How hard is it to DIY this plumbing job yourself?

User Forum Topic
Submitted by flu on January 15, 2017 - 5:53am

The water shutoff valve into the house stopped working awhile ago, and I figure now's a good time to replace it.

I'd like to replace it with something like

I feel like being cheap and was thinking DIYing this, with a plumber on standby in case i foobar it.

All you folks that know how to turn a wrench, how hard is this?

Or am I grossly underestimating the difficulty of replacing this? I'm thinking, rust/corrosion for 20+ years and this thing is going to be a a real PITA to deal with...

Submitted by Hobie on January 15, 2017 - 7:41am.

Replace the pressure regulator too. And get the ball valves with sweat (smooth bore) connections on both sides.

After you shut off the water from the street. Wire brush the top and bottom elbows to remove the paint. Then heat both top and bottom to remove assembly straight out in one piece. Not top then bottom.

Propane might do the job, but a little hotter gas(Mapp)will make your life easier. The trick is to heat fast and get out. You don't want to cook the seals in both the valve and regulator.

Emery cloth or scotchbright the inside and outside of all new parts, paste flux, and acid core solder. Heat one side and apply solder to the other. At the correct temp, it will flow around easily. Not too much or it will overflow. Just a dab or two of the solder is all it needs.

Preassemble all parts for perfect fit before soldering.

If the pipes are still draining a bit of water, stuff a wad of Wonder white bread into the pipe. No crust. It will block the water long enough to dry and solder. Then will open the closest outside bib to blow it out when finished.

Turn water back on slowly to avoid 'slamming' and possible creating a new leak.

Set the water pressure to about 60psi. Makes it easier on the dishwasher and water maker valves. You won't notice any difference in the shower.

You can do this!

Submitted by flu on January 15, 2017 - 8:23am.

Thanks hobbie. I have a propane torch, but maybe this is a good excuse for me to go get a mapp one.

So if I understand you correctly,

1. I need to remove both the valve the regulator together, by desoldering the elbows from both ends.....

2. Since I end up desoldering the both the valve and the regulator, I might as well replace the regulator too since it's 20 years old too

My concern is that I don't know if the regulators built today are going to last as well as things built 20 years ago, that's why I was hoping to keep the old one. I'm finding a lot of the new plumbing hardware just isn't as reliable.

Do you have a recommendation on a brand of valve and regulator? I think the diameter of my pipes are 1"....Given that the valve as a "1" on it :)

For example, what is the difference between

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Watts-1-in-Le...

https://www.amazon.com/Watts-LF25AUB-Z3-...

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Watts-1-in-Le...

besides the $70-$130 price difference. I'll gladly pay for the one that costs more, if it means it's of higher quality. But are you really getting more?

Submitted by Hobie on January 15, 2017 - 9:59am.

You can clean regulators but they tend to get 'soft' with age. You will see this as pressure fluctuation when taking shower and washing machine starts. Properly functioning regulator with a good supply ( ie. not a old house with a undersized supply line) will not notice flow fluctuations.

The larger reg ($126)is what you want as it has higher flow capacity. Watts is good brand. Regs tend to be ok wrt long term reliability.

#1 Yes, the horizontal section closest to house. Heat the elbows only not the pipe. Tape several layers of aluminum foil to the house with a cutout for the pipe. It will help protect the house paint from your torch. Aim the flame away from the building.

Heat will conduct into the wall through the pipe. Be wary of fire. Bucket of water is a good idea. Be quick with the torch and if you have access wrap a wet rag on the other side of the pipe. ( Looks like it goes into an enclosed wall so can't be done. )

Ball valves are non-directional but check where the handle position is when open. Looks like you may be close to the ground and you need it to fully open.

When you pre-assemble everything, be sure to paint flux everwhere that will be soldered. Inside slip joints as well as the male ends and solder when installed in place.

Submitted by FlyerInHi on January 15, 2017 - 12:41pm.

Hobbie is right you can do it. I do all my plumbing and it's not bad.
Do it when your family is away so they don't pressure you (pun intended) to quickly restore water. You will save about $300.

