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Honey Do List: Evolution of plumbing

We’ve seen a lot of burst water pipes in the last few days, as we experienced our first real frigid temperatures of the season.

Who knows? Here in Alabama, we may or may not have seen the last of it. This might be a good time to review some types of plumbing and how it has evolved in our area.

Many older homes will have galvanized water pipe. Galvanized pipe is very durable, but it can freeze and burst. Galvanized pipe can rust from the inside out, restricting water flow and causing obstructions.

Galvanized pipe can be difficult to handle and replace. Cutting and threading needs to be done with specialized tools, and long rigid pipe can be hard to handle.

Some homes may have copper plumbing. Copper replaces the job of threading with sweating, which is done with a torch and solder.

Repairs can also be accomplished with compression fittings. Copper pipe was always considered a premium feature in a house, but with the mineral content in our water, pin holes can develop over time. Sometimes these aren’t discovered unti a lot of damage is done.

Polybutylene plumbing came about with manufactured homes. Its flexibility and crimp ring fittings made it very easy to install.

Polybutylene has been removed from the market and is hard to come by these days. Fittings tend to get fragile and break over time, and a special crimper is required to repair it.

Most of you will be familiar with PVC and CPVC pipe. This pipe is lightweight, easy to cut, inexpensive and is easily installed or repaired with fittings that “glue” in. PVC is used for cold water, while CPVC is used for hot water applications coming off the water heater.

Next week we’ll look at the pros and cons of PVC/CPVC, the advantage of PEX and the new Sharkbite fittings.

Remember, help is just around the corner at your local hardware store.

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