Upgrade to PEX?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Building Code' started by mdmbkr, May 31, 2018.

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  1. May 31, 2018 #1

    mdmbkr

    mdmbkr

    mdmbkr

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    Greetings All,

    I am a homeowner in southern New Jersey. My house was built around 1893 with no plumbing. At some point plumbing was added, to create an upstairs and downstairs bathroom, and a kitchen sink which exists in an addition to the home. The bathroom drainage is visible in the basement, but the kitchen drainage goes somewhere else that I can't see. It has a separate vent.

    The two bathrooms are on the ground floor, which is about 3 feet above grade, and upstairs, which is about 15 feet above grade.

    Most of the relevant plumbing is in the basement, which is generally at grade.

    The pipe from the street looks like 5/8", and is reduced to 1/2" when it breaks off to the hot water heater. The cold water is also reduced to 1/2" before it makes its way upstairs. All of the pipe looks hand-bent.

    The water pressure in the upstairs bath is just barely adequate, and I think it could be improved by replacing some of the old copper pipe with wider diameter PEX. Doing so would increase the average diameter of the pipe, remove a bunch of old hand-bent pipe, and remove a few 90-degree bends.

    So, can I legally undertake a plumbing project of this nature on my own in New Jersey? Should I?
     
  2. May 31, 2018 #2

    TomFOhio

    TomFOhio

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    First thing is you should check the pressure coming into the house. It should be around 55-60 pounds. I would guess
    that it is old galvanized. It sounds like the plumbing inside the house needs an upgrade too. Usually a 3/4" trunk line on the
    hot and cold and then branch off to each fixture in 1/2". Also 3/4" going upstairs and then branch off with 1/2" up there too. If
    you don't have good pressure coming into the house you need to take care of that first. Well or City Water. You ask about New Jersey.
    I am from Ohio and a homeowner can do this project if he thinks he can. Check with your health dept as they will know.
     
  3. May 31, 2018 #3

    Fmkehoe99

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    In many states a home owner can do his own work. As for the water main coming in, you called it pipe. Is it copper tubing? Or maybe even lead pipe, common in the 1800’s. If it is lead, not only is it a health hazard, it’s as brittle as a cookie after all these years so be careful touching it.
    As for pressure test, yes! No sense replacing clogged galvanized pipe down stream if the water still has to pass through clogged pipe upstream.
     
  4. Jun 1, 2018 #4

    mdmbkr

    mdmbkr

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    Thanks gents for responding.

    As far as I can tell, all the supply piping within the house is copper. Some of it looked like cast iron to me, but after scraping it off, it's clearly copper. The plumbing is not original to the house, which was constructed with no plumbing at all as far as I know.

    I want to test the water pressure as you've recommended. How does this work? A static pressure test won't reveal obstructed pipes. I'm guessing I should get a pressure gauge that attaches to a hose bib near the street connection, and then measure the pressure with a faucet open somewhere?
     
  5. Jun 4, 2018 #5

    mdmbkr

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    After continuing to read about PEX system planning and other things, I'm beginning to think there might be some fundamental problems with the current plumbing system design in my house.

    Presently the hot water heater is about 60' of pipe away from where the supply enters the house. The first 30' is 3/4" copper, the next 30' is 1/2" copper with a few extraneous fittings left over from old plumbing.

    Then, to get to the upstairs bathroom, the hot water has to travel through about another 70' of 1/2" copper where it serves two sinks, a shower, and a tub. The same 1/2" supply delivers hot water to the downstairs bath and the kitchen. And there are a bunch of unneeded elbows and such.

    It takes about 90 seconds to get hot water at the faucet upstairs. So on one hand, increasing the pipe diameter might help with flow rate, but it would make it take even longer for the water to get hot.

    Pressure gauge arrives tomorrow, I'll post results here.

    Here are a couple photos of the mayhem .. ask away.

    0.jpg 1.jpg 2.jpg
     
  6. Jun 4, 2018 #6

    mdmbkr

    mdmbkr

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    The pics are kind of pointless without some annotations so here's a rudimentary attempt to point out what goes where. If it's not labeled it's probably a boiler pipe for heating the house, or gas line.
    0.jpg 2.jpg
     
  7. Jun 4, 2018 #7

    mdmbkr

    mdmbkr

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    Water pressure at hose bib closest to home inlet is 65 psi.
     
