Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tiny Plumbing for Dummies.

After much deliberation, I decided to use PEX plumbing for my rough in.  In a nutshell, it is SUPER easy to install and once you have the crimping tool (which costs about $70) the rest of the materials are cheap and will last for the life of your tiny house. I simply could not envision myself learning how to "sweat a joint" which is a crucial step required for copper pipe installation.  And, if I didn't get it just right, it would leak.  Ugh.  Nope.  Not my thing.

I was lucky enough to discover that a co-worker of mine was not only a tiny house enthusiast but also a proud PEX Crimper Owner.  He plans on plumbing his own tiny house but really wasn't quite sure how to do it.  So, he volunteered to do mine, with his buddy for collaboration.  They decided to "practice" on my house so they'd know what NOT to do with theirs.

Free Installation?  OK!

Before we begin, I'd like to thank George Morlan Plumbing Supply for their stellar service and patience. They didn't care how many questions I asked, or how dumb I sounded, they were helpful and respectful and offered easy to install products and fittings that I didn't even know I needed.  It really, really, helped to have a knowlegeable and supportive staff behind me.  As a side note, most of them had never heard of a tiny house and were all very enthusiastic about the details.  Now, when I go in, they call me by my first name and ask about my tiny house.  I've never gotten THAT level of service from Home Depot!

How much did all of the materials for my rough in project cost?  Less than $100.

Supplies wise, we drew diagrams for where the water would come on, how many corners we had to go around, how many "tees" we'd have to get, etc....  This can be a bit of a challenge but if you take your time and have your floor plan in front of you, it actually isn't too hard once you get started. For instance, every faucet and water appliance will need both hot and cold water.  So, you know you'll need at least TWICE the number of tees when compared to your appliances.  

It might be easier to show you than tell you so here we go.....

Step One:  Gather your tools and materials.

Step Two:  Find a friend to help. Hopefully he already owns a crimping tool.  Mine did.

(I actually found TWO friends and they brought their angle drills too.)

Step Three:  Drill holes in the studs where the waterline will pass through.  

Depending on how close your studs are together, this can be super easy or VERY hard.  I had to make 3 trips to the hardware store for the right length of drill bit/auger where I had 4 studs together adjacent to a narrow access spot.  Ugh!

Step Four:  Pull the water lines through the holes and avoid having to cut the line if possible.  This can be tricky around corners so you'll have to plan your materials carefully so you have enough 90 degree elbows for your corners.  (again, two per)  

Step Five: Take cool pictures like this one!

Step Six:  Install one copper end cap angle for each incoming line, for each appliance. (see those two tees?)  This is where the kitchen sink goes.

Step Seven:  Attach the exterior water source line, attach hose, and pressure test the system for leaks by turning on the water.

You have to buy your exterior water inlet valve at the RV part supply store. 
Hardware stores rarely, if ever, stock them.

Step Eight:  Add nail plates so you won't accidentally drill or hammer a nail through your water line once it gets all covered up with sheet rock.

Step Nine:  Pay your "volunteers" with growlers of local beer and coffee!

In all honesty, when we turned on the hose and pressurized the system it did leak, in the ONE spot where we couldn't use the PEX; where the incoming line meets the PEX tubing. I've been back to George Morlan and they said I'll have to take it off, and re-install with LOTS of plumbers tape.  And, another lesson learned was the fact that the incoming source line has a one way valve so even if you shut off the water and remove the hose, it won't drain.  I really need to install a drain so I can remove the water BEFORE it freezes.  As long as the house remains un-insulated, freezing pipes is a foregone conclusion.

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