This past Sunday ended up being the best day for me to mess with the hot and cold water. I needed a window of time where we were not going to need water for 3-4 hours. I was also putting this off a little bit because I knew it would be nerve wracking and a pain in the butt. It was both.
My mission was to replace the leaking and corroded globe valves that cut off the supply of water to the kitchen. The old valves would be replaced with ball valves, which are superior for this application. The nerve wracking part was because both these valves are located close to floor joists, the hot water line even runs right up against the two joists. Job two was to add a tee and a third isolation valve which will serve the ice maker on the fridge.
Most people, and this was true for us previous to the renovation, have a small saddle valve that actually pieces your cold water line when installed to take water to the fridge. This is usually installed underneath the sink. Considering our fridge would be located at the opposite end of the kitchen from the sink, 21 feet away, this arrangement did not make sense. I had to cut into and sweat the cold water line anyway so why not do it right?!
I only have the end result to show you as I was too busy cursing and fuming to remember to take pics along the way.
So where did it all go wrong? Well the first valve installed pretty easily. That would be the lower one of the two on the left. I actually sweated the pipes connected to the tee and the 90 degree elbow on my workbench, holding the pipes in a vice. The one mistake I made here is the drain built into the valve should face down, not sideways. The old valves were like this too so I’m not the only dummy.
Next I sweated the valve for the ice maker branch, which is the one that goes down and to the right. This should have been easy, and it seemed that way. But more on that later.
Next it was time to tackle the hot water line. As you can see it runs along the bottom of a big laminated beam (made from several 2×8’s nailed together). It turned 90 degrees towards the kitchen, running along another joist. I cut the 90 degree turn out and cut the pipe back so it was not longer so close to the regular joist. But I still had to make two sweat joints close to the big laminated beam, where the new 90 would go. No way around that without replacing a bunch of the piping.
This turned out to be one of the biggest pains in this whole job. For some reason water kept trickling out of this pipe. Just as I would get everything all sanded and flux applied, some water would drip out. I bent the pipe as far as I could to dump it out, I tried to use a shop vac, it just kept dripping out occasionally. This meant that when I did get everything in place and tried to solder it, I could not get the pipe hot enough to melt the solder. After two tries I got it to melt, but they were the worst solder joints I’ve ever seen, and I’ve made some bad ones.
Despite the bad look of the soldering I needed to see if they were watertight. So I turned on the water to the whole house and listened for leaks. Surprisingly the ugly solder joints did not spray water all over. What did spray water all over was the isolation valve for the ice maker.
I did see one little drip of water from my problematic elbow. So I took a trip to the store and bought a new valve and a push-on fitting. The push-on fittings are a lot more expensive than a sweat one, but they are fool proof, and that was what I needed.
So I got home, sweated in the new valve and installed the push-on fitting. I also bought some more clips to hold the pipe up and I bent up the some of old ones taking them off for the second time. I bought 1/2″ for my 1/2″ pipe. But they were too small, so I had to have Irene hold the pipe up as I used the string you see to temporarily support the pipe. I turned on the water the second time only have have even more water come out. I had forgotten to close two of the valves!! After correcting that problem we went a third time. That darn ice maker valve was still leaking! It was leaking from almost the same spot as the first time! I think what was happening is that the valves fit loosely on the pipe and the solder would actually run and pool at the bottom of the joint instead of being sucked up into it like it should. Either that of the larger gap of the loose fit was too much for the solder to do the wicking action it is supposed to do. Either way I didn’t feel like going to the store again. I took a shot at trying to re-heat the pipe and just adding solder. A solid minute or so of heating it and I was able to get some solder to melt in and around the top where the gap was – the fourth time ended up being the charm with no leaks!
Back to those 1/2″ clips that were too small. I later went back to the store and bought the next size up, 3/4″. Those were too big! I guess you have to bend the 1/2″ ones out? Or they were manufactured incorrectly. How stupid!
Now about half-way though this job I started kicking myself for not using PEX. You don’t have to sweat or solder PEX. It is flexible so you can make gradual bends without fittings. For sharp bends you still need fittings. Speaking of fittings they have a barb onto which the PEX slides over. Then a crimp ring gets tightened down to keep the PEX in place. The tool to do the crimping isn’t cheap but I think it would pay for itself in time saved and less frustration pretty quickly. There are two things that kept me from doing that. The location of the valves meant I would still have to put short pieces of copper on either side of the valves so I could support the valves. And I’d have to figure out how to support the valves from the side or just hang them. Normally with PEX the isolation valves are located on a manifold from which multiple lines branch off of. The other obstacle is the big box home improvement stores still don’t carry much PEX supplies. I’d have to special order it or go to a specialty plumbing house, the kind that isn’t open on weekends. I have vowed that if I have to do anything semi-major with the hot or cold water plumbing again it’s going to be in PEX. So Home Depot and Lowes: why don’t you start carrying the stuff? This consumer is ready to buy.