Literally. Since the house had been ransacked and stripped of most metals I knew I did not want to run copper lines, so I went with PEX pipes. From what I was told I had two options for installing PEX, Trunk-and-branch or Home-run manifold. I selected the Home-run. Here is a great definition I found of both systems:
Trunk-and-branch systems are easy, but waste a lot of water. Traditional systems consist of large-diameter (usually 3/4 in.) trunk lines to distribute water throughout a house. Smaller branch lines (1/2 in. and 3/8 in.) tee off to feed individual fixtures. Trunk-and-branch systems have several disadvantages, notably a large number of fittings, which are costlier, slower to install, and more likely to leak than a single run of pipe. Also, a lot of water goes down the drain before hot water reaches the faucet.
Home-run manifold systems use the least hot water and the most pipe. A large-diameter (3/4 in.) main water line feeds the manifold; smaller lines run from the manifold to each fixture. Any fixture in the house can be shut off at the manifold. And because home-run systems don’t rely on a large pipe for distribution, you save both water and energy. Simply put, you don’t have to leave the faucet running as long before hot water reaches the sink. This design flexibility has a cost, however. Because a dedicated line is going to each fixture, you use a lot of PEX and drill a lot of holes.
Using a lot of PEX is an understatement. With my father taking the lead I spent most of my time running to get more supplies. Between the blue (cold), red (hot), and white (neutral) we probably ran about 800 feet of PEX pipe throughout the house. If we weren’t running out of pipe, then we were running out of crimp clamps, elbows, tees, or couplers. Fortunately we did not have to drill a lot of holes as we were able to follow the air ducts installed by Baker, Bauer, and Fish, my HVAC company or use existing holes left once all the knob and tub had been pulled.
The only negative experience in the process was the discovery that I had gotten the wrong manifold. I ordered all my initial supplies from Keidel Plumbing, so they could be delivered to the house. I requested a 3/4″ inlet, by 1/2″ outlet 24 trunk manifold. After determining all the runs and getting the manifold anchored to wall and the branch circuits connected we discovered I had gotten a 1″ outlet. No worries, I returned the 3/4″ pipe and got 1″. Unfortunately that measurement was the inside diameter, so what I actually needed to make the pipe work was 1.25″, That’s when things got bad. No one in Cincinnati carries that size PEX. I was going to be forced to special order 300′ of the pipe; I needed less than a 100.
I was sent after a reducer coupling. Keidel had no clue what I was talking about and even went as far to tell me my plumber (that be me) didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about. I turned to the manufacture, NIBCO. They knew exactly what I was asking for, but they don’t sell direct to individuals. I got Keidel on a conference call and they stressed that NIBCO only state the minimum order not the price. Minimum order was 10, I needed 2. They were willing to order the part, but I would have to buy all 10. At that point I decided to return the manifold.
In taking the system off the wall and putting it back in the box we discovered the box was labeled for what I ordered, but the wrong manifold was inside. Keidel didn’t even offer an apology, they passed the blame onto NIBCO warehouse for mis-packaging. That part was a special order that took a week to get in. Given the error clearly was not mine the only thing they offered was to not charge me a restocking fee for the return. I called their competitor, Ferguson Supply, explained the situation and they contacted NIBCO and had the part overnighted. For that great customer service I’ve decided to get my ceiling fans from Ferguson instead of Keidel. We only lost two days during which time we focused on the PVC pipe (drains and vents) install.
For as easy as the PEX install was, running the PVC has been the polar opposite. During my first plumbing rough-in inspection my inspector only flagged my use of metal straps to hold the PEX runs, that I had not put separation between the red and blue lines, and that I did not have insulation on at least the hot pipes. Easy fixes. The PVC errors and fixes not so much.
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