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Why won't plumbers work on my home?

by Mark Bower

Plumbing in a manufactured home can be quite different than plumbing in a site-built home. In fact different enough that plumbers in many areas will not work on mobile homes.

Today's plumbing in manufactured homes can be described as 'on the cutting-edge of technology.' Because codes for site-built houses are strict and hard to change, mobile-home manufacturers are often the first to test new technology. Thanks to mobile-home manufacturers, this country is now seeing a shift towards plastic waterlines - more specifically, a shift to PEX and CPVC.

In some communities a mobile home owner may have a difficult time finding a plumber who will work on their home. Working with plastic waterlines is very simple, easy and fast. So why would plumbers scoff at that? One reason is that, in many areas, codes for site-built homes have changed very little over the years. This has given many plumbers a good reason for not wanting to learn anything new. In fact, those same plumbers probably despise the new technology; therefore, they refuse to work on mobile homes. The other fact is just plain laziness - too much work to crawl under a home to get at a waterline. Or how about the excuses, "You just never know what kind of plumbing mess I'll find, so why mess with it at all?"

If your having trouble finding someone to work on your plumbing and you don't want to attempt it yourself, try contacting a mobile home repair company instead of a plumber.

Rule Number One

Always know how to shut the water off to your home in case a pipe blows or some other emergency. Water can cause a lot of damage to your home, yet knowing the location of a simple shutoff valve could save you thousands of dollars in damage. In fact, twice a year you should have a household drill for shutting off the water in case of a blown pipe. Think of it like a fire drill. All family members should know how to shut off the water. Your chances of having a burst pipe are much greater than having a fire.

You don't need to be a plumber to shut off the water valve. You will not hurt anything by shutting it off. Sure, you don't want to be doing the laundry or washing dishes. And if you have an electric water heater, you'll still be OK. If your going to keep the water off for more than a half hour, then shut the water heater off at the breaker panel just to be safe. Then again, if its an emergency, I wouldn't worry about what appliance was off and what was on. Just shut the water off! If by a remote chance you don't have water in your electric water heater, you may burn out a heating element. But its much easier to replace a $15 heating element in your water heater than the floors and walls in your home.

Locating and Testing the Main Water Shutoff Valve

Most mobile homes will have at least two main shutoff valves. One shutoff valve should be located in the area of the water heater. You may see several shutoff valves in this area. The main one should be located near the floor.

To test, turn on a hot and cold faucet in your bathroom or kitchen. Turn the shutoff valve off. If both the hot and cold water quit running, you found it. If not, look some more. Check to be sure that the shutoff valve is functioning properly and not frozen or leaking. If it's leaking, you may try tightening the packing nut. If you have a ball-valve type and it leaks, you'll have to replace it.

In most mobile homes, you probably have to remove a panel to access the water heater. The access panel may even been located on the outside of the home. Be sure this panel can be quickly removed for easy access to the water shutoff valve. If you can't find a shut-off valve inside the water-heater room, then it's probably underneath the home.

All mobile homes have shutoff valves located either under or next to the home. In many older mobile homes, this may be the only main water shutoff valve. Locate this valve and be sure it works and is easy to access. If access is difficult and this is your only means of shutting off the water, then consider installing another shutoff valve inside your home. Having an inside valve is a smart idea. If you live in a cold climate, the outside shutoff valve could freeze leaving you no way to shut the water off to your home in case of an emergency. The little bit of trouble it would take to install an inside valve could pay you back many thousands of dollars.

Waterlines

In the past many mobile homes were built using galvanized pipe or copper for waterlines. Today, galvanized pipe has become the headache of the industry as it tends to corrode shut. Galvonized pipe is no longer used for waterlines. Copper, on the other hand, is still occassionally used but has become quite expensive. Cold weather can also be deadly on copper. If it freezes, copper either bursts or expands so no fittings will fit, making repairs about impossible. Plus, both products are difficult for the average homeowner to work with. That gave life to another alternative - plastic waterlines.

At first the most popular plastic waterline was polybutylene, a gray-colored waterline. In the mid nineteen-ninety's many of the fittings that were used to connect polybutylene tubing were substandard. A class-action suit resulted and today polybutylene is no longer manufactured. PEX has since been polybutylene's replacement.

Between PEX and CPVC waterlines, PEX provides the most resistance against corrosion and has an ability to 'remember' its shape. That feature helps prevent the pipe from bursting under extreme conditions such as freezing. Of all the types of waterline available on today's market, PEX is by far the most superior. Both PEX and CPVC products withstand heat very well. One advantage of CPVC is that it can be glued (solvent welded) if so desired. Both products are available in sticks or flexible rolls. At the current time CPVC is probably the most widely available, but PEX is rapidly making its way onto retailers shelves.

No matter what type of waterlines (galvanized, copper, black, polybutylene, cpvc, pex) your mobile home currently has, you can easily repair leaks or do other plumbing projects by using materials available at your home improvement center or hardware store. For instance, several companies have available universal fittings and couplings designed to easily connect together about any type of waterline using only basic tools. Because no soldering or special tools are needed, the fittings are perfect for homeowners wishing to undertake their own repairs.

Most all homes have two sizes of waterlines - 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch. In some rare cases you may also find 3/8 inch waterlines. In a properly plumbed home, you'll have 3/4 inch waterlines coming to and from the water heater. The remainder of your waterlines should be 1/2 inch.




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