Picture this: It's a Saturday afternoon, and while trying to fix a leaky pipe under the sink, Jack discovers that he needs to connect two pipes together. He's neither a professional plumber nor keen on soldering. Here's where Sharkbite fittings come to the rescue, providing a quick, solder-free solution.
A little background: What are Sharkbite fittings?
Sharkbite fittings are connectors used in plumbing systems, be it for repairs, renovations, or even fresh installations, without the fuss of soldering, clamps, unions, glue, or using specialized tools. Their effortless push-connect design offers a user-friendly method for joining different types of pipes and are particularly effective for patch-up jobs or areas that are tricky to reach with a torch or other tools. Made from lead-free brass, they come equipped with a special stainless steel grab ring and a durable O-ring that ensures a tight, leak-proof seal. On average, users have reported installing Sharkbite fittings in as little as 45 seconds!
Sharkbite fittings are popular for both professional and DIY plumbing projects due to their ease of use and versatility, and are suitable for use in potable water, radiant heating, hydronic heating, and other plumbing applications.
Usage and important tips:
Using Sharkbite fittings correctly is crucial for ensuring a leak-free, reliable connection. Here are some tips to guide you in the proper use of these fittings:
Proper Pipe Preparation:
- Cutting: Be careful to make certain that the pipe is cut cleanly and squarely. Use a proper pipe cutter for this purpose.
- Deburring: After cutting, deburr the inside and outside edges of the pipe to prevent potential damage to the O-ring inside the SharkBite fitting.
- Cleaning: Ensure the end of the pipe is free from dirt, debris, or any foreign materials.
- Check the fitting for an insertion depth mark. If not provided, you can refer to SharkBite's depth chart or use a SharkBite deburr & gauge tool to mark the correct depth on your pipe.
- Confirm that the pipe is inserted into the fitting up to this mark for a full and proper connection.
Avoid Excessive Stress:
Most Sharkbite fittings have a small window where you can visually confirm that the pipe has been inserted to the correct depth.
Rotate, Don’t Twist:
- Ensure the pipe is supported adequately, especially near the fitting. This reduces the chances of any mechanical stress on the connection.
Check for Leaks:
- While Sharkbite fittings can be rotated after installation, avoid twisting them, as this might compromise the connection.
Use in Appropriate Applications:
- After installation, turn on the water and check for any signs of leaking around the fitting.
Temperature and Pressure:
- While versatile, always ensure you're using Sharkbite fittings in applications they're designed for. Check the product's specifications if you’re at all uncertain.
Avoid Exposing to Harmful Chemicals:
- Ensure that the system's temperature and pressure are within the limits specified for Sharkbite fittings.
For Underground Use:
- Some chemicals can degrade the materials of the fitting or the pipe. Make certain that the environment around the installation is free from such compounds.
- If using Sharkbite fittings underground, they should be wrapped in silicone tape to protect them from soil contaminants.
- If you need to remove a SharkBite fitting, use the appropriate SharkBite disconnect tool. This ensures that the fitting and the pipe aren't damaged during removal and can be reused if necessary.
- As with all products, manufacturers may provide updates, new guidelines, or recalls. Stay updated with the latest from the manufacturer
You might be asking...
How long will Sharkbite fittings last? Will they fail over time?
Really, no plumbing component will last indefinitely. And all pipe joints can leak if not installed correctly; accidents happen, so it’s important to take your time and be careful during installation.
However, Sharkbite fittings are designed to be long-lasting and durable when properly installed.
The manufacturer states that Sharkbite fittings can last up to 25 years, although this lifespan can vary based on a variety of factors:
- Water Quality: Areas with hard water or corrosive water can potentially reduce the lifespan of any plumbing fixture, including Sharkbite fittings.
- Water Pressure: High water pressure can cause wear and tear on plumbing components over time. Ensuring that your home's water pressure is within a recommended range can help prolong the life of your fittings.
- Temperature fluctuations: Repeated extreme temperature changes can affect the longevity of the fitting, especially if they’re exposed to conditions outside their intended use parameters.
- Installation: Proper installation is key. If the pipe is not properly deburred or if the fitting is not fully seated, this can result in leaks or premature failure.
- Physical damage: Any damage to the fitting itself or the O-ring can result in leaks or failure. This might happen during installation or because of external factors after installation.
- Environment: Fittings exposed to outdoor elements or non-climate-controlled spaces might experience a different lifespan than those in controlled indoor environments.
Regularly inspecting your plumbing system and addressing any small issues that arise can also contribute to the longevity of your fittings, including Sharkbite fittings. If you're ever in doubt, consult with a plumbing professional.
What pipe materials are compatible with Sharkbite fittings?
