Different types of valves

Valves

There are many different kinds of valves but when it comes to plumbing it is mainly four different ones that are used. These are called drain-valves, gate-valves, servicing valves and stop-valves. You can find them fitted in both hot and cold water supplies and they are used to cut off water from the entire system or if needed, just from individual branches. In this article I will tell you a bit more about two of these valves.

Gate-valves

Some valves can fully restrict the flow of water but gate-valves only have the capacity to restrict it slightly when opened. Therefore they are usually fitted to cold supply pipes. You can find them along pipes going from a cold water cistern as the water pressure is lower there. The control mechanism of many gate-valves is typically a solid gate (or portcullis) which is lowered to cut into the water flow when screwed. Most gate-valves are fitted with wheel-handles and they have to be opened completely open to avoid creating airlocks. They normally come with compression fittings and can be fitted way round. If you come across cold supplies from a cold water cistern that is not yet fitted with gate-valves, you can easily sort this out as it only requires a short length of pipe to be cut out. Rather than having to drain the cistern of water, you can use a cloth and polyethylene sheeting. Bung this up and place it against the outlet. By turning on the taps, the ‘bung’ should seal o the opening. If this does not work or if you so prefer so, you can always use a drain-easy-kit.

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Servicing valves

The water regulation stipulates that servicing valves should be fitted on pipes leading to ball-valves, or so called float-operated valves, on cold water, feed-and-expansion-cisterns as well as WCs. Most servicing valves that you come across should have a small ball fitted internally with a whole through it and this is so that a quarter turn is all that is needed to fully open or close the valve. This is operated by a small circular knob or by fitting a screwdriver into the slot. Service-valves used for installing washing machines generally have a tee fitting and a lever. It would be advisable to fit servicing valves before every single tap to allow them to be rewashered without having to drain the entire pipe and possibly also the cistern. Always leave a job in the same good state as you want to find your next one in. Best of luck!

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Taps and tap issues

Taps and valves

As a plumber you know how important taps and valves are to the plumbing system and it is important that all parts work as well as possible. All parts need to be kept in a good working order to avoid water leaks and therefore possible water damages to your home. It is also important that you can turn off the water if you need to, for an example if you happen to have a leak. One of the most common reasons for a call out as a plumber is a water leak. The reason for this can differ but it is often due to a packing or gland failing or due to a worn washer.

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Glands and packings

A packing or gland failing is basically when there is a leak from the top of the tap whenever it is open. A good thing is that a packing can easily be changed without having to turn off the water but you will have to remove both the tap head and the easyclean cover in order to do so. If you come across an older style of cross heads and have trouble getting it off, even after removing the grub screw – try tapping it gently with a hammer. If this still does not work, open the tap completely and unscrew the easyclean cover and place two small pieces of wood underneath it, before tightening the tap with the head down. Sometimes the easyclean cover is easy to remove and sometimes it is trickier. The thing to remember though is to always protect it with a small piece of cloth if you are forced to use any tools to shift it. Sometimes it helps to pour boiling water on it in order to shift it. You can replace traditional packing with wool covered in petroleum jelly. If you come across the more modern non rising spindle taps, you can easily change the rubber O-ring seals when needed. If a mixer tap is leaking at the base of the swivel nozzle, you can be sure that the O-ring or the washer needs replacing.

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Washers

A warn washer means that there is a leak from the actual spout rather than the tap and this happens when the tap is closed. How you go about changing the washer depends on what type of tap is in use. I would always advice you to keep a few spare tap washers to hand and make sure they are replaced regularly. If the washer and jumper cannot be separated you will have to replace both. You will generally have to turn off the water if you are replacing tap washers – unless it is a Supatap. As with many other things, tap washer comes in different designs and sizes. If the washer is of a brand name, the smooth side needs to come into contact with the seating. If the actual tap has gone or if the valve seat has gone, it can be re-cut or you can insert a replacement seat of nylon. This cannot be fitted to Supataps though.