You may wish to get a Kevlar shield to avoid burning the drywall. Most plumbers don't even use it so they leave behind burn marks that look very unprofessional. I second Hobbie, before you shut off water have a bucket of water and rags ready. I use disposable gloves so I don't damage my beautiful hands. I buy gloves at harbor freight.

Submitted by spdrun on January 15, 2017 - 1:30pm.

BTW - the easy fix is to leave the valve in place and either replace the washer(s) and stuffing, or the entire stem. The washer seats are probably just fine.

Basically, you want to shut water off at the street valve, and unscrew the fitting furthest from the handle to get to the washers. The stuffing is accessed via the "nut" closer to the handle.

It's a 5 min job once you get the parts.

Submitted by FlyerInHi on January 15, 2017 - 2:50pm.

Oh, to desolder, brush some flux on the joints. It helps "lubricate" as you apply heat so you can remove.

Submitted by La Jolla Renter on January 15, 2017 - 4:18pm.

do it yourself... watch a bunch of YouTube vids.

My experience after managing a down to the studs house remodel last year, is that if you watch a lot of YouTube videos to determine the best techniques and you are a bit of a perfectionist, you have a 90% chance you will do a better job than the "pros".

Fyi, the 2 trades I fired half way through the project were the plumber and the tile setter. Both were from referrals and licensed. I wanted to leave bad reviews online, but didn't trust them as they know where I live.

Submitted by FlyerInHi on January 15, 2017 - 4:44pm.

La Jolla Renter wrote:
if you watch a lot of YouTube videos to determine the best techniques and you are a bit of a perfectionist, you have a 90% chance you will do a better job than the "pros".

That's is so true! Anyone who has a science degree should figure things out logically.

I find that often the trades are hackjobs whose motto is "good enough". They don't have the science background to calculate and figure things out logically. What they have is lots of experience.

Unless you hire a good general contractor who is a perfectionist, and pay a lot, you may as well be your own supervisor, if you have the time.

Submitted by flu on January 15, 2017 - 5:02pm.

Thanks guy. For most plumbing jobs I normally tackle the job myself but this one has me concerned as I thought that getting things off would be a PITA. I remember the last guy that replaced my water heater changed the valve and was using a torch to install a new valve near the water heater, and he did end up sorching my walls, which annoyed me.

I think what I will do is order the parts, try it myself, and worst comes to worse get a plumber to bail me out.

Submitted by NotCranky on January 15, 2017 - 6:03pm.

The biggest risk/challenge with this job is that the bottom sweat fittings are very near to the stucco wall and side walk which was poured after the original piping work.

Anyway, worst case scenario is the you have to breaks some of that masonry.

The pressure regulator can be removed first with two wrenches . you should do that so it doesn't act as a heat sink while you are trying to sweat apart the water valve. HOWEVER, first make sure that your water main valve actually stops the flow of water. You don't want to break this open and find out it doesn't, which is pretty common.

Definitely buy the mapp gas and a decent torch. Better to avoid putting too much heat than mess around not getting enough.

EDIT, Read B's post, if that is drywall, not stucco, I guess you will just break it out and do a patch after. Use a piece of galvanized flashing as a heat shield for soldering, you can get one in the roofing dept. About 8x10 piece of metal that you can easily bend.

Submitted by flu on January 15, 2017 - 8:18pm.

Thanks guys for more advice. Yes the walls are drywall in the garage. I know because when I was installing some cabinets years ago, I drove a screw right through the drywall into a drain pipe thinking it was stud and as a result created a pinhole leak...I found out about it when my drywall ended up being a dampwall a few weeks later, and ended up ripping it out and replacing it. I guess worst comes to worst I can bust it out.

Why of why did I not cover up the pipes when I spray painted the walls of my garage years ago... :(.

Looks like I'll need to stock up on a lot of elbow grease.

http://kalecoauto.com/index.php?main_pag...

Submitted by flu on January 15, 2017 - 8:23pm.

Will a thin piece of aluminum work as a heat shield? I bought a large sheet about 1/32 of an inch thick...i guess it's the material you can use for roof flashing you can cut with shears....I think I have some leftover from making a underpan for my race Miata, after it caught on fire and melted the plastic underpan...(Never mind what happened there, separate story. )

I am just catching on my long list "things around the house that need attention since a few years ago" debt that I haven't been working off.

