Whether you’re a plumber or a DIY enthusiast, if you’re selecting plumbing fixtures for a project, you need to give careful consideration to a number of factors. Here we’ve listed 10 of them and provided a general guide to the correct fixtures to use in each case.
Type of piping
The piping you choose will depend on the application and there are a number of different materials to choose from including;
Steel – strong, rigid and often used in steam systems due to its ability to handle high temperatures and pressures.
Copper – often used for applications requiring smaller pipe diameters, It handles heat and intense pressures well and is primarily used for domestic potable-water piping.
Cast iron – used mainly in sewer and stormwater systems in older homes. It is very heavy and difficult to cut and during retrofitting, is often replaced with plastic piping.
PVC – relatively inexpensive and easy to work with and install and is resistant to most types of corrosion, but not to solvents and some oils.
PEX – clear, flexible piping is popular in residential plumbing systems. It is rigid enough to withstand normal water pressures and yet flexible enough to be woven through walls and crawlspaces.
Where the system is installed will have an impact on the fixtures required. Outdoors, select strong, durable fixtures made from materials that won’t easily corrode and can withstand harsh conditions. Stainless steel is popular due to its immunity to UV rays and resistance to corrosion and chemical stress. Specialized installations such as water heaters, on the other hand, require piping capable of carrying hot water without being damaged and here copper is the material of choice.
Always opt for quality over cost when selecting plumbing fixtures, as a failure due to inferior components could cost a lot more in the long run than any savings made upfront. If you’re on a tight budget, shop around for quality fixtures that are on sale. A good indication of quality is their warranty and whether they have any certification.
Plumbing fixtures and fittings are often concealed behind walls or buried in the ground, so they need to be durable enough to remain in-situ and operational for many years. The durability of a plumbing system is determined by the quality of its components, the skill of its installer and its suitability for the application and durability is an instance where you should definitely opt for quality over cost.
The water in your pipes can affect the lifespan of your system. If it’s corrosive, it will degrade your pipes in just a few short years. It can also dissolve copper and lead into your water supply, which poses health concerns. So if you suspect your water is less than pure, have it tested by a professional.
The amount of water pressure the system will experience is another factor to consider. If it has to accommodate high water pressure, the pipe will need to be wide and strong enough to withstand significant force and plastic pipes are often the best option in this case.
If a pipe is buried in the ground, the condition of the soil will have an effect on its durability. If it contains a lot of rocks and abrasive materials and there is moisture present, this will eventually degrade the pipe. Soil with excess minerals can also create a chemical reaction when coming into contact with some pipes, so if you have any doubts about soil quality, have it tested before installing your plumbing.
UV rays degrade the integrity of plastic pipes over time, reducing their lifespan. Exposure to sunlight can also heat up the water inside a pipe, so as PVC doesn’t handle high temperatures well, it should not be installed where it is exposed to sunlight, or should be wrapped in insulating material for protection.
Standards provide manufacturers with minimum acceptable specifications for a product to ensure uniform quality, safety and performance. Not only do they tell manufacturers what’s expected of their products, they also provide reassurance to those who are purchasing them. Checking the specifications of the plumbing fixture you are buying will help you determine whether you’re using the correct product for your application.
In Australia, plumbing fixtures are certified to ensure they are both safe and durable. Under the WaterMark Certification Scheme, a trademark stamp is printed on all plumbing and drainage products to show proof of quality.
Always look for this WaterMark when purchasing plumbing products because there are some on the market that don’t bear this stamp, which is usually a sign of inferior quality.
Hopefully, the considerations listed here will help you select the best items for your plumbing project. Remember though. that if it’s a DIY project and you’re in Australia, you’ll need a licensed plumber to actually perform the work.