Take that away: SharkBite push-to-connect couplings are the fastest and easiest way we have found to repair or replace leaking plumbing fixtures. They are also the easiest way to connect domestic water pipes made from different materials such as copper and CPVC or PEX. However, their real beauty lies in the fact that you don’t need any special skills or tools to use them.
- The pipe / hose is simply pressed into the fitting and seals.
- Fittings can be removed and reused with an inexpensive tool.
- The 1⁄2-inch and 3⁄4-inch SharkBite Push-to-Connect couplings are made in the USA
½ “SharkBite fittings
The case for SharkBite Push-to-Connect couplings
A few years ago my wife and I bought a farmhouse that was over 200 years old and with it an endless list of projects. A new kitchen and bathroom facilities were on the list, but these have been moved down quite a bit due to more pressing issues. That lasted until one summer afternoon when I went down to the basement for a family visit and discovered that a corroded half-inch copper elbow had chosen that day to leave a hole in the hole. There was a whole mess of copper pipes down there – dead ends, pipes going through the basement and coming back – and most of the fittings looked badly soldered. Nobody was leaking, so it wasn’t urgent – until it happened.
Twenty minutes later I was at the hardware store looking at copper fittings and tubing, thinking about what I needed and how to get the job done before dinner. As I stood there trying to remember if I had enough propane for my flashlight, I noticed the SharkBite connectors to the right of the copper connectors. I was against using plastic, and these fittings have o-rings made of them. But just then, given the limited time, I decided to give it a try.
SharkBite Push-to-Connect fittings can connect copper, PEX and CPVC pipes of the same size.
I decided to cut out any dead ends, get rid of unnecessarily long runs of pipe, and get rid of as many encrusted old fixtures as possible. I needed two tees, six straight couplings, and about 10 or 12 feet of PEX (cross-linked polyethylene, a type of flexible plastic) for hot and cold water pipes. So I went a little easier with my wallet than I expected; PEX pipes are cheaper than copper, but the SharkBite fittings cost more than their copper counterparts.
Back home, armed with my plumbing supplies, a hose cutter, utility knife, and a bucket to catch the water from the pipes, I turned off the water and got to work. I cut and drained the lines to the kitchen and second floor, then cut back to the kettle and a tee on the well pump. I held up the PEX pipes to get an approximate idea of the length and cut them with the utility knife. Then I just pressed the fittings onto the original copper pipes, pressed the PEX in, pressed and joined the tees to split the lines to the kitchen and second floor, and joined them. This took a total of about 20 minutes – all that remained was to turn the water back on and deflate the air from the pipes by cracking a tap.
This is how the SharkBite push-to-connect fittings work:
- A rubber O-ring seals against the outside of the pipe.
- The stainless steel barb ring prevents the pipe from receding.
- A release collar pushes the barbs away from the tube when pressed and releases it.
- The reinforcement sleeve slides into the PEX hose to stiffen it when hot water flows through it.
Had I done the work with copper pipe and fittings it would have taken at least two hours, possibly more. And there would still be a risk of one of the fittings leaking as it can be difficult to solder to old pipes. They may contain mineral deposits or residual water that can absorb heat, making it difficult for the solder to flow and seal well. Aside from these challenges, there is also a risk of starting a fire if a flashlight is used in tight spaces between uprights or floor joists. I was very happy with the repair and have become a convert who will replace as much of the old copper as possible when I need to do a repair.
The range of SharkBite customizations
1/2-in. Straight plug-in coupling
1/2-in. Push-to-Connect 90 degree angle
1/2-in. Push-to-Connect T-piece
Consideration of larger sanitary projects
When you add or update piping, or have a larger project to do, just use SharkBite push-to-connect couplings to add your existing pipes. In these cases it is much more cost effective to use the brand’s barbed nipples and stainless steel band clamps. To do this you will need a ratchet pliers crimping tool – the investment is well worth the investment if you are the home improvement guy and know you will have future plumbing projects. And while a hacksaw can cut both copper and PEX pipe, special tools will work better for each material and will do the job faster.
Other tools that I use for plumbing work
Copper pipe cutter, small
Clamping tool for stainless steel clamps
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