Submitted by moneymaker on January 15, 2017 - 8:44pm.

I put a ball valve in many years ago but used shark bite fittings as I did not want to use torches (oxy acetalene) as that was all I had at the time. had no problems but did have to have the water department replace their valve as it was defective at the street, they put a ball valve in as well after freezing the line with liquid nitrogen, talk about working quickly, they had to finish before the line thawed.

Submitted by Hobie on January 15, 2017 - 9:48pm.

Yes the al will be fine. You just want to prevent the flame from blowing under the shield and onto the wall.

I wasn't clear before but it is easier to rebuild the entire assembly rather than trying to reuse elbows.

I would sawzall the top and bottom elbows through the curve so as to not cut horizontal (house )section to remove the assembly. Then heat and remove the top then bottom ell. It will be easier than trying to keep both heated.

Then clean the old pipe extending from the house by heating it and wiping it with a damp rag. It will smooth the old solder so a new elbow will slide on.

Submitted by flu on January 15, 2017 - 10:21pm.

Assuming I go the "cut the elbows at the 45degrees mark", how hard is it to remove the remaining elbow from the pipe? A lot of heat, and some light twists using a vise grip..Or are we talking about a lot of elbow grease?

I've never tried to break lose a pipe fitting that has been soldered, so I don't know exactly know how much force I'm expecting...

Also, I don't know if I have a saw that can cut through that elbow. Hmmm... Time to add to my tool collection?

If I decide to not cut the elbow, would it be easier if I try to remove the regulator first, and once out of the way, I have an elbow with a little pipe on the top, and a valve and an elbow I can remove separately?...Or am I assuming incorrectly that removing the regulator will be easier than cutting the elbows?

Submitted by ucodegen on January 16, 2017 - 1:29am.

You guys are going about disassembly the hard way. Take a note of the pressure regulator. It is a coupling type. That means it can be disconnected and removed without de-soldering anything. See the coupling portion on each end of the pressure regulator? It helps in dismantling - so I would recommend replacing it with same type, same manufacturer if possible (which will keep the dimensions the same and would be able to reuse the upper coupling connector and elbow w/out dismantling that). Note that the gate valve is before the pressure regulator - this is to allow easy servicing of the pressure regulator.

Turn off water at the street connection (meter), I tend to drain by opening one of the highest faucets and most of the lowest. Even after draining, you may have quite a bit of water coming out of the line after the regulator (pressure regulators also act like a one way valve). Be prepared - water draining is unavoidable and can be a surprise when a kid or spouse decides to try a faucet upstairs even after you tell them the water is off - it happens.

After removing the pressure regulator, the lower end with the gate valve will be easy to remove (comparatively). Water feed is from the bottom, and you will need to remove water from the lower portion, probably by siphoning. Even with MAPP gas, water in the pipe can make it hard to heat because water can absorb a considerable amount of energy and copper is a great thermal conductor. Just work towards the ends when the regulator is removed. No cutting needed.

Important
If the pressure regulator is still working (check with a gauge - make sure you are measuring after the regulator because some outside/garden lines are fed pre-regulator), you might not want to bother touching it - check for pressure creep with all lines closed. Your regulator is adjustable. If it turns out that your gate valve is the only thing not working right, you may want to consider fixing it. It looks like yours may be the 'serviceable' type where you can remove the gate and stem without removing the valve body. The main problem with gate valves is crap getting into the gate channel and preventing it from closing completely. Gate valves do not seal/close with a rubber seal - the only rubber washers are on the stem. Gate valves use a tapered brass 'gate' - thereby the name. Closing the valve drives the brass gate in between two tapered brass seats (like a wedge). The second problem occurs when people don't open them all the way, and water passing through wears down the edge of the gate over time. Gate valves should be all the way open or all the way closed - never 'between'.

To remove the gate assembly, just open the gate valve at least half way, remove handle, remove packing/seal bolt (nut closest to handle), then loosen at the next nut which is part of the top of the body (there is a seam line that is sometimes hard to see - you'll see it when loosening). You may need to jockey moving the gate by turning the stem vs turning the removable portion of the body. NOTE: Do all the above after turning off water at meter and draining.