  8. Jun 5, 2018 #8

    mdmbkr

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    Static water pressure at home inlet is 65 psi. When I open two cold faucets in the upstairs bathroom the pressure is 58 psi.

    I guess the amount of pressure drop is related to the impedance to the water flow? So if the piping was straight and large diameter there would be a bigger drop .. I imagine if I had opened the hot tap instead of the cold tap, the pressure drop would have been even smaller.

    Can I take this as evidence that the convoluted paths of the pipes are restricting flow to the upstairs bathroom?
     
  9. Jun 5, 2018 #9

    wood4d

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    nj has homeowner permits 58 psi is good the sizing needs improvement in nj we feed a bathroom group with 3/4 and the 1/2 to the water heater is way too small. it is definately worth changing this mess
     
  10. Jun 5, 2018 #10

    chiraldude

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    Just so your expectations are realistic, you should do a flow test as close to the street inlet as possible. In my house for example I have about 60 psi static pressure from the street. I recently put in a T on the 3/4" pipe about 5' from the meter to connect my hose bibs to. I was expecting to get a really good flow for watering and car washing but it was not the case. 3 gal/min is the max flow from the street. Either the meter or the pipe to the street is restricting flow.
     
  11. Jun 6, 2018 #11

    WyrTwister

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    Our old water main from the meter to under the house ( pier & beam ) was 3/4" copper , which started leaking somewhere in the back yard .

    We replaced it with 1" White PEX . The ditch cost a lot more than the materials .

    Wyr
    God bless
     
  12. Jun 13, 2018 #12

    mdmbkr

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    Good point, thank you for that recommendation.

    The first fixture after the water meter is a hose bib plumbed with 3/4" pipe. I get a little over 7 GPM through that hose bib.

    When I take the shower head off the upstairs shower, running cold water, I get about 3.5 GPM - less than half the flow rate.
     
  13. Jun 13, 2018 #13

    TomFOhio

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    Find the piping going upstairs and see what size it is.
     
  14. Jun 13, 2018 #14

    mdmbkr

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    The piping going upstairs is 1/2" copper, both hot and cold. Those two pipes supply a shower, tub, toilet, and two sinks.

    I got an adapter to put the pressure gauge on the shower. As expected, the static pressure was around 60 psi. If I open the tub faucet (hot) it dropped to about 20 psi. If I also opened up the hot water to the two sinks, the pressure drops almost entirely off the scale.

    The cold water side of things isn't nearly as bad.

    Right now I don't intend to change those 1/2" pipes going upstairs. I think getting rid of the spaghetti in the basement could really make a big difference.
     
  15. Jun 14, 2018 #15

    mdmbkr

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    As wood4d pointed out, I will have to get a permit to do the install. Need to draw up plans and provide to the local plumbing inspector for the go-ahead.
     
  16. Jun 14, 2018 #16

    TomFOhio

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    Do you have to make a drawing and get permit for water lines or is that for drain work only? We don't need a permit for water
    piping changes where I live.
     
  17. Jun 14, 2018 #17

    WyrTwister

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    No permit or inspection for me .

    I will do as I please in my own house .

    Wyr
    God bless
     
  18. Jun 14, 2018 #18

    mdmbkr

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    I'm not sure exactly what level of planning I have to show, but I will need a permit and a go-ahead from the local inspector, according to the town hall.
     
  19. Jun 14, 2018 #19

    CT18

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    I think homeowner getting permits is a great idea. Remember WYR its not always going to be your house. If your not on a well what you do to the domestic water in your house can effect people down stream. Would you have liked to move into the home to find out the previous owner made structural changes and then covered them in drywall, not me. How about some shotty electrical work and then covered that up. I am in the construction industry and golf with several inspectors and i have heard the horror stories, some even fatal.
     
  20. Jun 14, 2018 #20

    mdmbkr

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    Before I start the project I will hire a plumber to replace the main shutoff valve inside the house. Would a professional plumber be offended if I sought his opinion on my planned layout?
     

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