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Thread: Replacing galvanized water pipe with copper?

  1. #1

    Default Replacing galvanized water pipe with copper?

    During the course of trying to tee off my main water supply pipe (to
    feed a new sprinkler system), I've encountered the need to replace my
    old 3/4" galvanized steel supply pipe with 1" copper pipe. I've
    received quotes from three plumbers ranging from $700 to $1000, so I'm
    trying to figure out whether it's the type of project that a plumbing
    newbie can handle. I'm nervous about screwing it up and being without
    water for several days.

    I have a photo illustration of the project the project on my website
    (http://snice.net/pipe/) that will give you an idea of the scale.
    It's about 20" from the union with the city pipe to my copper
    sprinkler tee. It runs uphill and jinks slightly, and having never
    worked with copper before, I'm uncertain as to whether I'll be working
    with a blowtorch to bend or joint my along.

    Also with the connections, is it as easy as it looks? Just get a pipe
    wrench and screw the pipes together?

    Appreciate any insight.

  2. #2
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    You came to a plumbing forum to ask plumbers how to do the work yourself to avoid paying a plumber?
    I'm not rich, but when my fuel injector went...I forked over the 1200 to have it replaced, mechanics were strangely reluctant to give me free tutorials on the 1 day project.
    If you start this, then wind up calling a plumber to finish it...it will likely cost more (most guys I know will mark up redoing unlicensed work.

  3. #3

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    Well, the larger forum is geared toward do-it-yourselfers, so I think it's a fair question to ask.

    At any rate, you being a plumber, what would you quote the job at?

  4. #4

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    1. Dig it up....COMPLETELY.

    2. Purchase enough soft copper to do the job and the appropriate valves/fittings.

    3. Call a couple of plumbers. Time wont be more than 4 hours...maybe 2 if you have things completely prepped.


    OR....do it yourself if you have a weekend to kill by making 4/5 trips to the Depot. Sweating copper aint rocket science but the learning curve will present a problem.

  5. #5

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    I'm strongly considering doing it myself. I don't mind making trips to Home Depot and such. What I need right now is someone to take a look at my situation and tell me what fittings and parts I'll need to do the job.

    This picture is a close up of what I hope is my starting point.

    This picture is my endpoint.

    Can you shed some light on what I need to purchase, aside from enough copper pipe to span these two points?

  6. #6
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    There are some things you need to be aware of. Ridged copper pipe is connected to fittings by soldering. This is commonly known as, "Sweating". It is not screwed together. For underground, you need to use type K pipe which is heavier gauge than that used inside. If you are teeing off for a sprinkler system, you are creating a cross connection which requires the use of a backflow prevention device to avoid the possibility of contaminating your household water and/or the city water supply. Ridged copper, especially type K, does not make sharp bends without fittings. While the process is fairly simple, you must realize that each joint requires several steps. Cutting the pipe to length, deburring, cleaning the pipe end, cleaning the fitting interior, applying flux, heating the joint until the solder will flow by just touching it to the hot surface, wiping the joint, and allowing it to cool before any movement. The more joints, the longer it takes. There are two types of torches to select from. Propane or Mapp gas. Mapp gas is what most plumbers use as it is hotter, and especially on 1" type K this is an important consideration. Now comes the bad news. A poorly made joint made hold water for a long time and appear to be just fine. Then, long after it is buried, it can let go. I won't say you can do this, but I will suggest that this might not be the best time to do OJT. As to how much it should cost for a professional, that is impossible to really answer. First, you don't really give all of the details, such as the backflow preventer, that would enter into pricing. Second, the going rate for plumbers will vary from place to place.

  7. #7

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    Gary,

    I'm aware of the need for a backflow preventer for my system and I've already purchased a Febco double check valve for this purpose. My questions are focused on replacing the section of galvanized pipe between the meter and the point at which I tee off to feed the sprinkler system.

    I'm open to educating myself on the nuances of sweating copper.

    Thanks!

  8. #8

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    Kind of hard to read the photos but it looks like you need 3/4 inch male threads at the meter (male adapter). If the coupling at the house end is brass you will need a male adapter there also. If not, you will need a female adapter. LOTS of teflon tape at the brass/copper connections

    In between you need pipe. Soft copper comes in a roll and you can bend it to fit (to a point).

    To solder

    1) cut pipes cleanly making sure that the section of soft copper is round and will slip into a fitting.


    2) Use sandcloth to COMPLETELY clean the pipe and fittings. This is VERY important

    3) Apply flux to pipe and fittings.

    4) Heat fitting moving the flame around to get the backside

    5) In a few seconds (1' pipe with a generic torch maybe 15/20) touch the solder to the pipe fitting. If it melts and flows EASILY you are doing something right. It doesn't take a lot...maybe an inch off the solder roll.

    6) It will cool solid in about 30/60 seconds. Touch it with your tongue to test.

    You can't have ANY water in the pipe...it won't get hot enough. If it gets TOO hot it will burn out the flux and the solder will not flow in smoothly. The same will happen if you dont CLEAN/sand the pipes/fittings well.

    I hate plumbing. That's why I am an electrician.

  9. #9
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Alectrician was sounding like a plumber until he said to touch it with your tongue.
    Yuck! You know that flux just tastes horrible.

    Another point to make, is to make sure the pipe is open somewhere when soldering. Hot air expands and it has to go somewhere. You don't want it to be the last joint you solder.

  10. #10
    Sprinkler Guy Wet_Boots's Avatar
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    Why would anyone be wanting to sweat any fittings in a supply line, when there are waterworks compression fittings to use? Five elbows and a tee would be replaced by one compression tee. If the guy can buy a length of soft L, and the appropriate compression fittings, he'd be home free. No need to solder anything.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wet_Boots
    Why would anyone be wanting to sweat any fittings in a supply line, when there are waterworks compression fittings to use? Five elbows and a tee would be replaced by one compression tee. If the guy can buy a length of soft L, and the appropriate compression fittings, he'd be home free. No need to solder anything.

    For me, it's a matter of trusting the compression connectors. It was YEARS before I started trusting the compression angle stops and now I only trust them if I install them.

    But, like the sign says, I'm an electrician.

    By the way, I didn't trust the PB in the 80's and I don't trust the new generation of products (PEX ? ) today.

  12. #12
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Not sure if the soldered joints will be underground but if they are you can't use regular solder. It should be brazed, silver soldered at a minimum or you can use a pack joint, or flair fitting.

  13. #13
    Sprinkler Guy Wet_Boots's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cass
    Not sure if the soldered joints will be underground but if they are you can't use regular solder. It should be brazed, silver soldered at a minimum or you can use a pack joint, or flair fitting.
    I think 'pack joint' is Ford's term for their compression fittings. I've used Meuller and McDonald compression fittings, with similar good results. I like to group them together and call them 'waterworks' compression fittings, since they seem to be the sort of thing you find at the same distributors you buy water meters and fire hydrants from. I see meters set in basements, using these compression fittings on the supply side, so they must trust them to not blow off the copper.

    I haven't bought a 20 foot length of soft L copper in a long while, so how easy that would be to obtain, I'm not certain.

  14. #14
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cass
    Not sure if the soldered joints will be underground but if they are you can't use regular solder. It should be brazed, silver soldered at a minimum or you can use a pack joint, or flair fitting.

    Cass...you're a mean, mean person...hehehe
    Brazing ...for someone who hasn't soldered...I have a mental image of melted couplings, annealed pipe and flung tools brewing in my head.

  15. #15
    In the Trades kordts's Avatar
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    Aren't brazing and silver soldering the same thing? Solder joints are okay under ground, just not under slabs.

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