When I re-pressure, I tend to crack several valves located at the high point in the house and then crack open the street/meter feed. I then start closing off the house valves as water starts flowing smoothly. When all house valves are closed, I open the street all the way.

NOTE: MAPP gas is the only way to go with this one. You may be there until eternity arrives with Propane.

Ref on valves: http://pointing.spiraxsarco.com/resource...

Submitted by Hobie on January 16, 2017 - 8:43am.

Removing the soldered section is very easy. Once the solder is hot enough it liquefies and will very easily slides off with a leather glove or pliers.

Heat the joint only. Slowly start twisting. Done.

Clean the house end pipes as mentioned and always use lots of flux. If you burn it off or don't use enough it will never seal.

Breaking the joint at the reg unions is a good option. Use a couple of pipe wrenches. A hacksaw will cut copper easily if that is the route you take.

Uco has great advise but I take issue with gate valves. For the $, replace it with a very reliable, tight, fast acting new ball valve.

One last thing: Regulator is directional. enough said.

Submitted by no_such_reality on January 16, 2017 - 10:02am.

A lot of good observations above.

How much space do you have between the pipes and wall? Mine has about 6 inches, yours looks really cramped in the picture, like maybe an inch. The pressure regulator looks threaded but does look like there is not enough room to turn to thread.

I'd probably go with spdrun's repack, otherwise redo the whole thing to make more serviceable.

Note: really glad to see all the great advice on the forums again.

Submitted by flu on January 16, 2017 - 10:32am.

no_such_reality wrote:
A lot of good observations above.

How much space do you have between the pipes and wall? Mine has about 6 inches, yours looks really cramped in the picture, like maybe an inch. The pressure regulator looks threaded but does look like there is not enough room to turn to thread.

I'd probably go with spdrun's repack, otherwise redo the whole thing to make more serviceable.

Note: really glad to see all the great advice on the forums again.

Yeah, I miss these old forum days. There's about a 1 inch gap between the wall and the threaded nut on the regulator so I shouldn't have a clearance problem. The issue is getting it undone. I think getting the regulator off will probably be ok since I can use two crescent wrenches to loosen both nuts.

The valve looks like it's going to be a PITA. And I was tempted to try to just service the drop gate as ucodegen siggrdted. But then again, I really hate these valves...

For curiosity sake, I wonder if my regulator has already failed so I am going to go buy a gauge to find out.

Thanks everyone for the advice. I really wish we can see more of this sort of thing here on the forums.

So dumb question.....What makes a good MAPP torch versus a crappy one? I am assuming the coupon special at harbor freight would be in the crap category?

Submitted by FlyerInHi on January 16, 2017 - 10:43am.

moneymaker wrote:
I put a ball valve in many years ago but used shark bite fittings as I did not want to use torches (oxy acetalene) as that was all I had at the time. had no problems but did have to have the water department replace their valve as it was defective at the street, they put a ball valve in as well after freezing the line with liquid nitrogen, talk about working quickly, they had to finish before the line thawed.

Shark bites are good. I use them on first floor condos where there are no individual unit shutoff and the whole building needs to be shut off for servicing.

The shark bites pipes are cheaper than copper, but the fitting are expensive.

I have seen new houses with shark bites only with each application plumbed separately in a hub and spoke fashion

I would use Pex if building a new house.
https://www.google.com/amp/www.familyhan...

Submitted by flu on January 16, 2017 - 11:47am.

FlyerInHi wrote:
moneymaker wrote:
I put a ball valve in many years ago but used shark bite fittings as I did not want to use torches (oxy acetalene) as that was all I had at the time. had no problems but did have to have the water department replace their valve as it was defective at the street, they put a ball valve in as well after freezing the line with liquid nitrogen, talk about working quickly, they had to finish before the line thawed.

Shark bites are good. I use them on first floor condos where there are no individual unit shutoff and the whole building needs to be shut off for servicing.

The shark bites pipes are cheaper than copper, but the fitting are expensive.

