A few words of advice regarding PEX from a DIYer.
March 03, 2007 by Christopher Akins, Springfield, MO. (we have written permission to show his words first shown on Plumbing Forum www.Plbg.com).
"As a DIY'er - not a plumber - I can offer my thoughts on a first experience with PEX. Just finished replumbing the entire supply system of my 1950's house except from the meter to the house. This included some lines in a very tight, 13" crawl space. That detail may be important to what type of crimp connector or tool you choose.
After researching the topic a couple years ago on this forum, I was reading that full-circle copper crimp rings were better than side crimp stainless steel so I went with that system despite most contractors around here (Springfield, MO) using the side-crimp rings.
The tool I used was a Zurn interchangeable jaw crimper to avoid having to purchase two tools. I got it brand new on Ebay with a de-crimping tool for way less than my local Lowes had them. For a newbie to the system, the de-crimping tool came in very handy - actually a necessity. Though my crimps got better as I went, I found the copper ring system to be tricky at times, working alone. So some crimps had to come off.
My experience after using the system:
1) I'm happy to say, not one PEX connection leaked after turning on the water, so I'm happy with the copper rings in that regard. I was probably over-cautious and took off any rings that were the slightest bit less than perfect, though. I'd rather do it now than later when something springs a leak.
2) The tool system I used, similar to a lot of brands, is a pretty long tool that has to open up so the two handles are nearly 180 degrees apart. This can pose a real logistical problem when working between floor joists and under the house in a very cramped crawl space. Most connections in the basement and wall were much easier, though even in those areas there were some tricky spots due to the size of the tool when open and the arc needed to close the tool during the crimp.
3) The copper ring system with the type of tool I used almost necessitates a person needing 3 or 4 hands at times - especially when doing crimps on a vertical run of tubing. The ring slides down while you're trying to get the tool on it, straight, etc. Even on horizontal sections I felt the rings slid around way to easily while trying to the tool around them, square to the tubing, just the right distance from the fitting, etc. Pretty small tolerances for error overall. I'd love to see the rings be more snug BEFORE the crimp.
4) A local plumber demonstrated his side crimp tool to me one day. I must say it seemed much easier since he could hold the ring in place with one hand and crimp with the other. It was definitely faster, and cutting the crimp off was way faster too. 'Course some of that was due to the fact that he does this every day of his life and I'm new to it. But still, the side crimp system seemed quicker to me in that regard.
5) There are offset tools for the copper ring system, though much more expensive. These supposedly allow one handed operation of the tool for the copper ring system. As I'm not a plumber, I couldn't justify the cost - at least before the job. Now that I did the entire job, at times really fussing with the above mentioned challenges, I think the one-handed model might have been worth the nearly 3x cost.
6) One problem I found with the interchangeable jaw tool vs. two separate tools was that when I changed jaws from 1/2" to 3/4" the tool had to be recalibrated in order to meet the tight tolerances for the crimp being tight enough but not too tight. With two separate tools, I could have set it and forgotten it for the most part. Re-calibration meant making a test crimp or two every time I changed jaws. That equals wasted rings = wasted money and time. I checked nearly every crimp with both a go/no-go gauge and a digital micrometer caliper.
Hope this long post helps you and someone else out there that is thinking about tackling PEX as a DIY'er. Overall I'd do PEX again for the many benefits. I might consider a different tool system the next time, though."
Later when we asked the author for his permission to show his words/experiences Mr. Akins agreed and in part also stated:
"For the beginning do it yourselfer like myself (first house, first refurb, learning as I go) I think one of the hardest parts of any project is trying to wade through the myriad information and decide what's true and what's not. Even when I've had contractors in to bid a couple projects it's a miracle for two of them to agree with how something should be done! :-)
But on the sunlight issue with PEX I actually replaced 3 100' coils of the stuff which I had purchased a year earlier then didn't get to install as originally planned. It had been protected from direct sunlight, but not completely from indirect. I just happened to notice in Vanguard's printed info it spoke of not letting PEX be exposed to direct OR indirect sunlight. Wow - I hadn't seen the indirect word before. So I wrote their company and asked them about that. I not only told them about how my PEX had been stored but explained that I would be putting the piping in a basement that has two windows (indirect exposure) and a crawlspace with two very small vents. They indicated that EVEN IN THE CRAWLSPACE I would need to take measures to somehow cover the PEX.
They also said NOT to use the 3 coils of PEX I had already bought if it had been exposed to indirect sunlight for much time at all. So I replaced it. Didn't throw it away as I might use it for something like a sprinkler later. It won't matter as much if it starts leaking a little in the ground, right?
But the long and short of it is that I just finished putting foam pipe insulation on every inch of the PEX I installed. I have no idea if it was really necessary or not. My gut says "NO" as I can't really believe that the small amount of diffuse light that makes it into my crawlspace could possibly hurt the stuff. And I know for a fact that plumbers here don't protect their PEX in new home construction. There are 6 brand new homes right across the street from me that have PEX all through their crawlspaces with nothing on the piping. But Vanguard themselves said "NO LIGHT", so I went the extra mile. That's why I was completely surprised to see a quote from them on your PEX page that is contrary to what they told me. That's the part that's so confusing to us newbies. Which person, even from the same company, does one believe?
While I feel good about my choice to use PEX and believe it will hold up for the long term, it's the very confusing bits like mentioned above that make me understand why PlumbingSupply.com® doesn't yet offer the PEX system."