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Preconstruction Walk-Through

At this point, before any actual work begins, I always take the time to walk through the job with the customers, to let them know exactly what's going to happen, and where. By understanding where cutouts and drilling will occur, the clients can get all their furniture and valuables out of harm's way. This saves me from having to do it later and prevents property damage that would cost me money and drive up my insurance rates. I also stress at this point that children and pets need to be kept out of the way. I back up my walk-through policy with a contract that makes it completely clear to the customers that they bear the responsibility for preparing the job site for the work.

Cutouts and Drilling

Repiping happens in distinct stages. With my routes planned, I make all necessary cutouts and drillouts. Chalking lines and carefully cutting out drywall often makes it possible to reuse drywall pieces in their original locations. This saves time later, because the drywall cutout fits the hole exactly. Avoiding cutouts in corners, which are harder to patch, can also save time later (Figure 4).


Figure 4.Marking precise cuts in drywall and saving the cutouts for reuse later help keep the cost of a job down.

When drilling, it's important to have the right tools on hand and to think twice beforehand to avoid costly mistakes (Figure 5).


Figure 5.A heavy-duty right-angle drill is a necessity for boring joists and studs.

For example, drilling holes for hose bibbs from the outside instead of the inside eliminates the danger of blowing out the exterior cladding or stucco. I stop to clean each room after drill-outs are complete and before moving on to the next room or starting to install new piping. This protects flooring surfaces from being damaged by boots grinding in the debris, and it goes a long way towards generating a good reputation with customers.

Snaking Pipe

With cutting and drilling complete, it's time to push some pipe (Figure 6).


Figure 6. Hot and cold PEX water lines are strapped together for feeding into cutouts.

Installing PEX in new construction is straightforward (see "Plastic Plumbing Comes of Age," 3/97). In repiping, however, pipes have to be pushed and pulled from one strategically placed cutout to the next. Although still challenging, snaking PEX is much easier than repiping with copper or CPVC because there are fewer connections and the material is more flexible. Much like pulling electrical wires during remodeling work, PEX piping is fished through difficult junctures using all the usual tools and tricks. On the repipe job shown in this article, we were able to fish PEX through a wall-ceiling juncture and into the master bath, thereby eliminating extra holes and connections that would have been necessary with rigid copper or CPVC. This saved fittings and time. While most piping can be installed by one person, problem areas often require two people - one pushing and the other pulling. An example is the tight space found where intersecting roofs converge. Attic space under a valley rafter is usually tight and fishing drops into nearby walls is tough, even with two people.