In a construction project of any scale, mistakes can happen. It is often the most economical option to reuse whatever can be reused. However, this may not be the best idea when it comes to plumbing fittings.
Plumbing fittings, whether PVC or copper, can be reused. This is, however, not the easiest option, and it can be extremely time-consuming to do. The time taken to prepare used fittings for reuse is often not worth the replacement cost of the relatively inexpensive fittings.
There are some instances where it is viable as well as economical to reuse these types of fittings. This is dependent on several factors, including whether you have the necessary time.
Is it Safe to Reuse Plumbing Fittings?
PVC fittings, which are mostly used for expelling wastewater, are usually fixed together with a special adhesive PVC weld or PVC cement. This adhesive essentially bonds the fittings and/or piping together, and in some cases, the PVC elements are essentially melted into one another.
Most often, it is possible to simply saw off the PVC piping from the fitting and reuse the piping if it is usable and able to be cleaned. By “usable” it is meant that the piping has no cracks or holes, and it can be cleaned sufficiently in order to be used again.
In order to reuse actual fittings which have been glued to the pipe, one will have to adopt certain time-consuming methods in order to remove the previously bonded pieces from one another.
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One of the best methods to achieve this entails first sawing off the remaining piece of PVC pipe and then coating the inside of the remaining pipe with glue. This glue is subsequently set on fire, which in turn softens the PVC pipe and glue simultaneously to the point where the two pieces can be separated from one another.
The remaining piece of pipe can be discarded, and the fitting can then be cleaned up and reused.
Another option is using a specially-designed tool which allows you to drill out the fittings.
These processes mentioned above are extremely time-consuming, so a decision must be made as to whether it is worth the time taken or not. If you are a “do-it-yourself” person with no time constraints, then it might be worth your time to salvage these fittings in order to save a small amount of money.
When it comes to paying professionals such as plumbers to try and reuse old plumbing fittings, the time taken to salvage the fittings will end up having a far higher cost than simply purchasing new fittings.
If the fitting has been salvaged and cleaned, it is safe to reuse, provided that it does not have any cracks or holes.
Can You Reuse Copper Fittings?
Copper fittings are extremely durable, corrosion resistant and highly versatile.
The downfall of using copper fittings, however, is the fact that they require a joint soldered on at every turn and every corner.
Copper fittings, as opposed to PVC fittings, are often far easier and more economical to reuse. This is due to the fact that these fittings are soldered together as opposed to glued together.
In order to separate copper fittings, the solder can be melted and wiped away with a dry cloth. The fittings can then be pulled apart and cleaned up; and provided they don’t have any small holes or structural issues, the fittings can be reused without causing any major issues.
Copper piping is the simplest to reuse, as this can be sawn off from its original placement and reconnected elsewhere, provided there are no leaks or holes.
Copper fittings and piping, however, possess value in terms of their ability to be scrapped, so the time taken to reuse the fittings is often not worth the time-cost when compared to purchasing new fittings. The preferable option would be, in most cases, to buy new fittings and gain whatever can be gained financially from the scrapping of the copper.
Can You Reuse Solder?
Old solder can either be melted down off the copper fittings and removed, or it can be melted and reused on the same fitting in some instances. One should always make use of solder flux, the purpose of which is to prepare the metal surfaces for soldering. This is achieved through the removal of oxides and impurities on the surface to be soldered.
What About Threaded Fittings?
Threaded fittings can be reused due to the fact that they are most often not glued into place. Any residue can be relatively easily removed, and the fittings can be reconnected with ease.
Threaded fittings are a good way to go about PVC assemblies, but there are certain instances in which they can leak, despite their usual reputation for being “leak-free”.
When it comes to assembling PVC joints, there are a few factors to be considered, and a number of actions that should not be performed when attempting to ensure the longevity of the assembly and avoiding leaks.
- Joints should not be overtightened. Overtightening may cause further issues with time.
- Teflon tape or pipe should not be added to add bulk to the joint.
- Make use of a sealant with threaded joints.
- When unsure of how much to tighten a joint, tighten it with your fingers until you can no longer tighten it further, and then add one or two turns with a tool.
- Because the threads are tapered, overtightening can cause the fitting to split, and you will end up having to replace this fitting once again.
In conclusion, while, for the most part, it is safe to reuse plumbing fittings provided they are fully intact and free of cracks and holes (no matter how small), it is often simply not worth the time taken to attempt reusing plumbing fittings. The time spent on separating the fittings and cleaning the fittings (as well as the time and money taken to find the right tools which are needed to salvage these fittings) will most often far outweigh the cost of new fittings.