Hiding pipe work

Hiding pipe

When working as a plumber you will most definitely come across people that do not want to have their pipes on display and when this is the case, you will have to cover up the pipes. This is normally not a big issue as most pipe-work can easily be covered up. The best way to do this is with home-made boxing using either plywood or you using proprietary products such as additional skirting boards or architraves in either wood or plastic. These will have extra space at the back in order to hide any running pipes. You can also use something called ‘mini-trunking’ and this is similar to what electricians use if they have a lot of loose electric cables. Whatever way you choose to cover up the pipes, if possible, always try to fit pipe insulation on both hot and cold water pipes. If the pipe you are working with have to pass through either floors or walls, always use a pipe sleeve around the pipe. This is not only to protect the pipe but it will also make the junction look nice and tidy. As always, allow space for the expansion of hot water pipes. If you are working in houses with solid floors, you can lay pipes in an under-floor duct. Never, ever lay pipes embedded in concrete! Every pipe and joint you ever work on has to be accessible so that any future work can be carried out easily. Also remember to insulate any pipes that are exposed to cold temperatures as to avoid cracked and leaking pipes. Sometimes hiding the pipe is not an option and the best way forward then is to paint the pipe in a suitable colour or if it is a copper pipe, polish it to shine.

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Things to keep in mind

Remember to always take pride in your work and that a job well done I likely to be rewarded with repeat jobs and best of all – recommendations for new jobs. There is nothing more powerful that word-to-mouth and you do not want to have a reputation of doing bad jobs. A job well done leading to new jobs with a previous customer’s friends or family is basically free advertising which in the long run means more work and more income as your good reputation builds. Another great tip is to take a few extra minutes after you have completed a job to clean up after yourself. You want to place to look spick and span after you leave – the only traces left of you should be a job well done!

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Copper pipe or plastic pipe

Copper or plastic?

So when it comes to deciding what pipe to use for your next plumbing job. Do you choose a copper pipe or the cheaper plastic pipe? When it comes to comparing a rigid plastic pipe with a copper pipe, the copper pipe will win on all counts but the price. A rigid plastic pipe is not even easier to cut or bend and it is just as difficult as the copper pipe to join. A plastic pipe will need more support clips than a copper pipe but there are still a risk that they will expand and sag.

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Semi-flexible plastic pipe

When it comes to a semi-flexible plastic pipe though, there are some further benefits. This is a pipe that is easy to work with as it is easy to cut and bend into gentle bends. It is also available in longer lengths which mean you will have to use fewer fittings. It is light in weight, making it easy to carry with you and you can even install it through floor joists – just like an electric cable. The joints for these pipes are called push-fit joints and they are easy to make and can also be undone if needed. You will only need a little bit of pressure to fit them, which could sometimes be tricky if you are working in a tiny space. The negatives with a semi-flexible plastic pipe is that it needs regular supporting and might still sag if it is carrying hot water. It will need extra earth connections if you are replacing a copper pipe, the range of fittings are quite limited and more expensive than the fittings for copper pipes. However, you do need less of them than for a copper pipe.

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Copper pipe

The most used material for pipes are still copper and in most cases, this is still the best option. You just need to learn how to join it. If you have any visible pipes in your home, copper is the material to go for. Not only do they look nice but if you are using capillary joints, the joints themselves will look very tidy. Copper pipe also have the best choice of fittings available. Another great thing is that you can get short and corrugated copper pipe that you can bend by hand – this is great for smaller jobs such as a basin. So copper pipe or plastic pipe? The choice is yours. Personally, I would always go for copper when possible.

