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JimLewis
07-30-2004, 04:53 AM
What do you guys do when you begin an irrigation system installation and as you begin you find out that the main supply line going from the water meter to the house is some sort of pipe that you are not skilled in working with?

PVC, of course, never a problem. PEX or WRSBO, not a problem. But every 5th irrigation system or so we install, we'll run into some old copper pipe or some old galvanized pipe. I can't work with that.

Our standard practice is to put a clause in our contract that says that if we find the supply line to be a form of pipe we can't work with, that the customer agrees to pay for the cost of a plumber to come out and install something we can work with.

So, like I said, about every 5th system we install, this happens. We have to call a plumber and they come out and custom weld on a T that we can connect PVC to or some other similar solution. Then the customer pays for this.

Just wondering how the rest of you handled situations like this.

Mdirrigation
07-30-2004, 08:48 AM
We look at the supply line at the time of the estimate. That way there are no supprises. Then we tell the plumber what he needs and he hangs the backflow.

D Felix
07-30-2004, 11:23 AM
Can you not legally work with copper or galvanized?

From my "homeowner" experience, they are not that difficult to work with. I may not be a master plumber, but it's not hard to sweat a fitting on copper, you just have to make sure everything is clean and dry. Flux it and when it's hot enough it'll take solder.

Galvanized is a slightly different story, I can see where that might pose some problems, i.e., it may require some special tools to work with it (pipe threaders come to mind)....

Of course, if you cannot legally work with it, that's a whole 'nother ballgame that I understand....

And I'm just a landscaper that doesn't do irrigation.:rolleyes::D


Dan

JimLewis
07-30-2004, 02:08 PM
We look at the supply line at the time of the estimate. That way there are no supprises.

Ok. That doesn't seem really practical. And I've never heard of anyone who does that. I know for a fact my competitors don't do that. How are you going to dig up their mainline while you're giving the estimate? Just start digging a big 2' deep hole in their yard? I don't know what it's like where you live, but around here, code says main water lines have to be 2' or more deep. I can't immagine digging up a 2' deep hole every time I give an estimate.

Sometimes I can get a clue by looking at what's coming out of the back of the water meter. But that's by no means reliable. Often what's coming out of the back of the water meter changes after a few feet.

JimLewis
07-30-2004, 02:10 PM
Can you not legally work with copper or galvanized?

Yes. As an irrigation contractor, I am licensed to work on that kind of pipe. But the problem is, I don't know how. I have absolutely no clue as to how to solder or 'flux' pipe like that. Maybe I need to learn. The thing is, the two irrigation contractors I learned from didn't know how to work with it either. So I just assumed that most irrigation contractors hired out for that kind of work.

D Felix
07-30-2004, 02:41 PM
While I haven't worked with galvanized much, copper is fairly simple. Like I said before, the important thing is that it's clean and dry.

It's really not that hard. I assume you have a torch already. Pick up a pipe brush the next time you are at the hardware store. And some flux and solder too. Chances are someone at the hardware store will know how to do it. Tell them you want to practice sweating fittings. Get a piece of pipe a couple of feet long, some tee's a couple of caps, etc. and just play around with it at home.

If you want, get something to adapt it to garden hose threads, and stick it on the garden hose when you are done to see if it can hold pressure.

Just some thoughts.

The other way to do it is to get the plumber to show you how. Pay him for his additional time if you see fit.

I know there are little tricks to everything, plumbing included, but once you know the basics of sweating, it's really not that hard. Trust me. I did most of the sweating when I installed my water softner last year, and it hasn't leaked yet. It may not be pretty, but it holds.:)

If you want me to try to describe the process, I can, but you may be better off picking up a book or doing a search on the 'net to find instructions on how to sweat fittings.

I could probably stumble through galvanized pipe, but I haven't done it enough to tell you how.....


Dan

Mdirrigation
07-30-2004, 08:56 PM
Our taps are in the house , where the supply enters from the street generally 3/4 copper sometimes CPVC or black poly. I can sweat copper , better than most , but we arent allowed to make the tap. I guess you do things different in Oregon , we have been making the connections in the house for 23 years. if you cant sweat copper its rather easy onse there is no water in the pipe and you have a good torch set up , ( not a bottle with the torch screwed on the top) . Digging down to the water main seems like a lot of trouble and work when its the same line inside the house . We would have to charge $ 1000.00 to do it like that , and then we would be breaking even.

gusbuster
07-30-2004, 09:09 PM
I can understand not wanting to be stuck working with Galvanized pipe. It really is a pain, but copper? Piece of cake if you learn a few tricks of the trade.