Sharkbite fittings are designed to work with a variety of nominally-sized pipe materials, such as:
For successful installation, make sure:
- Copper: Standard copper tubing, types K, L, and M.
- PEX (cross-linked polyethylene): This is a type of flexible plastic tubing that's popular for its ease of installation.
- CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride): A type of plastic piping often used for both hot and cold water distribution systems.
- HDPE (high-density polyethylene): Used in some Sharkbite fittings designed specifically for transitioning between different materials.
- PE-RT (Polyethylene of Raised Temperature Resistance): This is another type of flexible plastic tubing.
- … the pipe is clean, free of burrs, and cut straight.
- … the pipe is free from paint, solder, and other contaminants where the fitting will be.
- … you fully insert the pipe into the fitting until it reaches the depth mark.
Additionally, keep in mind that while Sharkbite fittings can connect these types of pipes, not all combinations may be suitable for all applications. Always make sure to use the correct fitting for the specific transition or connection you're making. And while Sharkbite fittings are available in multiple sizes, it's imperative to select the right fit for your specific pipe.
Why do some plumbers advise against using Sharkbite fittings?
Sharkbite fittings have revolutionized DIY plumbing projects and offered a swift solution for professionals in some situations. However, some plumbers have reservations about using them for various reasons:
- Reliability Concerns: Traditional soldered or threaded joints have been around for a long time and have a proven track record. Some plumbers are skeptical about the long-term reliability of push-fit connectors like SharkBite, especially when used in areas that are not easily accessible for regular inspection or maintenance.
- Cost: Sharkbite fittings are often more expensive than traditional fittings. For large projects, the cost difference can add up.
- Potential for Incorrect Installation: While SharkBites are designed for easy installation, they aren't foolproof. If not properly seated or if used on a damaged section of pipe, they can leak. Plumbers who are called in to fix DIY mistakes might develop a negative view of these fittings.
- Professional Pride: Some plumbers take pride in their skill with traditional methods like soldering. They may have an issue with using Sharkbite fittings because they see push-fit solutions as shortcuts or even as undermining the trade.
- Limitations: Sharkbite fittings have limitations when it comes to temperature and pressure. They might not be suitable for all plumbing situations.
- Concerns about Removal: While Sharkbite fittings can be removed and reused, the process requires a special tool (which we offer) and can be more challenging than the initial installation.
- Hidden Installations: There's a particular concern about using Sharkbite fittings inside walls or in other concealed areas. The fear is that if they fail, the leak could go unnoticed for a long time, leading to significant damage.
It's essential to note that many plumbers do use and trust Sharkbite fittings for specific applications. They appreciate their convenience, especially in tight spaces or for quick repairs. The key is understanding when and where it's appropriate to use them.
Can Sharkbite fittings be used in enclosed walls? For instance, can I use them for my shower installation?
Depending upon your area and local codes, very often they can. Sharkbite fittings are approved for concealed and buried installations in many areas. However, there are a few things you should consider:
- Local Building Codes: Always check your local building and plumbing codes before using Sharkbite fittings or any other product in a specific application. Some jurisdictions might have specific requirements or restrictions regarding the use of push-fit fittings like SharkBite behind walls.
- Accessibility for Inspection: Even though Sharkbite fittings can be used in concealed areas, it's generally a good practice to have plumbing connections accessible if possible. This way, they can be inspected and replaced, if necessary, without having to tear out large portions of the wall. (This is good practice for any fitting or valve.)
- Installation: Ensure that the pipes are properly prepared (cleaned, deburred, and cut straight) and that the fittings are fully seated to ensure a proper and secure connection.
- Protection: If using in areas where the pipes might be at risk of physical damage (e.g., where nails or screws might be driven into the wall), you should take precautions. This might include using protective plates or shields to prevent accidental damage to the pipes and fittings.
- Longevity: While Sharkbite fittings are designed to be durable and long-lasting, no plumbing connection is entirely immune to potential failure. The risk is why some professionals prefer traditional methods, such as soldering for copper pipes, especially in concealed areas.
- Consultation: If you're unsure about using Sharkbite fittings behind walls, it's always a good idea to consult with a licensed plumber or check with local building officials.
For shower installations in particular, please keep in mind temperature and pressure fluctuations. Shower systems can experience frequent temperature and pressure changes, which can strain fittings over time. While Sharkbite fittings are designed to handle these fluctuations, it's essential to ensure they're installed correctly.
In short, always make certain your Sharkbite fittings are installed correctly and consider the long-term implications and accessibility for maintenance or repairs.
Is it OK to frequently disconnect and reconnect Sharkbite fittings?
