PEX in red white and blue: new Bungaloft plumbing

More adventures of the amateur builder

When I first realized that plumbing was to become part of my future work on the Bungaloft project I naturally sought to drown myself in information (perhaps to avoid the first actual testing of the waters?). But it really didn’t take long to find one particular path taking precedence over the competition.

PEX plumbing
Hot and Cold PEX lines - can you guess?

It was clear long before the houses’ other onion layers had begun falling away that the mongrel collection of cast iron, galvanized steel and PVC pipe was a treacherous beast laying in wait. (In some cases, small leaks from this arrangement can be the reason for a damp basement) It was also apparent that our construction-phase-living-arrangement in a fifth wheel trailer parked in the driveway would benefit from maintaining at least some of the plumbing in the house as long as possible. (We took to calling our visqueen concealed toilet as the “black room”.)

So consider for a moment the standard options:

  • Galvanized steel pipe – A lot of old houses have it. It works. It can become so corrosion restricted on the pipe I.D. that flow rates can go south. It does require assembly of countless threaded connections in a logical order that avoids the frequent resort to unions to escape an unforeseen dead-end. And it’s not so easy to alter a route once complete.
  • PVC – Only good for cold water applications but often ubiquitous in amateur plumbing repair jobs due perhaps to its apparent user friendliness. (Don’t get my started on the Vinyl family history with respect to the environment. We all have to pick our battles and I chose this one. Penguin Windows please leave me alone!) It’s possible to reroute it endlessly to the extent of your collection of fittings and pipe but doesn’t take to serious curves – at least in the standard product.
  • Copper – Given no budget constraints, many people just go with this. It’s been around a while and looks really cool when assembled. But it is expensive and not so easy to reroute. And there is the pinhole leaks issue . . .
  • PEX – Maybe I’m a closet Europhile but it sure seems to me that a lot of sensible solutions (Frost protected shallow foundations for example) to all manner of challenges have been available in Europe for years before our litigious society finally adopts them for use here in the States . Sure there are bogus products and some “new” technologies can fail dramatically with improper handling (SIPS in a certain Alaskan city for example). So PEX pipe had a certain appeal that includes addressing my apparent fixation with being reroutable. Because I knew I would have a toilet (and for a while a kitchen sink) in a temporary location, it was clearly appealing that PEX – in combination with push-to-connect (aka “Sharkbite”) fittings – is really easy to move from one location to another. Most plumbers tend to use crimp type fittings that yield a rather permanent connection and require special tooling to install which in my situation was not preferable for the both the permanency and special tool reasons. The Sharkbite fittings can seem a bit pricey but on the small scale of our project their convenience more than out weighs the potential saving of using the crimp style fittings.
Sharkbite connectors
Sharkbite connectors

So PEX won out as the clear winner for moving water around the Bungaloft. I’ll elaborate on an accessory for PEX systems that makes things even more interesting in another post.

For now, here are but a few of the resources I encountered in info-overload mode.

Happy plumbing!

ToolBase PEX Design Guide

ToolBase PEX water supply piping

How Safe is it?  GBA article

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