I have seen new houses with shark bites only with each application plumbed separately in a hub and spoke fashion

I would use Pex if building a new house.
https://www.google.com/amp/www.familyhandyman.com/plumbing/pex-piping-everything-you-need-to-know/amp

I don't know if I would use PEX on potable water. I don't think there has been any studies done if it is safe for drinking....then again, PVC isn't exactly good either and lots of houses run PVC.

Submitted by ucodegen on January 16, 2017 - 12:09pm.

flu wrote:

So dumb question.....What makes a good MAPP torch versus a crappy one? I am assuming the coupon special at harbor freight would be in the crap category?

I didn't see a MAPP torch at harbor freight, only propane. You have to be careful just switch gasses on the same torch. It doesn't always work. MAPP gas requires more oxygen per molecule. It is a carbon heavy fuel (because of the acetylene in it). The torch needs to be one that creates a 'swirling' flame - sometimes called a 'turbo torch'.

When removing the connection at the regulator, make sure you stabilize the pipe - copper is soft.

flu wrote:
The valve looks like it's going to be a PITA. And I was tempted to try to just service the drop gate as ucodegen siggrdted. But then again, I really hate these valves...

Just trying to give the lowest cost solution. If you start changing connections - de-soldering and re-soldering, you have to make sure pieces line up without putting stress on the connections when you screw in the regulator. Best way would be to do almost all but the last solder connection - bolt in the regulator and snug it at the couplings and then make the last solder connection. You don't want the distance between the two couplings too long or short for the regulator. When fitting it together, the regulator is the last thing going in, it works like an interlocking puzzle.

FlyerInHi wrote:
Shark bites are good. I use them on first floor condos where there are no individual unit shutoff and the whole building needs to be shut off for servicing.

I stay away from shark-bite/PEX, particularly for in-wall and ceiling construction. There are several lawsuits with respect to problems with PEX and the connectors.

https://failures.wikispaces.com/PEX+Plum...
http://www.plumbingfittingsettlement.com...
https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/ar...
http://gotaclassaction.com/nibco-inc-nam...
https://www.classaction.org/pex-plumbing...

The last thing I want is water 'getting loose' in the wall and ceiling spaces. One generally does not discover it until quite a bit of damage is done.

Contractors (some) love the stuff because it assembles very quickly. Just bid as if you are doing copper and the extra hours saved is just additional $$ in the pocket.

Submitted by FlyerInHi on January 16, 2017 - 1:17pm.

ucodegen wrote:

Contractors (some) love the stuff because it assembles very quickly. Just bid as if you are doing copper and the extra hours saved is just additional $$ in the pocket.

maybe... I'm on the HOA board of an early 1980s condo complex and we spend a lot of money on plumbing. the re-routes are all PEX.

I use shark bite fittings when I cannot wait for the whole building to drain in order to solder copper. I've use shop vac to suck water out of pipes, but that means I have to solder quickly. I'm slooowww.

You know, when you have a whole building out of water, the residents are all up in arms and want water restored fast.

Submitted by flu on January 16, 2017 - 4:08pm.

FlyerInHi wrote:
ucodegen wrote:

Contractors (some) love the stuff because it assembles very quickly. Just bid as if you are doing copper and the extra hours saved is just additional $$ in the pocket.

maybe... I'm on the HOA board of an early 1980s condo complex and we spend a lot of money on plumbing. the re-routes are all PEX.

I use shark bite fittings when I cannot wait for the whole building to drain in order to solder copper. I've use shop vac to suck water out of pipes, but that means I have to solder quickly. I'm slooowww.

You know, when you have a whole building out of water, the residents are all up in arms and want water restored fast.

Are we sure PEX is safe for drinking water?

Submitted by flu on January 16, 2017 - 6:59pm.

So here's a side photo of the valve and regulator. I decided not to try to tackle this today, but to think it out more throughly..

more plumbing funmore plumbing fun

As you can see, the two lock nuts on the regulator has enough clearance and (assuming they aren't completely frozen), should be allow the regulator to be removed.

The concerning part is the bottom elbows. Yes, there appears to be two of them.

Any change of attack? I think the bottom part of the drywall needs to be removed. It's probably going to get destroyed anyway with any sort of heat to the pipe...

I'm thinking maybe remove both elbows at the bottom and just have a clean pipe running up from the ground to work with...

