Wirsbro.

    Do you know diameter of the guts of the manabloc- not the fitting for the intake but the interior size??
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    Mark is talking about the fittings, not the collars...the part you insert into the expanded pipe.
  14. DonM

    DonM New Member

    Yes I can see that now that I've re read it- thanks.

    Does this mean he suggests that I stay away from the brass or copper fittings?

    I see mostly brass and copper??

  15. pauljferraro

    pauljferraro New Member

    FYI, downsides of PEX

    The downsides of PEX are ......

    Some information I found to share. Good link to video at bottom of meeage.

    1- Rodents seem to love the stuff. Given the opportunity, they'll chew on it like it was cotton-candy.

    2- Biofilm formation. This is particularly true for seldom used runs and dead-end runs on non-chlorinated potable water systems. Every run from a manifold in a home-run system is actually a dead-end run. Think legionaire's disease. Consequently, if you don't have a chlorinated water supply you'd be well-advised to sterlize/shock the entire system every year.

    3- Already mentioned....The tools to fasten PEX are kinda are the fittings....if they are of good quality. (I personally prefer the Wirsbo/Uponor expander system over the crimped-ring type of connections) If you're only running PEX to this one basement be better off borrowing or renting the tools or using the shark-bite fittings instead.

    (4- PEX does not get along with all. Avoid using it where sunlight will strike it or storing it in a similar situation)

    If you should buy an expander tool or a crimping tool, you must use the fittings and/or crimp rings from that specific manufacturer. IOW, if you buy the Wirsbo/Uponor tool, you must use their fittings and if you buy one of the several brands of crimping tools, you must use their fittings. Plumbing supply houses will be the source for Uponor while DIYer/big-boxes will carry some of the other brands of tools and fittings. See who carries what before you buy. And unfortunately, even if big-box X carries brand X now....there's no guarantee that they will a month from now. Plumbing supply houses will be more steadfast in their offerings because they supply the plumbers in the area.

    (The cheap PEX tools found at some big-boxes such as Sioux Chief brand are worth far less than you pay for them. The fittings and rings are comprised of very cheap metals and their crimping tools don't last. I've seen the results of leaks/failures from these cheap tools/fittings firsthand. Avoid them is my advice.)

    If you're not that familiar with's a little primer video.
  16. someday its gonna be rough......

    Recently I went to some home owners house and saw where the fellow cut into a wirsbo system and used

    or Mixed Zurn brass TEE fittings into the wirsbo pipe and used the ZURN crimp rings to hold the whole thing together....

    this was teed into or rigged up above the new bathroom in the basement

    I told the fellow that this will eventually blow apart ,

    and that ZURN presently has a class action lawsuit
    started against them

    but what the hell do I know...anyway???.

    the guy he bought the Zurn fittings from at LOWES
    told him that it would be fine......

    the guy at LOWES is the True Expert ...

    I am just a dumb plumber that
    was trying to make work for myself.....

    I tried to explain what he needed to do to make it right,
    but I just gave up, shut up , and left....

    Some day when this stuff blows apart, he might
    realize that I was not blowing smoke

    naaaaa, he wont admit it..
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2007
  17. brass vs plastic fittings wirsbo

    I have used both brass and black plastic
    and I am more fond of the plastic ones...

    They are cheaper of course, but for some reason
    I seem to have better luck with them....

    I personally use only the black palstic ones..

    I even had a whle system freeze up on me last year
    and did not have a single break in the fittings,

    the copper pipes broke first and saved the whole system

    you can use which ever you feel is best for your house

    if you want to spend a little more its no big deal.

    Thank you for these very insightful comments- very helpful!!

    Do you recommend using a copper transitional stub out from the Pex like this for hooking into sink faucets: YES THESE WORK VERY WELL INDEED..I got a dozen laying around.

    and they are very user freindly in 1/2 inch....

    or should I use something like this for sinks: NO WAY.....that looks like junk....

    and this for toilets: YES I USE THESE FOR EVERYTHING

    they work great.... even for the lavs too....
    you can put a pex elbow in the wall if you want to then put those stops on

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2007
  18. DonM

    DonM New Member

    Pex Unroller??

    Hello Again:

    Do I need an unroller, or is there a technique that I can use to properly "unroll" the tubing??


  19. no you dont

    it basically is very pliable..

    depending on what size you are running,

    teh 300 foot roll of 1/2 wirsbo pex is very managable
    once you cut the bundle open its no big deal..

    the 3/4 of course is a little more trouble but not much
  20. DonM

    DonM New Member

    Manifold Question:

    Can I gang together two manifolds of the same size copper pipe (using a large diameter say 1-2 inches would be better?)that would have different sized pex terminals i.e. mostly 1/2" but at least one with 3/4"?

    This is the type of manifold that I would sweat two together but they would have different sized terminals:

    Would this cause any problems?

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