DIYers: Am I getting in above my head?

My wife and I bought a mobile home that was assembled with Qest water pipes. (This brand of plastic pipes have proved to be very unreliable to consumers all over.) In the two years that we’ve been here, I’ve made about 4 stopgap repairs. This was made more difficult because in addition to the poor quality piping, the installers put in no cut-off valves to the individual fixtures. I had to crawl under the house and turn off the water main every time I worked on a pinhole leak in the bathroom.

So, we’ve decided to replace the piping in the house. We’ve heard quotes from neighbors for several thousands of dollars, using copper piping and professional installers. Then my wife got the idea: why don’t we (i.e., I) do it myself using CPVC? It’s cheaper, and I’ve proved myself somewhat in plumbing repairs.

Well then, that brings up the OP. I plan on doing this myself and perhaps with a friend. Can I do this without having to bail and call in a professional?

Details: all the piping is under the house, in a literal crawlspace (30 " high). I just need to remove some fiberglass insulation to get at the piping runs. (Some of it’s already ruined from water leaks.) I’ve got 2 full baths, a kitchen sink, a dishwasher, an ice maker, a clothes washer, and a water heater to get connected. And I’ve got 4 full weekends and 6 hours on the following 3 Wednesdays.

I love sweating copper pipes. Really. I especially love doing it in a spider infested crawl space. Not really. But copper gives such satisfying results AS LONG AS YOU DON’T HAVE LEAKS AT THE JOINTS! Gads what a pain in the ass! You pretty much have to drain the pipes in order to break the solder joint and clean it up and have another go (because the presence of water will keep the copper & solder from getting any hotter than 212 F). But if it works out you can snort and go “Yeah, I redid my plumbing. All copper. Nothing to it.” Copper can also take a bit of time compared to plastic.

For your purposes and for your time frame I’d probably say CPVC is your best bet, but make sure you’re well-ventilated in that crawl space while you’re working with the goo.

The kind of fixtures you’re talking about should present no problems that would require a professional. As long as you’re not changing any routes I expect that a good time can be had by all.

Codes may or may not be a problem depending on the age of the home, materials you’re using and whether or not they apply to mobiles.

Do I envision this right in that you are going to replace the pipes all the way to the fixtures? If so aren’t you going to have to cut out some wall space in order to install cut off valves at the sinks, etc? That sounds like a good sized job. I think copper is best but plastic is way cheaper and very easy to assemble. If it was me and there was a lot of money to be saved I would at least give one run a try and see how it went and then decide if I could handle the rest of it.

I would say, not “over your head”. The only issue is that you might need to pull permits, and your local building inspector might conceivably required that a licensed plumber do the work.

When I redid my kitchen, I did most of the plumbing myself. Made the occasional cold solder joint, but those are fixable. Copper really isn’t that expensive and while it’s occasionally a pain to align, sweating joints is just about the easiest skill for a DIY’er to obtain. The only thing that I’d be cautious about is the temperature of the crawlspace. If it gets below freezing where you live, is the crawlspace heated? If not, you might want a piping system that allows room for expansion if the pipes freeze.

I don’t see the project taking a full four weekends, although it could conceivably take four half weekends with the other half spent running off to the hardware store for the various connectors, solvents, hangers, and valves that you forgot to buy.

Heh, hope you have alternate water plans. A month without water is a long ass time. I screwed up the water to the entire house and had to turn the water on at the front of the house 15 every other day for a shower till I got it fixed. Three weeks. Massive leaks I didn’t understand until I got it right.

I agree with those who’ve posted already, from what you’ve described this will not be a difficult job and the time you’ve allotted seems more than ample. CPVC is easier to work with than copper (but not that much cheaper) but all told copper is stronger and will last longer (besides, with copper you get to use a blow torch, how cool is that).

One gentle caution with CPVC is that it does have a significant expansion / contraction coefficient with temperature. I’ve been told that 100 feet of cpvc will grow or shrink up to 5 inches with a 100 degree temp change. Now you wont be working with anything near that length and are unlikely to see 100 degree swings but still don’t clamp it too tightly to walls or joists and leave a little “fudge space” in any wholes you pass through.

One last suggestion for planning you’re hardware run, take some graph paper and sketch out all your runs and connections. This will help with getting all the elbows and couplers you’ll need. Also look at all the things you’ll be hooking up, the sinks, tubs ice maker etc. and figure out all the different fittings you’ll need. If you are unsure what hardware it takes to make a given connection find an old time neighborhood hardware store where the staff actually knows their stuff, big box stores like Home Depot sometimes have less than sentient individuals pulling opinions out of their butts and passing them off as advice (just a wee note of bitterness in my voice there). I have a digital camera with an LCD screen on the back, I’ve taken pictures of bizarre fittings and had hardware store guys look at them, 1 minute later the hardware was in my hands.