Plumbing and working with plastic pipe

Plastic pipe

When it comes to plumbing, plastic pipes have been used for both drains and waste. Unfortunately it has not been used to carry hot water – until recently that is. The reason for this is that hot water will make the plastic pipe expand and this can lead to the pipe sagging.  Nowadays, plastic pipes are used in plumbing and the way to overcome previous issues is to make sure that the pipe is supported and to make sure it has enough room to expand. There are many different plastic pipes fitted for plumbing and you can choose between white polyethylene (also known as water pressure pipe), light grey polybutylene which are both semi-flexible. A rigid plastic pipe widely used is the cream-coloured Hunter Genova pipe (CPVC for short). Some of the benefits of using plastic pipes is that they are not only easy to use and light in weight but they can handle frost very well and they will cause corrosion which is a common thing with both galvanised water pipes and tanks.

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Plastic pipes are not only used for hot and cold water supplies but you can also use it with central heating systems. This is providing that the part of the pipe that is connected to the boiler itself is made of copper rather than plastic. Common plastic pipe sizes used are 15mm and 22mm and you often buy them in lengths of 3m pieces. They are easy to join to existing copper pipe so this should not cause you any issues. If you are looking for rolls, you can buy them in either 50m or 100m and this goes for cross-linked polyethylene and polybutylene pipe. If you are working with a CPVC pipe, which is more rigid, and you are looking for it to be joined, solvent welding is the solution. If you are joining semi-flexible pipes, you can either use brass compression fittings or just normal plastic push-fit fittings.

Cutting and bending

You can easily cut a rigid plastic pipe with a hacksaw, removing the burr with a sharp cutting knife or file it away. You can also use a pipe cuter for a rigid CPVC pipe. When it comes to cutting semi-flexible plastic pipe, I find the best thing to use is a pipe cutter of the secateurs type. You can easily bend a semi-flexible plastic pipe to about 90 degrees as long as it is done in a gentle curve rather a sharp bend and you can get brackets for this. Unfortunately you cannot bend a rigid CVPC pipe but it is still a bit more flexible than a copper pipe.

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Copper pipe and capillary joints

Copper pipe and joints

If you ever have to join two copper pipes together, you can use one of two joints: a capillary joint or a compression joint. Both of these joints can be found as straight pipe couplers, elbows, reducers, tees and tap and tank connectors. You can also use either brass or plastic push-fit joints when working with copper pipe. In this article I will tell you a bit more about the capillary joint.

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Capillary joint

The name given to this joint comes from the solder flowing between the small gap between the actual pipe and copper fitting in a capillary action. These come in two different types: end-feed and solder-ring (also known as Yorkshire). With the end-feed fittings you have to add your own solder and these are therefore cheaper. With the solder-ring fittings the solder comes as part of the fitting and this makes them easier to use. However, even if you are using a solder-ring fitting, it is always a good idea to carry some spare solders with you – just in case.

Just like old plumbing used to use lead pipes but moved to copper pipe, capillary fittings are nowadays sold with either a copper based solder or a silver one – no more lead. This is also in accordance with water regulations and pipes carrying drinking water. The biggest benefits of using capillary fittings are price (they are much cheaper than compression fittings) and they look much neater so will suit a location where the fittings cannot be hidden. The bad thing with capillary fittings is that once it has been made you are unable to adjust it. This can be an issue if you are using several elbows.

How to make a solder-ring capillary fitting:
  • Cut the ends of the pipe square
  • Deburr the cut clean the pipe with wire wool
  • Brush the inside of the fitting with a wire brush and rub with wire wool
  • Do NOT touch it with your fingers once cleaned
  • Smear a very thin layer of flux over the pipe and inside the capillary fitting
  • Assemble pipe and fitting
  • Apply flux
  • Apply heath very gently to pipe and fitting
  • Once a bright solder can be seen at the end of the fitting – the joint is done
  • Leave it to cool down
  • Using a damp cloth, wipe the joint to remove any excess flux
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How to make an end-feed capillary fitting:

The technique for end-feed capillary fittings is pretty much the same as for the capillary fittings. Once the fitting has been heated though, remove the blow-lamp and touch the solder in order to expose the end (obviously not with your hand). If you reached the correct temperature, it should flow into the joint itself.

