DIY Plumbing: Be Your Own Plumber

Forget expensive plumbing bills. Modern materials and fixtures have made DIY plumbing a snap.


| August/September 2006



DIY Plumbing - valve, drain tube and supply hose

A valve, and drain and a flexible supply hose. DIY plumbing projects will familiarize you with all three.


Photo by Scott Hollis

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer — and especially if you live in an old house — at some point you’ll likely want to improve a bathroom in your home. Fortunately, advances in plumbing fixture design and materials have made many upgrades simpler than ever and DIY plumbing in general a viable proposition. The general knowledge and instructions outlined below will enable you to save money by handling some routine plumbing projects yourself.

Replacing a Faucet

New sink faucets typically install easily, thanks to flexible water supply hoses that connect the copper water supply pipe to the fixture. These hoses are reinforced with braided stainless steel mesh and have threaded connections at both ends. Connecting the faucet to your home’s supply hose is as simple as screwing the two hoses together and tightening them with a small adjustable wrench. If you already have this flexible hose setup in your bathroom, then upgrading your faucets will take less than half an hour. If you have an old copper-pipe installation, then the job may take several hours.

If your house is more than a couple of decades old, you probably have solid copper water supply pipes that connect directly to your faucets. In the past, changing a faucet in this situation required precisely cutting and soldering the copper pipe and faucet together, but now all that has changed. If the faucet you’re replacing is connected directly to copper pipes, then you won’t even have to unsolder it to remove the old fixture. Instead, just shut off the water supply valve, cut the copper pipes with an inexpensive pipe cutter so at least several inches of copper pipe extend from the floor or wall, then lift out the old faucet.

Now hook up some flexible supply lines. The best way to connect a flexible supply line to copper piping is by installing a shut-off valve that includes a threaded compression joint. One end of this valve is threaded to accept the flexible water supply hose that connects to the faucet, and the other end slips over the end of a half-inch copper pipe and tightens with a compression ring. Simply slide the threaded compression nut onto the copper supply pipe, then slip on the compression ring. It’s a brass ring with tapered edges, which barely fits around the outside of the half-inch copper pipe. Push the valve body onto the end of the supply line, slide the ring up to it and tighten the compression nut. When you tighten the nut, the thin edges of the ring squeeze against the outside surface of the pipe, sealing it without solder.

Replacing a Toilet

Most weekend DIYers will have no trouble changing out a toilet, provided they are savvy to a couple of installation tricks. It’ll take just a few hours and a few wrenches to get the job done.

Start by shutting off the water supply valve to your existing toilet. Remove the water from the tank and bowl by flushing to expel most of the water, and then soak up the rest with a sponge. The drier you can get the tank and bowl the better.





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