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!
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.
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 as well as 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.
The name given to this joint comes from the solder flowing between the small gap that is 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.
As you know, lead pipes was frequently used in plumbing back in the days but since, there has been a move to copper pipes. It is the same thing with capillary fittings. These are nowadays sold with either a copper based solder or a silver one – lead is no longer used. This is also in accordance with water regulations and pipes carrying drinking water. The biggest benefit of using capillary fittings is definitely the price. However, they are not only much cheaper than compression fittings, they also 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 and 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 heath very gently to both 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
How to Make an End-Feed Capillary Fitting:
The technique for making 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.
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, should you need it. They are great for stocking even the most unusual of fittings but these are however rarely on display so it is useful if you know what you are looking for.
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. The best thing with them though, is that a DIY superstore have most things on display so it provides for easy browsing if 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 for that job will contain all necessary fittings needed. You can also buy a complete waste pack for a modern sink, if you need one. Another great thing about DIY superstores is that they are often cheaper than the plumber’s merchant. A negative thing is that you are not likely to get any professional advice from anyone working there and it can also be tricky to find some of the more unusual fittings.
There are other places that often stock plumbing goods and you can normally find some basic stuff 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 the specialist stores. 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 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 in that case, you will need to know exactly what you are looking for. Remember that many products are cheaper if you buy them 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.
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 remove dirty water and to 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 and Different Types of Pipes
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 1930’s or houses built before that, where this can be found.
Another type of pipe that can be used for water is the galvanised iron barrel pipe. These 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. Hemp 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 these were used and installed during a time when copper prices went up, making copper too expensive to use. One of the advantages of stainless steel pipes is that they do not cause corrosion to galvanised cisterns. They are however rarely used nowadays as the price of things have changed once again and you will now find that stainless steel pipes are more expensive than copper pipes. Stainless steel pipes are also more difficult to bend and to join. A newer type of pipe on the market is the plastic pipe which can be used for both hot and cold water, including heating pipes. Any capillary fittings for these will however need special flux. Happy plumbing!
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. If you do decide to make a purchase – how do you know how much to spend? I would say that 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 you see any existing 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.
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.
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.
With acquiring any service, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Acquiring plumbing services, is no different than making a purchase online, you have to vet the company providing the goods. Installing a new boiler for example, can cost upwards of £1000, so be careful.
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 can 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 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 re-use 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, it could always be hired.
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 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.
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. I find that you get the best prices and most for your money at Plumb Centre, so go there.
As mentioned before, a plumber needs a lot of different tools in order to do his job. In this article I will mention three of these tools: cutters, pliers and plungers. The first tool is the pipe cutter.
This is used when you need to make neat cuts to a copper pipe and it is by far the quickest and easiest tool to use. Unlike a hacksaw, a pipe cutter does not cause metal filing and sharp marks on the outside of the pipe and it also creates a very neat and square finish to the end of the pipe you are working on. A pipe cutter can sometimes cause slight marks on the outside of the pipe but if this is the case, most pipe cutters have a tapered reamer at the end or in the middle of it, allowing you to smooth the pipe after cutting it. I hope this goes without saying but all pipes and fittings are to be smooth on the inside. There are special pipe cutters for pipes in difficult to reach places or for pipes close to walls. These are called pipe-slicers or mini pipe cutters.
There are several different gripping wrenches on the market and that can be very useful for a plumber. The second type of tool that I will mention is pliers. Personally, I find that a pair of general purpose pliers always comes in handy and my choice of pliers is what normally is referred to as an electrician’s type. As these come with rubber handles, it makes it easier to grip and more comfortable to use, especially after an extended length of use. The easiest tool to use when removing floorboard nails is a pair of pincers.
Now, the third tool I am going to mention is what a lot of people might first think of when it comes to plumbers and plumbing works. It is also a tool that most people already have in their homes, just in case of an emergency: the plunger. Depending on the seriousness of the drain or waste blockage, specialist equipment is sometimes needed or you might even have to use a specialist drain clearing firm. However, very often you can sort out the blockage by using a normal plunger. As I mentioned, most houses will normally have one of these but in any case, it should definitely be part of any professional plumber’s tool kit. It is cheap and cheerful and it can definitely save your day!
As a plumber you will need a wide variety of tools in order to do your job properly. I find that spanners are one of the most useful ones. They come in of lot of different varieties and sizes and which one to use depends on the job at hand.
Immersion Heater Spanner
Immersion heater spanners are often used to deal with electric immersion heaters that need to be screwed to the top of side of a hot water cylinder. They have very large nuts, often around 89mm, hence the need of a very large spanner in order to tighten or loosen the nuts. Even if you try to use the largest adjustable spanner you can find for this job, it will not be large enough but look to further as this is where the immersion heater spanner comes in. They can be purchased rather cheaply but can also be hired if needed.
However, the most useful type of spanner is probably the adjustable spanner. These spanners are always the best choice for doing up and undoing nuts as using pliers and various gripping wrenches will not only damage the nuts you are working on but can also cause damage to the tool itself. When it comes to adjustable spanners you normally put them in one of the three main categories: auto-pattern, crescent pattern and girder pattern spanners.
Another common type of spanner, and a type that is very handy for a plumber, is the open-ended spanner. These are often used for compression joints, providing that you can fit the right size spanner with the right size joint. In these cases you will normally need two open-ended spanners: one for the actual nut and one to prevent the fitting from turning. The bath (or basin) spanner is another useful spanner and these are used when dealing with the nuts and joints that hold the taps in place under baths. The basin wrench falls under this category as well and this tool allows you to get into the most inaccessible corners underneath the bath.
For the novice plumber, it might seem like there are a ridiculous high number of spanners on the market and it can be difficult to know which ones to get. A solution to this problem could be the universal plumbing spanner that is now available on the market. They will allow you to deal with most sizes and this includes dealing with angled basin-nut jaws. Many plumbers find this a very useful and cost-effective tool, especially if you are only just starting up. Personally, I think you can never have too many spanners and the only type of spanners you will most likely never use in plumbing are ring spanners and socket spanners.