Sharkbite fittings are designed with a push-fit mechanism that allows for relatively easy disconnection and reconnection. However, there are nuances to consider:
- Designed for Disconnection: Sharkbite fittings can indeed be disconnected after installation. A special tool, often called a "SharkBite disconnect clip" or "SharkBite removal tool", is used to release the fitting from the pipe, allowing it to be taken off.
- Reuse: After being disconnected, Sharkbite fittings can often be reused, but it's essential to inspect the fitting carefully. Check the O-ring, the stainless-steel teeth, and the body of the fitting for any signs of wear, damage, or debris. If any components seem compromised, it's best to replace the fitting.
- Frequent Disconnection/Reconnection: While Sharkbite fittings can be disconnected and reconnected, they are not explicitly designed for frequent adjustments or to act as a quick-connect/disconnect solution like some other types of fittings. Constantly connecting and disconnecting can wear out the O-ring or the stainless-steel teeth over time, potentially compromising the integrity of the connection.
- New Installation Considerations: If you're reusing a SharkBite fitting on a different section of pipe or after cutting a pipe, make sure the pipe end is prepared correctly: it should be clean, free of burrs, and straight-cut.
While Sharkbite fittings absolutely can be disconnected and reconnected, they are primarily designed as a semi-permanent solution rather than a fitting to be frequently adjusted. If a connection will need regular changes, it might be worth exploring other types of fittings designed explicitly for that purpose.
Pros and Cons to consider - Customer Insights:
- Ease of Use: One of the biggest advantages of Sharkbite fittings is the simplicity of their installation. They require no soldering, gluing, or crimping. A clean-cut pipe can simply be pushed into the fitting for a secure connection.
- Speed: They allow for quick repairs and installations. This is especially handy in emergencies or situations where water needs to be turned back on rapidly.
- Versatility: Designed to work with various types of pipes, including copper, PEX, CPVC, and PE-RT. This makes them valuable in retrofit projects where different types of existing piping might be encountered.
- No Special Tools: Apart from a pipe cutter and possibly a deburring tool, no special equipment is needed to install these fittings. This can reduce the overall cost and complexity of a project, especially for DIYers.
- Removable and Reusable: With a simple disconnect clip or tool, Sharkbite fittings can be removed and reused, which can be advantageous in certain scenarios.
- Cost: Sharkbite fittings tend to be more expensive than traditional fittings. Over the course of a large project, this can add up.
- Long-term Reliability: While many professionals and homeowners have used Sharkbite fittings without issues, some professionals express concerns about their long-term reliability compared to soldered or crimped connections.
- Not Always Code-Compliant: Depending on the local building and plumbing codes, Sharkbite fittings may not always be accepted, especially for concealed installations (like inside walls). It's essential to check local regulations before using them.
- Potential for Improper Installation: Because they're easy to use, there's a risk that someone might not push the pipe fully into the fitting, leading to potential leaks or disconnections. Proper installation is still crucial.
- Aesthetics: In visible areas, some people might prefer the look of a soldered joint or a crimped connection over a SharkBite fitting.
- Pipe Types: Sharkbite fittings are primarly designed to fit nominal-sized (copper-tube-sized) pipe, NOT IPS (galvanized, brass etc.) pipe. Note, however, that there are many different Sharkbite-to-PVC transition fittings available that will allow you to connect to some sizes of Schedule 40 PVC pipe, and the male and female IPS-threaded Sharkbite adapters can connect to any pipe or fittings with the mating IPS threads.
- Purpose: Is it a temporary patch or a long-standing solution you're aiming for? Sharkbite fittings are great for both, but there may be less expensive options if a temporary fix is all you need (although the reusability of your Sharkbite fittings adds to their value since you’ll be able to use them again later if removed properly).
- Budget: Their easy-to-use nature might mean a slightly higher price point than other methods. However, many feel that the convenience outweighs the cost.
- Space Constraints: In confined spaces, Sharkbite fittings prove invaluable due to the ease of installation.
- Access: Will you have easy access to the fittings later if repair or replacement is needed?
Through the User's Eyes:
For DIY-er or even a seasoned plumber, Sharkbite fittings offer undeniable convenience. Instead of a drawn-out soldering session, the job is done in a fraction of the time. While the upfront cost might seem a tad high, the time and potential hassle saved often make it worth the investment. As always, a thorough check post-installation is a smart move to ensure a snug fit.
If you're in the market for a time-saving, efficient plumbing solution, Sharkbite fittings might just be your answer. When properly installed and used, Sharkbite fittings can provide a reliable connection, but as with all plumbing solutions, careful attention to detail and following manufacturer guidelines is essential for optimal performance. Like all tools, understanding their strengths and ideal use cases will yield the best outcomes.