Basics:
Red is for above ground, blue is for below ground(rigid, type L or Type m are the two basic types of copper, forget the proper name of each, but I exclusively use rigid for all copper water lines)
You must have a dry pipe, any moisture, will not be able to solder properly. A trick that I use to stop water leaking into my solder area, clean first and just before getting the flame on pipe, I shove a bunch of soft(white part) of bread to stop\dam up and stop any water drip. If you run into copper pipe a lot, they have a machine that actually freezes the water to dam up the pipe so you can do a repair.(most of the municipalities have this $2000 machine, bread works for me) Use at least M.A.P. gas as propane take to long to heat up the pipe. Also, remember, the solder is liquid to take care of the fittings that don't move until you or the air cool it down.

Heck, go to home depot, Lowe's, you can get set up with all the basic needs for under $70.. Do a few practice fittings and you will see how easy copper\brass is to work with. One drawback is cost of copper, very expensive, but is required by code in my area for lines under continuous pressure(main water line).

John

JimLewis
07-30-2004, 10:56 PM
mdirrigation,

Your first response makes more sense now. Yah, we apparently have different practices based on our different areas.

Around here, 99% of the time, an irrigation contractor taps into the main supply line to the house and goes from there. Only on rare occasion do we use the water line from inside the house - and even then, we usually hire a plumber.

I guess I'll have to check into learning how to "sweat" copper pipe.

gusbuster, you said I could get the entire setup for under $70? Is that a real torch? Or just a bottle? How much to get a professional setup to work on copper? Anyone know?

gusbuster
07-31-2004, 01:22 AM
Jim,
From 3/4 to 1" all you need is a Map torch,,(self sparker, the kind you squeeze the trigger)it comes in a yellow bottle, acid brushes, flux, sand paper and solder, that's just a starter kit. it's all a preference thing. If your in a 2 ft deep trench with water in the line, sometimes it's nice to have a regular acetylene air torch, same kind that plumbers use.

Me, I have a tool box with all of the above plus various fittings but mostly male and female adapters and 90's, extra brass ball valves. My setup is good for 3 or 4 connections before I need to re-stock. Also, of course, I have bulk Emory cloth for sanding pipe and various wire brushes

My installs, because of size of properties, I'm lucky to get away with 3/4 everything, though my kit does have reducer bushing exct...

If you really want to get serious with the sweat routine, then a air\acetylene set up is the way to go, but also expensive. I chose the M.A.P. set up, since if I run out of gas, even on a Sunday, I can go to a Lowe's, H.D. O.S.H or any local hardware store and get more gas.

Rotor-Man
07-31-2004, 07:40 AM
In my area a licensed plumber is required to do the "Tap" I call my plumber and he is there the next day and takes care of what "He does Best", and I have no worries about the quality of his work. I then do what I do Best and do the install! It's great to learn how to sweat copper and such, but for me the Quality of the workmanship and doing what you do best for a living wins out in the end for me.

gusbuster
07-31-2004, 11:09 AM
Originally posted by Rotor-Man
In my area a licensed plumber is required to do the "Tap" I call my plumber and he is there the next day and takes care of what "He does Best", and I have no worries about the quality of his work. I then do what I do Best and do the install! It's great to learn how to sweat copper and such, but for me the Quality of the workmanship and doing what you do best for a living wins out in the end for me.
Funny the difference from one state to another.
But lets look at differences.

In Mich, do you need a contractor license to install irrigation?

Here in CA, recently they have split irrigation into a specialty, but because I had my c-27 before, I'm allowed. Now with the c-27 license, regarding landscaping, I can connect to (tap) water line or electricity,anything to get my specialty job done.However, most cities I work in require a building permit and does get inspected.

As to quality of putting down solder, it's just takes practice to learn when you get a good sweat or whether you screwed up. If you screwed up, you got a leak.

The requirement of a plumber to do a copper tap just adds cost to the job, making you less profit.

Mdirrigation
07-31-2004, 01:42 PM
I am now curious as to why one would dig down to the main supply in the yard. Is this due to regulations . We have always made the tap just past the main shut off in the house , I also have the plumber change the main shut off to the house with a full port ball valve to increase flow . Its all copper from the connection , PVB , and then to the ground where we pick up with PVC. It takes the plumber anywhere from 1 to 2 hours , we have the hole drilled thru the block or poured wall . We pay $ 200.00 and supply the backflow , if its anything more difficult we charge more.

