Plumbing tool that will change your life
Recently, I had the great misfortune of having to tackle a simple plumbing project. Simple, I tell you. It was so simple, in fact, that I wouldn't even have called it a 'plumbing project' when I started. All I needed was to replace a small plastic piece inside of the tub spout. I learned many things:
- The tiny piece is called a "tub spout diverter gate."
- While only costing about 5 cents to make, the part no longer exists.
- The part was designed only to work with this particular model, so no universal part can be easily found in the hardware store.
- The model design of the spout was changed, so I couldn't get any replacement part.
- Without this stupid, cheap, plastic piece, the entire shower/tub set was useless.
- Never, ever skimp on plumbing fixtures - spend more up front and enjoy the quality for years to come.
I bought the updated model tub spout imagining that this would be really easy - an hour . . . maybe two . . . tops. Three weeks and $100 later . . . I'm proud to say we have a working shower and tub faucet.
Now, remember, this was not a job worth calling a plumber for. It was a stupid, little, pesky, cheap part. But it was emblematic of everything that is wrong with our take-make-waste materials economy. When something doesn't work, throw it away and buy another.
With one useless old spout and another updated spout, I was ready to tackle the minor plumbing job. Then I realized that the new fixture did not fit over the copper stub out pipe in the same way as the old one. This meant I would have to cut out all the pipe behind the wall in the closet, solder new copper, wrap threads with plumbers tape . . . yada yada yada. I don't have a solder gun or solder, so I could have just called a plumber at this point.
Then, thanks to my buddy Rob who I called for advice, I discovered SharkBite. It's changed my life forever. When I started this project I was dreading it. When I finished it with SharkBite, I ran around the house looking for more plumbing that I could replace.
SharkBite is a push-fit type plumbing fitting. You can kiss your solder gun goodbye. No more leaky connections. All you do is slip the fitting over a copper or PEX pipe and push it until it locks into place. And if you screw up, you can disconnect the part and reuse it. They have a 25 year warranty, they are made of brass, and they can be installed wet or dry.
Once I got the right parts, it took me only 17 minutes to redo the plumbing. All I had to do was:
- Cut the copper supply line to the spout - with no need to measure the cut because the slip coupler is adjustable.
- Slip on the Push-Fit Slip Coupler between the two cut sections.
- Slide the Push-Fit Stub-out Elbow through the wall.
- Slide the lower copper pipe section onto the top of the Stub-out Elbow and simply push it into place (after marking with the special tool from SharkBite that ensure you push it in all the way).
- Push the slip coupler and connect the two sections of the copper pipe.
- Adjust the coupler so that the Stub-out Elbow is centered in the hole.
Here's a great video on how to install the Slip-Coupling.
Pro-bite and Sioux Chief are other brands making these push-fit plumbing fittings. I've only tried SharkBite and it seems to be the most popular and highly rated in online reviews. You might find others online, but I'm impressed with the availability (at Home Depot and online) and the number of types of parts they have. There's virtually no plumbing job that you can't tackle with these.
Photo credits to Matt Grocoff and SharkBite