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 could use 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 a floor or a wall, 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 a house with solid floors, you can lay pipes in an under-floor duct. Do not 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 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 create a shiny surface.
Things to Keep in Mind
Remember to always take pride in your work and that a job well done is likely to be rewarded with repeat work and best of all, recommendations for new jobs. There is nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth advertising 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 the place to look ‘spick and span’ after you leave – the only traces left of you having been there, should be a job well done!
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.
Semi-Flexible Plastic Pipe
However, when it comes to a semi-flexible plastic pipe, there are some further benefits. This is a pipe that is easy to work with as it is both easy to cut and to 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 however be tricky if you are working in a tiny space. The negatives with a semi-flexible plastic pipe is that it will need regular supporting and it might, unfortunately, 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 they are more expensive than the fittings for copper pipes. However, you do need less of them than for a 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 properly. 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.
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) or the light grey polybutylene – both of which are semi-flexible. A rigid plastic pipe widely used in plumbing, 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 not cause corrosion which is a common thing with both galvanised water pipes and tanks.
Plastic pipes are not only used for hot and cold water supplies but you can also use them 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 cutter 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.