Buying plumbing tools and equipment

Buying plumbing tools and equipment

 As a plumber you will need your fair share of tools and equipment in order to provide a good service for paying customers. There are generally two main places to go for your pipes, fittings and plumbing supplies and the first one is a plumber’s merchant. They specialises in all sorts of plumbing goods and even though they were first intended for the tradesmen, many now sell to home owners hoping to deal with certain plumbing jobs themselves. A great thing with a plumber’s merchant is that they are very knowledgeable and can often provide good advice when needed and they will often stock even the most unusual fittings. These are however rarely on display so it is useful if you know what you are looking for.

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DIY superstore

Another place where you can find plumbing supplies is a normal DIY superstore. Most of these will have an excellent range of everything from plumbing fittings to pipes and one of the great things with a DIY superstore is that have most things on display so it provides for easy browsing is you are not quite sure what you are looking for. Another great thing is that components are often sold in kits. This means that if you are looking to install a basin the kit contains all necessary fittings for this. You can also buy a complete waste pack for a modern sink if needed. Another great thing about DIY superstores is that they are often cheaper than the plumber’s merchant but you are not likely to get any advice from them and if can be tricky to find some of the more unusual fittings.

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Other stores

There are other places that often stock plumbing goods and you can normally find some at a regular hardware shop, a builder’s merchant or from a do-it-yourself shop. The range they hold might be quite limited and sometimes the prices are higher than in other places. Most bathroom centres or kitchen specialist stores often keep a good range of plumbing supplies so it might be worth popping in for a quick look. Plumbing goods of all sorts can also be ordered by mail order from suppliers of other products such as central heating suppliers. Obviously, in this day and time you can get most supplies online as well but you will need to know what you are looking for. Remember that many products are cheaper if you buy it in bulk. Once you have been in the business for a while you will learn where to go in order to get the most for your money.

Plumbing – pipes and fittings regarding water supply

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When it comes to plumbing, there are a lot of tools and equipment to learn about but this is far from the only thing a plumber needs to know about. Obviously you will need to know what tool to use for what job but you will also need to learn about all the different pipes on the market and how to fit them correctly. In domestic plumbing for an example, you generally use two different types of pipes. The first one is used to carry both hot and cold water to the fitting and the other one is used to removing the dirty water and carry it to the soil and waste pipes installed.  In this article, we will cover pipes and fitting when it comes to water supply.

Plumbing Background

 Let us start with a little bit of trivia. The word plumbing actually derives from the Latin word of lead and when you hear that lead pipe has traditionally been used for water systems in the United Kingdom you can see how the term plumbing came to be. Lead pipes have, for the most part, been replaced by copper pipes and this means that most houses nowadays have a copper plumbing system. When it comes to lead pipes used in houses, it is predominately in houses from the 1930s or built before that, where this can be found.

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Another type of pipe that can be used for water is the galvanised iron barrel piping. This can easily be recognised by the screwed ends and they use British Standard Pipe threads, also known as BSP. Threaded pipe joints are traditionally sealed with jointing compound and hemp. For all you who do not know what hemp is – it is a plant. This is often referred to as plumber’s hemp. If you are looking to use it, make sure that it is clean and dry.

You can also find stainless steel pipes in some houses and this is from the time when copper prices went up. One of the advantages of stainless steel pipes is that they do not cause corrosion to galvanised cisterns. It is however rarely used nowadays as it is more expensive than copper and it is a material that is more difficult to bend and to join. A newer thing on the market is plastic pipes for hot and cold water, including heating pipes. Any capillary fittings will need special flux. Happy plumbing!

