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Stick with manufacturer when splicing PEX pipe

Q: I recently bought a new “comfort height” toilet for my mother and intended to install it myself. I mounted it to the floor but when I was about to hook up the water supply, I noticed the water line would not reach the new toilet; it was short by about 5 inches. The water line is a plastic tube that sticks out of the wall and has no valve with it to turn on or off. The water control valves are in a cabinet in another part of the house. How do I extend the water line so it can connect with the new toilet?

A: Since these toilets are higher than normal, the distance from the water supply line to the bottom of the toilet tank where the line connects to the fill valve is greater, and it sounds like you don’t have enough slack in the line to reach. You have PEX piping which won’t be as simple as if the valve were a standard angle stop.

PEX is cross-linked polyethylene pipe and it’s very popular with builders. PEX requires special fittings and crimping tools. PEX piping is secured to a fitting with a collar or sleeve. The fitting slides into the end of the pipe and the collar is compressed around it with a special tool. Different manufacturers use different methods of crimping; some use a copper ring, while others use a stainless steel sleeve. Generally speaking, one manufacturer’s method is not compatible with that of another.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about expensive tools. You can use some plastic parts and screw them all together. Not all home centers carry a variety of PEX parts so you may have to look around.

Your toilet’s water supply line looks like a pipe with a female adapter on the end. You can screw the adapter onto the fill valve sticking out of the bottom of the toilet tank. A crimp ring will hold the adapter onto the pipe.

You will need to cut the plastic pipe in the middle somewhere and splice in a length of pipe. Give yourself about 4 inches from the end of the fitting and cut the pipe squarely. You can use a tubing cutter or a utility knife, but the cut must be square and free of burrs.

Cut a piece of piping longer that you need for the splice. Now you can join these pipes together with screw-on fittings. First slide on the large nut, small end first, onto the pipe.

Next, push the grip ring onto the tube, flat side first, so that it is about one-eighth of an inch from the end (the grip ring looks like a skinny washer with little fingers sticking out of it). Now, slide the cone washer onto the tube, large end first. The cone will push the grip ring back into the correct position. The cone is in the correct position when it is one-half inch past the end of the tube. Slide the mating piece of the fitting onto the pipe and tighten the nut. Tighten it by hand until it starts to squeal and then give it one additional turn with a wrench.

You can hold the pipe up to the toilet and measure where you need to cut it for length. Make the cut at the desired location and repeat the process to attach the end of the pipe with the adapter on it.

Then you can turn the water back on and grab the newspaper.

Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: questions@pro-handyman.com. Or, mail to: P.O. Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is: www.pro-handyman.com.

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