I also measured the pressure on my pipes. It looks to be around 80-82 PSI...Ouch...I guess it's been that way for awhile now...

Submitted by moneymaker on January 16, 2017 - 7:16pm.

My shark bite fittings are outside and have not had any problems with them since put in (7 years now I think). It was my first time using them so I was a little hesitant at first too, they were a little pricey but considering the time saved it was probably a wash. I added a whole house sediment filter at the time too.

Submitted by spdrun on January 16, 2017 - 7:20pm.

Sheesh, learn how to use a torch.

Submitted by ltsdd on January 16, 2017 - 8:04pm.

flu wrote:
Any change of attack?

Get a pro to do it bro. Pick your battles wisely.

Submitted by no_such_reality on January 16, 2017 - 8:27pm.

I'd probably open the wall to take a look what I've got for pipe to work with. Maybe it's cleaner looking in person, but I hate judging pipe work with paint slopped all over it.

At the bottom does it elbow back again (third elbow) into the wall or go into the floor? It looks like it bends back into the wall.

The top elbow looks like a nice clean copper solder. The bottom, just looks funny to me, the pieces look to thick, like some sort of bubble gum job a prior owner did.

Don't mind me, my home's previous owner was a general contractor who apparently used whatever remnants to repair around here, if a fitting as four screws holding it, it'll have three different kinds, a flat head, and two different Phillips head and possibly one of those star drive deck screws. I dread opening up things to find work the prior guy did.

Submitted by NotCranky on January 16, 2017 - 10:34pm.

flu wrote:
So here's a side photo of the valve and regulator. I decided not to try to tackle this today, but to think it out more throughly..

more plumbing funmore plumbing fun

As you can see, the two lock nuts on the regulator has enough clearance and (assuming they aren't completely frozen), should be allow the regulator to be removed.

The concerning part is the bottom elbows. Yes, there appears to be two of them.

Any change of attack? I think the bottom part of the drywall needs to be removed. It's probably going to get destroyed anyway with any sort of heat to the pipe...

I'm thinking maybe remove both elbows at the bottom and just have a clean pipe running up from the ground to work with...

I also measured the pressure on my pipes. It looks to be around 80-82 PSI...Ouch...I guess it's been that way for awhile now...

I was concerned about the space too , but you have plenty of room there. Here is the trick with the pressure regulator. When you go to put it back in, your tolerances are pretty tight , it you force it together too much you put in strain on your newly soldered joints, but what you can do, to have a little play , is put the valve and regulator in before you solder it all back up. Build an assembly between top and bottom runs of pipe. Those top and bottom elbows are your friends. Fit and solder/wrench together every thing between them and solder them last. You don't want to solder half a fitting at a time so don't do that to those elbows, do them all at once. (technically you solder half a fitting at a time but don't do half and come back and solder the other half later. More or less heat up the whole coupling or elbow then smoothly transition from soldering one side to the other, it that all makes sense. Otherwise you get weird stuff happening in the joint.

Don't cut anything with a saw, you don't want to hammer your pipes with that kind of vibration and you can use your pieces to leverage of the heated fittings in demo. You have to remember that you could break a fitting down the line somewhere if you are too rough. You've got this!

Sorry if some hints are redundant, not going to read the whole thread. Spray your flammables down and have a spray bottle on hand to cool any wood that might get a little cooked. It doesn't matter if it happens a little bit. Try not to water cool your solder joints though. Again perfection is not needed just some concern. It's only plumbing you can take it apart and do it over if you need to.

Practice a few solder joints that have nothing to do with the project first too. Use youtube and don't worry if they don't look nice and full like a perfect one does , don't "retouch" if you don't have to. Just eye to make sure the solder flows nicely. If you get a severely blackened fitting , yank it and do it over.

Also for a small non-pressurized drip you can ball up white bread and shove it in the pipe , don't do this in front of the pressure regulator though. you might have to take off a faucet screen to get the bread out if you do this, but it works. You can buy these little gel ball things instead of using bread , but I never have. THe new valve in your picture has threads so you would need to buy male to to solder fitting pieces for that or get a valve with solder fittings. Sweat your largest fittings in an assembly first and let them cool ,so as not to get things too hot for the small fittings.

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