Leak-Free Plumbing

By: GeraldJenkins

Fool-proof plumbing tips to prevent leaks

Leaking Faucet

If your outdoor faucet leaks around the handle when you turn it on, you either have a loose packing nut or a bad packing washer. First try tightening the nut with a wrench or pliers. (The size and type of nut varies a bit with faucet styles.) If the nut is tight but the leak persists, shut off the water to the faucet inside the house, remove the faucet handle from the outside faucet and unscrew the nut. You should be able to pull off the old packing washer and take it to a hardware store to find an exact replacement.

Older faucets may have a wad of string, called valve packing, instead of a packing washer. If so, pick up new packing (graphite-coated string) at the hardware store, unwind the old packing and wind on the new clockwise. The packing nut should compress it tightly. You may have to wind on one layer, tighten the nut and then repeat the process to fill the space around the stem completely with packing string.

Better Pipe Cutting

It’s difficult to cut a thin metal pipe, such as a P-trap, with a hacksaw without squashing the pipe or mangling the cut. To make a nice cut, insert a section of wood closet rod or handrail into the end of the pipe to be cut. Wrap one end of the rod with tape to fill out the rod to the pipe’s inner size. Clamp the wood in a vise and cut through both the pipe and the wood.

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Transitions to Other Types of Pipe

If you’re adding a guest bath or finally getting to that laundry tub you’ve been promising for the past five years, you’ll have to join PEX to the existing system. Make sure you shut off the main water supply, then drain the lines. Use the special transition fittings shown to transition from copper, CPVC or steel. Solder, glue or thread on the transition fitting, then crimp PEX line on the barbed fitting.

Note: Plumbing codes vary on allowing brass/steel connections. If they’re allowed, be sure to apply liberal amounts of both Teflon tape and pipe joint compound to prevent reaction between the two metals.

Choose Flexible Supply Tubes

The skinny copper or chrome supply tubes used to connect faucets and toilets are tricky to cut, bend and align. But you don’t have to put up with them. When you’re replacing a faucet or toilet, use flexible supply hoses with a braided covering instead. They have rubber gaskets at each end and don’t require much force to seal. They’re available in many lengths and are flexible enough to fit almost any configuration. The only trick is buying a connector with the correct size nuts on the ends. Take your old tubing and the nuts on each end along with you to the store to be sure of an exact match. Start the nuts carefully and hand-tighten. Then tighten an additional half turn. Avoid overtightening. It’s easy to tighten the nuts a little more if the joint leaks.

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