Tool Hire For Plumbers

When you first start working as a plumber there are quite a few tools and other equipment that you will need to invest in. If you do not want to invest in tools, then why not get a professional plumber to do the work for you. In my home town, Moran plumbing are the best plumbers Liverpool has to offer. How much to spend on this really depends on how much work you intend to do. Obviously it is better to have your own tools but to start with, try to invest in the basic tools needed to deal with emergencies and then take it from there. Whether you look to add to your collection on a monthly basis or buy stuff as and when you need them, your own collection will soon grow.

Tools of the Trade

There are certain tools and equipment that are quite large and bulky and therefore difficult to store and some are just plain expensive. Luckily many of these items can often be hired. If you decide to hire tools or equipment, you are normally asked for a deposit which will then be returned to you once the hired goods have been returned. You will also be asked to show some proof of identity. In order to avoid any misunderstandings later on, make sure to check over any tools or pieces of equipment for damage or dirt – before leaving the shop. If there is any damage to any hire equipment, make sure to have it recorded by the shop as they might otherwise try to charge you for any damage caused. Another good thing when renting tools or equipment is that if you are not sure how to use them, you can always ask the person in the shop for a demonstration.

Plumbing Tools

Any consumable materials used in connection with the item you hire, is paid for by yourself. This could be anything from drill bits to butane gas canisters and carbon dioxide cylinders for pipe freezing kits. Generally speaking, if you hire equipment by the week you normally pay about double the price of hiring it by the day. Unless I know that I will definitely finish a job in 24 hours, I tend to hire by the week or weekend if possible.

Hire Plumbing Tools
Plumbing tools with pipes

Always be aware that sometimes things might (and will) go wrong and you might need to dedicate more time and effort on a job that you originally thought. If this happens you do not want to have to rush a job in order to try to return the equipment on time. The best thing to do is to contact the hire shop and try to extend the hire. This is normally not an issue, unless someone else is waiting to hire that same equipment. If this is the case and you are returning your hired tools too late, many hire shops will charge you by the hour. If in doubt, ask for assistance.

The Right Tools for the Job

As with any profession, getting kitted for the job at hand and making sure to have the correct tools for the job are almost as important as knowing what you are doing. You will need a lot of different tools if you are hoping to work as a successful plumber and there are a lot of different types to choose in between. As with any type of job, you get good, solid tools and not so great tools. In my opinion it is therefore worth investing in good quality ones that will last you a long a time. Once you have purchased your tools, remember to take good care of them. Keep them clean, sharp and dry and occasionally smear them with a thin coating of oil.

Gripping Wrench

Gripping Wrenches

Gripping wrenches are always good to have and the largest and in my opinion, the most useful one is the Stillsons. They are designed for gripping round pipes. They should never be used for turning nuts that you are hoping to reuse and they should also never be used on copper pipes as they can come to damage and distort them. If you ever have to remove old steel pipe from a galvanised hot water tank, you might find that a large Stillsons is the tool for the job. I would recommend to keep two different size Stillsons in your tool box. I use an 8 inch and a 14 inch pair. If you would ever need a larger one, say a 24 inch one, these could always be hired.

stillson wrench

If you need a tool to grip on to something and basically giving you an extra set of hands, I would use a self-grip wrench called Molegrips. Newer designs have slightly curved jaws, allowing it to be more effective on different types of pipes and on stiff nuts.

Waterpump Pliers

Waterpump pliers are also known as gland nut or slip-joint pliers. Unlike many other gripping wrenches these are actually very useful for turning nuts. This is because of the serration on the pliers allows a firm and safe grip on the nut. Another good thing with waterpump pliers is that they can be set to different jaw openings.

Water Pump Pliers

A useful but not necessarily an essential tool for a plumber is the vice. It can be used either to hold pipes when making joints or to hold on to fittings when dismantling them. It you are working on a copper pipe, make sure you are using a vice with pipe jaws as they are less likely to distort or damage it. If you want to buy any of these wrenches I would like to recommend local suppliers in Liverpool but to be honest you get the best prices at Plumb Centre, so go there.