Push fit plumbing, is it safe for self-builders?
What can go wrong? - “Push fit plumbing”.
Push or speed fit plumbing has been around for some period of time and has taken an increased market share in the choice of the water supply material in both residential and commercial new builds and refurbishments. Here, we share our insider knowledge to help troubleshoot this area of a building whether you are considering a new build or a conversion.
From initial teething problems, through improved technology, many die hard traditional plumbers now see the benefit of the system and it is more commonly used. As with any industry, new technology and changes always come along, and while it’s good to do your research, you shouldn’t ignore pioneering products that could add real value to the customer and your bottom line.
Key benefits include:
Interchangeable between plastic/copper
No scaling of pipes
Pipe elasticity reduces likelihood of pipes bursting (although they should still be lagged)
No hot work involved (i.e. soldering etc)
Easier to thread through the building structure
There are however some draw backs, these include:
Cannot be used for fuel oil, compressed air or fuel installations.
The materials are a lot more expensive than traditional copper work.
Specialist tools are required to cut the pipework.
Push fit plumbing, whilst expensive, is perceived by the general Self Builder to be easier to use over copper installations whether using soldered or compressions fittings. It is easier and quicker to cut and install. It is more suitable for temporary connections and is useful if there are leaks in say a refurbishment project. The pipes can also be easily changed or repositioned.
The system is also useful and preferable where you cannot use hot work (welding/burning) in locations such as thatch roofs or straw bales. This may also be a requirement of a Contractors all risk site insurance policy.
This all sounds too good. The advantages appear to outweigh the draw backs so where can things go wrong?
When installed correctly, the system is incredibly fast to fit and cost effective. However, if the job is performed incorrectly, the fitting as with any other service could burst causing extensive water damage. Ensure that anyone fitting push-fit pipes are trained appropriately and care is taken to do the job correctly. If you are not comfortable in doing the work yourself engage a plumbing contractor who has the relevant experience and insurances and this will reduce or possibly avoid the risk completely.
As detailed above, the installation and fitting is key. As with other proposed building materials within your build, whilst you can mix copper and plaster together, is a push fit system the best system to use? If for example there is a lot of exposed pipework, plastic might not be an appropriate option. Commonly, plastic pipework and fittings are generally larger than their copper equivalent.
Whether you are undertaking the works yourself or arranging for a plumber to undertake the installation, take extra care. It may be obvious but after the installation, pressurise the system, check, check and check again for leaks.
With only a small error on the part of the installer, a leak could potentially lead to thousands of pounds worth of damage.
As part of our work with specialist Insurance providers, We note the industry is seeing an increased number of “escape of water” insurance claims for leaking push fit systems during the course of construction. In the past year, one specialist Insurer has seen a marked increase in escape of water claims. One claim, whilst in a commercial environment, the damage caused in a care home by water was so severe it caused £500,000 of damage.
In a domestic environment, whilst the loss value may be lower, other factors should be considered. Water damage can cause extensive damage may well put the build period back several months, cause undue stress and inevitably additional costs.
These issues have filtered down to domestic Building Insurers and some insurers will either place conditions on a policy such as higher excesses or even not insure this type of installation. It is worth checking, especially if you are undertaking an extension, loft conversion or refurbishment with your current Building Insurer if they accept the material.
Andy Butchers is a Building Surveyor with over 25 years experience in the construction industry and regularly shares his knowledge to help Self Builders and Renovators to help avoid and overcome issues on their projects. He is a Director of Build-Zone Survey Services Ltd, the technical company for Build-Zone and Self Build Zone. Call 01732 744186