In this section, you will find the basic information about pipes and plumbing. In the following sections you will find the details on how to work, first, with brass and iron pipe and, second, with copper tubing.

Types of Pipe

Black iron pipe is not suitable to carry water in either the supply or drainage systems for it rusts too quickly and will cause stoppages in a relatively short period of time.

Galvanized pipe is the standard type used for home supply and drainage lines because of its comparatively low price and its fair resistance to corrosion. It resists corrosion better than black iron pipe but rates poorly when compared with brass or copper.

Cast iron pipe, normally large diameter pipe, is used primarily for drainage systems.

Brass pipe offers the advantages of iron pipe plus the fact that it does Knot rust. Furthermore, because of its smoother interior wall section, it offers less resistance to the flow of water. It has, therefore, replaced galvanized iron pipe in many homes equipped with “better” plumbing.

I Tools To do the lob

While it is impractical to buy I all the tools needed for every type of home improvement and repair, there are certain specialized tools which the homeowner should add to his tool collection. Some of the other, more expensive and specialized tools, can be rented from hardware stores. However, if you do extensive plumbing – either repairs or improvements – it may be wise to purchase some of the equipment you might normally rent.

1. A vise for holding the pipe while it is being cut is absolutely necessary when working with brass or iron pipe. It is unimportant if you use copper tubing. You can get a pipe vise or use pipe jaws in a regular vise.

2. Pipe cutters make it easier to ¡cut pipe; they are faster than a hacksaw and produce a better job – the end of the pipe is cut perfectly flush. This square cut is particularly important when it is necessary to thread brass or iron pipe or flare topper tubing for solder-less conlectors.

3. Pipe reamer is used to remove the internal burrs resulting from cutting. Reamers come in different diameters, adjustable for several sizes of pipe. They are used with a brace. For copper tubing, however, the better pipe cutters have a reamer attached.

4. Pipe dies are used to thread the end of brass or iron pipe. They come in sets, normally, together with a handle.

5. Pipe taps are used to make internal threads. The size of the tap is normally marked on the shank. In using the accompanying table the suggested tap size is recommended for the nominal diameter of the pipe and not its actual diameter.

6. Pipe wrenches vary depending upon their purpose. Wrenches used with pipe must have jaws that will grip the round exterior surface securely. Normally, Stillson wrenches are used for the job, but it is also possible to use a strap wrench (a belt is used in place of the jaws) or a pipe tongs (a link chain is used in place of the jaws).

The hexagonal fittings of solderless connectors, tops of valves and faucets, and other non-round surfaces require the use of other types of wrenches. A monkey or open-end wrench is best for these uses. A parrot-head pliers can be uses if the surface is protected by tape to prevent the plier’s teeth from “chewing” into the metal.

7. Hacksaw can be used for cutting pipe or tubing. Set the blade in the frame so that the teeth point forward because the cutting is done only on the forward stroke.

• For iron and brass pipe, use a saw blade with 24 teeth per inch.

• For conduit and thin tubing, use a blade with 32 teeth per inch.

8. A blow torch is necessary when working with cast iron pipe as well as soldered fittings with copper tubing. This can be the gasoline pump type or the pressurized-fuel, disposable can type.

9. Tube benders are used with soft copper tubing. With the tube bender or bending spring, the tube can then be bent to any angle without collapsing the walls of the tube. Tube benders usually come in kits but individual sizes can be purchased.

10. Flaring tool is used with solderless connectors and copper tubing. There are two types available. One is a tapered unit which is inserted into the tubing and the outside end hit with a hammer to flare the pipe. The other is a yoke unit which is adjustable for copper tubing of varying diameters.

11. A standard plunger or any of the special types of plungers is used to remove obstructions in the pipe by air pressure.

12. Closet auger or “snake” is used to remove obstructions within a pipe by physical means. The metal spring steel or coiled wire is pushed through the pipe to clean it out.

13. Bibb seat dresser is used to resurface the seat of a faucet or compression valve.

Pipe Measurements

When making a new installation or a repair, it is necessary to measure the pipe accurately. This is important whether you order the pipe and have it cut to size and threaded by a professional or you cut and thread the pipe yourself.

The easiest way to measure pipe, if a professional will cut and thread it, is to draw the exact pipe diagram and then mark the measurements. The professional can figure out the exact size of each piece.

The accompanying tables and diagrams should help you make an exact dimension drawing or determine the sizes yourself.

Working with Brass and Iron Pipe

You can cut brass or iron pipe with an ordinary hand hacksaw, a power hacksaw, or a pipe cutter. You’ll prefer to use the pipe cutter for the average job, but the power hacksaw is faster if you have a large number of pieces to cut or if the pipe has a thick wall. The pipe cutter has a special alloy steel cutting wheel and two pressure rollers. These are adjusted and tightened by turning the handle. The whole tool is revolved around the pipe.

The operation of the pipe cutter leaves a shoulder on the outside of the pipe and a burr on the inside. Always remove that inside burr or the ragged edges will catch dirt and other solid matter, and will block the flow. The burring reamer is the tool you use to remove the burr.

Pipe Threading

Pipe fittings have tapered threads and require special dies, called pipe dies, so they can be turned up tight and leak-proof. A stock is used to turn the dies, and the same stock can be used for threading several sizes of pipe. Most pipe dies can be adjusted to cut slightly different depths of thread so that a longer or shorter thread on the end of the pipe can be obtained as desired. To cut the threads, secure the work and hold the stock; then proceed as when using any other die; keep the work well oiled. It is a good idea to test the thread with a standard pipe fitting when the operation is finished.

