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.A heavy-duty right-angle
drill is a necessity for boring joists and
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.
and drilling complete, it's time to push some pipe (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