Any plumbing repair can be intimidating for a DIYer, especially when it involves repairing or joining pipe. Anyone can learn to solder copper with proper instruction, but it can be a challenge in the midst of a real-world repair situation (and a potential hazard, given the open flame involved). Gluing CPVC is simple in theory, but can also prove difficult, messy, and time consuming in cramped quarters. Push-Fit (aka Push-to-Connect) fittings are an easy-to-install alternative that save an incredible amount of time and trouble.
How They Work
All push-fits work using three primary elements: a collet featuring a ring of metal teeth that firmly grasps the pipe, one or more O-rings that create a watertight seal, and a locking mechanism that keeps everything together. The fittings are designed to work with CPVC, PEX, and hard drawn copper pipe (types K, L, M). Most are not compatible with soft copper tubing, with the exception of John Guest fittings (soft copper easily deforms and does not return to shape, making it difficult to achieve a good seal). Smaller John Guest fittings can also be used with vinyl or polyethylene tubing for things like water filters and refrigerator icemakers.
In addition to basic fittings like couplings and tees, there are push-fit valves and gauges, supply kits, and even irrigation fittings. You can also find fittings with various connection types (like IPS/NPT threads) to make quick work of installing things like shower valves and pipes, and water heaters.
Note: The convenience of push-fit does come at a premium: push-fit fittings will cost significantly more per piece than other options: a 1/2" push-fit coupling will run between $4-$8, while its copper or CPVC counterpart will be less than a dollar. Judging by reviews, those who decide to use them feel the cost is more than made up for by the ease of installation and the time saved.
Most push-fit fittings these days are approved for concealed applications (in-wall/underground) and permanent installation. For many, however, there remains a heavy air of skepticism around push-fit, especially when it comes to concealed or permanent installation. The perception that push-fit is only suitable for temporary emergency repair (which it is great for) is one popular among plumbers, but increasingly challenged by DIYers using the technology across a range of applications.
Much of the skepticism surrounding push-fit has to do with its perceived lack of a track record. Although push-fits haven't been around nearly as long as copper soldering, they have had a good few decades to establish a decent foothold in the DIY market: John Guest fittings have been widely used since the 80s. The SharkBite system came about more recently - about the mid-2000s - but has quickly gained the loyal support of DIYers as well as an official nod from the many municipalities who permit their use throughout plumbing systems.
Another reason for skepticism lies in the technology itself: many plumbers feel that steel teeth and an O-ring alone cannot possibly create a secure, long-lasting connection. Compared to the visceral act of soldering with an open flame, simply pushing a pipe into a fitting feels a bit dubious. Likewise, just the appearance of a well-soldered joint can inspire more confidence than a bulky piece of plastic or brass. But these are just appearances: there is no evidence that push-fit fittings have a notably higher failure rate than anything else in a plumber's arsenal. It's true that when it comes to joining copper and CPVC, solder and glue will always be best - but there are skill levels and situations where something quick and simple is a huge help.
Something to think about... Still not sure if you should trust push-fit? Consider this: SharkBite and John Guest fittings have a 25-year warranty; ProBite fittings carry a whopping 75-year warranty.
- Always use a good, sharp pipe/tubing cutter - never use a hacksaw. The most important thing you can do to guarantee leak-free performance out of a push-fit fitting is to have a clean, smooth cut that's free of burrs and maintains the shape of the pipe. This keeps the O-rings from getting damaged, ensuring a tight seal.
- Emergency? Tight schedule? Pipes do not need to be dry to successfully install a push-fit fitting. Just shut off the water at the nearest stop, drain as much as you can out of a nearby outlet, and get to work!
- Fully inserting pipe into push-fit fittings is key to a successful installation. The depth to which it's inserted is specified by the manufacturer and varies by pipe size. SharkBite makes a handy depth gauge (plus deburring tool) for their fittings, but you can also check the packaging or manufacturer website and mark the pipe accordingly. Having this reference helps avoid partial insertions and the resulting leaks.
- Push-fit speeds things up, but don't go too fast: quickly jamming pipe into fittings is a good way to damage O-rings. Slowly but firmly twist the pipe as you insert it to the proper depth.
- "Twist and lock" fittings (like most John Guest) have nuts on their ends that must be hand-tightened to fully secure the fitting (and "unlocked" to insert pipe). "Standard" push-fits like SharkBite and ProBite don't have this feature: just insert the pipe and you're done.
- When working with PEX, you'll need to make sure a special insert is used that keeps the tubing from collapsing. SharkBite and ProBite come with an insert already inside the fitting; all you need to do is push the tubing in. With John Guest fittings, inserts will need to be purchased separately and manually placed in the tube end(s).
- Once pipe is secured inside the fitting, it can only be removed by pressing down on the fitting's collet or "release collar" (SharkBite): this is the small plastic ring that just barely sticks out of the fitting end. This "ring" is just the outer edge of a larger piece, whose other end features the metal teeth that grip onto the pipe. John Guest collets need only fingertips to push in; SharkBite and ProBite release collars call for a special disconnect tool (or careful use of an adjustable crescent wrench: slide over pipe, adjust to size, and push the collar firmly into the fitting while gently pulling the pipe out).
- Optional locking clips can be used to create an even more secure John Guest connection by preventing accidental pushing-in of the collet. Just clip between the collet and the fitting body, and rest easy.
- Pro Tip: John Guest and ProBite fittings are entirely reusable (provided they're installed correctly to begin with and are not damaged during removal), making them an even greater value. SharkBite recommends reuse only for testing purposes (e.g. reusing caps to check leaks, test pressure), never permanent installation.
- When burying push-fit fittings, make sure they're prevented from making direct contact with soil/backfill by wrapping them with chloride-free tape, insulation, or some other barrier. The backfill should be free of rocks and debris. Of the brands we sell, SharkBite and ProBite fittings are approved for burial in most areas. If you're considering using push-fit in a burial or other concealed application, be sure to check with local code authorities first.
You'll probably never see an entire house plumbed using push-fit, owing to its higher cost and a lack of enthusiasm on the part of plumbers. But for repairs and installations that would otherwise take too much time, sweat, or contorting, using push-fit fittings can literally save a DIYer's day!
Check out our great selection of top-quality push-fit fittings!