Pipe Assembly

Threaded water pipe joints are usually made up with red lead as a seal. Steam pipe threads are sealed with graphite paint. Put the sealing compound on the pipe threads only – so it won’t get inside the pipe and form a dangerous obstruction. Make sure the threads are clean before you apply the sealing compound.

Threaded joints should be screwed together by hand and tightened with a pipe wrench – commonly called a “Stillson.” The pipe should be held in a pipe vise during assembly, but if it’s impossible to use a vise the pipe may be held with another pipe wrench.

How tight should you tighten a joint? Experience is the best teacher. Usually you will have two or three unused threads on a properly cut pipe thread. If all the threads are used, the wedging action of the tapered thread may cause the fitting to split.

Working with Copper Tubing

Adding plumbing for a new bathroom, piping a cellar tub or darkroom sink, or running underground lines to outdoor pools or sprinkling systems are weekend projects, requiring only a hacksaw to make a few cuts and a small torch to solder connections together.

There’s no need for the Stillsons, threading dies, or pipe vises that you need for galvanized-steel plumbing. In many cases, you can use simple screw-together fittings that eliminate even the job of soldering.

Types of Tubing

Enormous presses cold-extrude seamless copper tubing from solid billets of the pure metal. The tubing comes from the die work-hardened, and some of it is then annealed to soften it.

You can snake this easily bent, soft-tempered tubing down through walls and through holes bored in studs and joists just like electrical wiring. When you come to a corner, you simply bend it where you want it to go, saving the installation of an angle fitting. Because it comes in lengths up to 100″, you can make long, unbroken runs that virtually eliminate all connections except at the ends.

Outdoors, the flexible soft tubing withstands an occasional accidental freeze without bursting. When run underground, it “gives” as the earth settles and heaves, minimizing breakage. It also is less subject to damage from expansion and contraction, which in hot-water lines is as much as 5/4″ per 100′.

Hard-temper tubing, not annealed, comes in standard 20′ lengths. Use this rigid tube if you’re a stickler for neatness and also in places where exposed lines may be kicked, knocked or otherwise damaged.

Hard tubing can be bent, but only in a leverage-type tube bender. If one isn’t available, it’s best to figure on using the standard angle fittings, which probably won’t take any longer to solder on than it would to make bends. If you have a lot of corners to turn, you can always insert a length of soft tubing, making the bends in it, even where the rest of the plumbing is of the rigid type.

Pick the Right Weight

Both hard and soft tubing come in two different weights, called K and L, that are commonly used in home plumbing:

Type K, a thick-walled, heavy-duty tubing, is best for exposed lines that might become dented and is only a little more expensive than the lighter weight. It’s also used for underground lines that are subject to strain, for gas service lines, and for the very best plumbing and heating systems.

Type L is a lighter weight that’s used for most home-plumbing and radiant-heating work. It’s fine for all average indoor lines that are reasonably well protected.

What Size to Use

If you buy small-size tubing at an auto-supply store for your car, you’ll find it sold according to its outside diameter. In all other cases, though, copper tubing is classified according to its nominal inside diameter, just as steel pipe is, and this is what you ask for at plumbing shops.

For homes with normal water pressure, use a 3/4″ copper branch line if it supplies two or more fixtures: 5/8″ tubing to sill cocks; 1/2″ tubing to individual bathroom or kitchen fixtures. As a rule of thumb, it’s safe to use tubing one size smaller than the galvanized pipe you’d otherwise put in.

Fittings Make It Easy

Two types of connectors give you a choice of soldering or not. A soldered-on fitting can be used on both hard and soft tubing, while the solderless kind, called a flare fitting, is recommended only for the soft.

Use the solder joint for neat, permanent jobs. Flare fittings are more expensive, but are good for temporary lines or installations that may have to be disassembled since they are easily taken apart and re-used. They may also be a lifesaver in tight spots where the use of a blowtorch for soldering might be difficult or dangerous.

Both types come in a complete line of Ts, elbows, couplings, reducers, valves, sill cocks and other fittings. You can also buy combination fittings that have standard pipe threads on one end and either a flare or solder connection on the other.


Whenever possible, keep cold-and hot-water lines at least 6″ apart to reduce sweating. If you are providing for an automatic washer or if water pressure is high, it’s a good idea to put in air chambers at fixtures to cushion water hammer – the noisy shock when a tap is turned off suddenly. A sketch shows how this is easily done.

Install all horizontal water lines with a slight pitch, about 1/4″ per foot, to allow complete draining when necessary. Soft tubing should be supported by straps every 6′ to prevent sagging, hard tubing every 10′ or at most 12′.

If you’re burying an underground line, don’t put a cinder fill in the trench. When the ground becomes wet, sulfur compounds in the cinders will corrode the tubing.

When you’re tapping into existing plumbing, especially for hot water, make sure it’s one of the domestic lines and not part of the heating system – often an easy mistake to make. Trace the lines carefully back so you are sure where they come from. Besides shutting off the main water supply, close off any intermediate valves that will reduce the amount of water that will drain from a cut line.

There’s another good thing about copper tubing. While it’s slightly more expensive than steel pipe, it can’t rust or clog and if properly treated will last indefinitely.