SharkBite Fittings Review
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With them, a two-hour job took me only 20 minutes, requiring no special tools or skills.
The Takeaway: SharkBite Push-to-Connect Couplings are the fastest, easiest way we’ve found to repair or replace leaky plumbing fittings. They’re also the simplest way to connect domestic water supply lines of different materials, like copper and CPVC or PEX. But their true beauty lies in the fact that you need no special skills or tools use them.
½” SharkBite Fittings
Several years ago, my wife and I bought a 200-plus-year-old farmhouse, and with it came an unending list of projects. A new kitchen and associated plumbing was on the list, but those got pushed quite a way down because of more pressing issues. That is until one afternoon over the summer when, with family visiting, I went to the basement to get something and discovered that a corroded half-inch copper elbow had chosen this day to spring a pin-hole leak. There was a whole mess of copper supply lines down there—dead-ends, lines that went across the basement and came back—and most of the fittings looked poorly soldered. None were leaking, so it wasn’t urgent—until it was.
Twenty minutes later, I was in the hardware store, looking at copper fittings and pipe, thinking about what I needed and how to get the job done before dinner. As I was standing there trying to remember if I had enough propane for my torch, I noticed the SharkBite fittings just to the right of the copper ones. I had been resisting using plastic pipe, and these fittings with rubber o-rings. But right then, faced with limited time, I decided to give them a try.
I opted to cut out all the dead ends, eliminate needlessly long runs of pipe, and get rid of as many crusty old fittings as possible. I needed two tees, six straight couplings, and about 10 or 12 feet of PEX (cross-linked polyethylene, a type of flexible plastic) for both hot and cold-water lines. So I left with my wallet a little lighter than I expected; PEX pipe is cheaper than copper, but the SharkBite fittings cost more than their copper counterparts.
Back at home, armed with my plumbing supplies, a tubing cutter, a utility knife, and a bucket to catch water from the pipes, I turned the water off and went to work. I cut and drained the lines to the kitchen and the second floor, then cut back to the water heater and a tee at the well-pump. I held up the PEX pipes to get a rough idea of length and cut them with the utility knife. Then I simply pressed the fittings to the original copper pipes, pressed the PEX into those, pressed and connected the tees to split the lines to the kitchen and second floor, and connected those. That took a total of about 20 minutes—all that was left was to turn the water back on and bleed the air out of the lines by cracking a faucet.
If I had done the job with copper pipe and fittings, it would have taken at least two hours, possibly more. And there would still be the risk of one of the fittings leaking, as it can be difficult to solder to old pipes. They may have mineral deposits or residual water left in them that can absorb heat, making it difficult getting solder to flow and seal well. Aside from those challenges, there’s also the risk of starting a fire when using a torch in confined spaces between studs or floor joists. I was very happy with the repair and have become a convert, replacing as much old copper as possible any time I have a repair to make.
If you’re adding or updating plumbing, or you have a bigger project to do, just use SharkBite Push-to-Connect Couplings to add on to your existing pipes. In these cases, it’s much more cost-effective to use the brand’s barbed fittings and stainless-steel strap clamps. To do this, you’ll need a ratchet clamp crimper tool—worth the investment if you’re the DIY type and know you’ll have future plumbing projects. And, while you can get away with using a hacksaw to cut both copper and PEX pipe, specialized tools for each material will work better and make the job go faster.
Brad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things. Growing up he worked on a farm, where he learned to weld, repair, and paint equipment. From the farm he went to work at a classic car dealer, repairing and servicing Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars. Today, when he's not testing tools or writing for Popular Mechanics, he's busy keeping up with the projects at his old farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania.
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