PEX Plumbing Part 6, TOOLS!

My favorite part of any home repair project is the tools. (My second favorite would be completing the job without major bodily damage.) There is a very wide variety of tool types used for PEX plumbing, and just as much variety in price ranges for the tools. I found the best prices on the tools to be on E-bay. I did check with several of my area building supply stores and found the same tools for considerably more money and they had no where near the variety that I found on-line. If you are not fond of keeping tools, PEX tools are available for rental. I would have to recommend that you google the information for this because I only briefly looked into rentals. Once a tool is in my hands I find it hard to part with. This guide should help you either way although if you do not have a tool passion you may find it boring. Unfortunately in writing this article I am limited to the numbers of pictures I can display. Hopefully you will be able to reference to the the photos I am able to post.

The first consideration is to whether you will be using regular crimp connectors or “cinch” crimp connectors. I went into some detail of these connectors in my first guide: PEX plumbing. ( photo one)

The cinch type connectors are good for use in smaller spaces because the tool does not need to wrap around the entire connector. It just grabs the connecter on both sides, where the arrows point, and cinches it closed. This is somewhat like tightening a belt. Unfortunately this was the only real “upside” I found to this particular tool. It uses a ratcheting function and when the crimp is closed all the way the ratchet stops and releases. While I have fairly good upper body strength I am not a “gorilla” and have small hands. I found it very difficult to get the tool to close all the way. I also found that the cinch connections were the only ones I had that leaked. They also do not come back off very easily so unless you can re-cinch them you need to start the connection over. Price, bids starting at $35 U.S. and up from there. You only need one size to crimp any size cinch crimp. Brands: Watts, Shurlock and PEXcaliber. (probably more)

Regular Pex crimping tools. The only draw back I found with making regular crimp connections was wrapping the tools all the way around the crimp and then tightening. It can be difficult if you are working in a small space. I bought a “multi-head” set. This came with the basic tool and interchangable heads in sizes 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″. Of these I only used the 1/2″ and 3/4″ sizes. You do have to change the head every time you change connector size but I did not find it difficult and planned my job to complete the majority of each size at one time. You can buy each of these sizes as it’s own tool but it is more expensive. I had no problems at all making the closures as it did not seem to require any great physical strength. The connection is made by compressing the band around the PEX on the fitting. My set also came with a “Go- No Go” guage. I have also seen these gauges sold seperately. The purpose of the gauge is to test to see if you have made a solid connection. I tested the first couple of crimps I made and tested again once when I changed heads. I did not check every crimp I made. You can if you feel the need but I preferred my personal test of just turning the water on. I had no leaks with these and my house is still not floating down the street. I also found that when I made mistakes they were not as difficult to remove as compared to the “cinch” type. There are many brands available and all work with any brand of regular crimp fitting. Again price ranges on these are wide open. I think I spent around $60 for my set. I saw them at $130 to $160 in the building supply stores and they were the same type set.

Pex set with case ( photo two )

Close up. Where you see the open circle end is where you change the size heads. The set came with the allen tool required to make the change. ( photo three )

“Go-No Go” gauge that slips over your completed connection. This tool is shown in my second photo set.

Since completing my project I have found another type of tool for crimp connections. This particular tool comes in a combination of 3/8″, 1/2″ and 3/4″ with a 1″ size also available. It is compact and will work well in smaller spaces. It measures 6″ in length and DOES NOT require head changes when changing connector size! You do need a pair of vise grips to use this, but it does not require any massive strength. It does not require any adjustments like the multi-tool with interchangable heads. (Even though my main project is complete I may have to get one just to play with it.) While I did not purchase this from this seller I have received permission to refer you to him for more information and will show you a couple of his pictures for reference. If you go to his listings you will also find a very nice detailed description of how this tool works. The price appears to be very good for a multi-head type tool. The seller is: 99tugeye99

Okay what else might you need? I bought myself a crimp ring removing/cutting tool. They actually work well on the regular crimps if you know how to use them properly. Hint, do not try to use them like I did at first. You do not place the blades of the tool on both sides of the crimp and squeeze. This does absolutely nothing. You cut off the Pex next to the fitting and then place one blade inside the fitting and one blade on the crimp and squeeze. They work really well that way. Cost, under $15.

Pex tubing cutters. I have found they come in both ratcheting and non-ratcheting types. I felt no need for the ratchet type as PEX is not that difficult to cut through. If you are unsteady with cutting you might want the ratchet type as it would hold the PEX more tightly. The important part of cutting the PEx tubing is to make a straight even cut. If you are handy with a regular knife you might not even need this tool but I found it much easier and I do not do well with knives. Cost, under $15. One size works on all.

You will also most likely need some regular plumbing tools if you are doing a complete project. Copper pipe cutters, sandpaper, solder, torch and many more come to mind depending on whether or not you are starting your system from copper or galvanized. Again I am not a plumber but just have become fascinated by the PEX system.

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