And as Mynn points out have some water stocked for toilet flushes and the like and of course, work one line of plumbing at a time if you can to avoid compromiseing the whole system for longer than you like.

Thanks for the venting advise. I wasn’t planning on removing any more skirting than usual, but now I think I’ll open up that whole side.

Actually, all the supply lines come up straight from the floor instead of out of the walls. And the two tubs’ valve areas already have panels cut in the walls behind them (in my daughter’s room)

The current pipes past the main supply pipe are just under the floorboards and -until recently - covered up by fiberglass insulation. I’ve had no freezing problems the last two winters with the Qest lines. However, my thermal unit did fail my first winter on the water main that comes from the ground into the house. I spent a few hours at 15[sup]o[/sup]F getting a new one on. Quite proudly, I did a bang-up job.

I’ll have to rip out the insulation protecting the pipes and replace it before winter, but that can wait until late October around here.

I plan on concentrating on just one bathroom and the water heater at first. I’ll “T” and cap off the lines that I don’t get to the first weekend, then saw off the caps and continue the next.

Very good idea! Most of my DIY projects involve two trips to the store. (Unfortunately, when it was a car project, I had to walk since my brakes were in pieces.)

Just casually looking under the house after fixing my last toilet line leak, there’s quite a bit of bending and such that I’ll have to do to get around the HVAC ducts, electrical wiring, and drain lines. With the Qest, they just bent the pipes. I think that was the problem with my toilet line; they bent it 90[sup]o[/sup], and the slight strain after 17 years weakened the pipe right at the point that it passed through the floorboard. That’s why the repair to it now consists of washing maching supply hose over the Qest piping both above and below the floor.

Well, thanks to you all for your advise. Good luck to me: tomorrow I’m going to examine the entire system and work up what I’ll need.

How is your mobile home built? Have you taken apart a wall? The reason I ask is because a friend redid the plumbing in his mobile home a while back. The plumbing and wiring in the bathroom/kitchen wall was sandwiched between two sheets of chipboard in a two inch thick wall. To get to the plumbing he had to tear the wall apart. I think he ended up replacing it with a standard stud-type wall.

As for what type of pipe to use, I like copper, but that’s just personal taste (I like how water tastes with copper plumbing.) I don’t have any experience with it, but I’ve also heard good things about PEX, which is a flexible tubing that uses compression fittings, and I think it would probably work well for a mobile home.

I just got finished looking at as much of the piping under the house as I could. All the piping comes out through the flooring, so there should be no wall work involved.

Now that I’ve looked at all the under-plumbing, I have to start worrying about the above-plumbing. More specifically, the water heater. I still haven’t looked at it, since it’s stashed in a hidden wallspace beside the clothes washer. Do I need to turn off the heat (electric) and drain it, or should it have its own cut-off valves and be accessable enough for me to connect it to the new piping?

Oh, and one other odd thing I found under the house. There’s a Qest valve exiting the insulation right near where the water intake is. Tracing it, I found it connected to the hot water line near the bathroom. Is this a drain line some type, or is like a hot water spigot in case I need hot water outside?

Speaking in relative terms, this sounds like a piece of cake to me! Here’s what I’m thinking: prefab the underfloor piping (just offset a bit) before cutting the existing pipes, and prefab the risers (attaching shutoffs to the short lengths of pipe.) When you’re ready, tear out the old stuff and attach the risers. If you can do this, it should keep your time without water to a bare minimum.

It can’t be said enough, have everything planned out before you start. Before you start, know where every pipe runs at the moment and know what you want and/or need to do.

The spigot sounds like a spigot to me.

I end up doing lots of plumbing on mobiles, including 10 of mine that are rentals. The last five years or so, I’ve been using Pex, which has been successfully used in Europe for many years.

An advantage in mobiles, is if for some reason the piping freezes up, Pex expands and has a “memory”. It’s simple to install, but you want to avoid using fitting where ever possible.

Before you purchase your materials, you should spend a few minutes talking with a plumber about this product. Chances are, that’s what he’s using when he can.

But a hot-water spigot? Under the house? No cold-water spigot nearby?

I had a thought that it might be an auxiliary drain for the water heater.

If it really were a drain for the heater then it should have been attached to the drain at the bottom of the tank.

Thinking about this, it sounds like the heater is hard to get to. While you’re in there, you may want install a drain line at the water heater, if there isn’t one there already. This might make it easier to drain the sediment out of the tank and would be a good place to run the drain for the P+T valve. I don’t see any reason why this drain would have to run to the sewer, but put a screen or grate on it if you drain to the dirt so that rodents can’t enter.