Rotor-Man
08-02-2004, 05:53 PM
Ditto to last post made by MDIrrigation, my situation and costs are almost identical. My plumber has helped me out in too many cases and his knowledge alone is worth the money that I would lose by doing the inside plumbing myself. Lastly I've looked at and have repaired several homes that had the irrigation installer do the inside work from the water meter to the P.V.B. and I'm still amazed that the homeowners didn't make them re-do the work they did on the spot!! I'd be embrassed and worried about my reputation after what I've seen and repaired.

JimLewis
08-02-2004, 07:39 PM
I am now curious as to why one would dig down to the main supply in the yard. Is this due to regulations?

No, regulations don't have anything to do with it - at least not here in Oregon.

It's just simpler, usually. First of all, the majority of the time there is either PVC or PEX going from the water meter to the house. Once the pipe enters the house, code says it has to be either copper or galvanized. But up to the house, it can be anything. So most of the time plumbers install PVC or PEX as the mainline to the house.

Which is easier?

A) Dig down 2' somewhere in the yard or next to the house, install a compression T, and go

Or

b) Go into the customers 2' crawl space on your belly, cut into some metal pipe, custom weld a T onto it, connect your backflow, then drill a hole through the concrete foundation, and run your pipe through that hole outside?

For us, option A is much simpler and quicker.

Additional benefits to doing it our way;

No need to enter the customer's house. Work can be started without them even being home.
Backflow device is located outside so if there is ever a need to service it or winterize, it's easily accessible without the customer being home.
Customer doesn't have to hear running water under their home


The only time we have to enter a customer's home when we're installing a system is for about an hour or two right at the end of the job when we go to install the computer controller in their garage.

These are just off the top of my head. I don't really know exactly why it's done this way in Oregon. I just know that every irrigation contractor around these parts taps into the main water line - outside - and starts from there, unless that's not an option. I am just guessing that the above reasons are probably why.

Mdirrigation
08-02-2004, 09:19 PM
It's just simpler, usually. First of all, the majority of the time there is either PVC or PEX going from the water meter to the house. Once the pipe enters the house, code says it has to be either copper or galvanized. But up to the house, it can be anything. So most of the time plumbers install PVC or PEX as the mainline to the house

Thats intresting , its usually 3/4 copper or 1 in poly ( much thicker than irrigation poly) The water mains are 36 in minimum depth . They wont allow pvc as a water main . Here its simpler to tap in the house. I have dug to replace water mains with my plumber and used the missile to run a new line its about a 4 hour hard dig.

Go into the customers 2' crawl space on your belly, cut into some metal pipe, custom weld a T onto it, connect your backflow, then drill a hole through the concrete foundation, and run your pipe through that hole outside?

Drilling hole thru concrete foundation : 15 minutes with hammer drill. Most of our houses have basements , Sweating the copper takes plumber maybe 2 hours, PVB backflow is outside with blowout.

Jim how long does it take for you to make a tap like that? And hou big of a hole are you working in? Different parts of the country make a difference, Our customers would have a cow if we dug down to their main line , they want the lawn to look like we were never there 3 days after we are done .

DGI
08-02-2004, 09:21 PM
The backflow preventers are still outside when tapping from inside. Water lines around here are way, way deeper than 2ft. I suspect that might have something to do with it. The last time I tapped a water line it was for a condo complex. I suspect we were down about 6 feet.

Installing taps from the inside is pretty easy, too. If the basement isn't finished and I'm not running more than a couple of sticks across the basement ceiling, I can start (unprepared) and have the water turned on outside within 2 hours, hammer drilled hole and all.

SummitFarmer
08-02-2004, 11:49 PM
Jim why don't you just use a copper compression fitting to tap the service line? That is all a plumber would do here in MO if we called them to have it tapped. I'm with you doing the tap in the yard, so much less noise in the customers home.

JimLewis
08-03-2004, 03:18 AM
Jim how long does it take for you to make a tap like that? And hou big of a hole are you working in?

Well, first of all, understand that Double Check Valves are the standard backflow device used here in these parts. And in most municipalities, code says you gotta put the double check at 2' depth. So we gotta dig 2' SOMEWHERE anyway. Might as well do it right where the water main is. It's as good a place as any. Plus, then, BOOM! you also have a water source - right next to where you are installing the double check.

To answer your questions, it takes usually around 30 minutes for one of my guys to dig the hole - About 2' Long, 1' Wide, and 2.5' deep. Then, it takes about 2 more hours to install the isolation valve, double check, and box.

I guess our water lines are different than many of you guys too. They say our frost line is like 12". (In reality, we don't have a frost line. It almost never freezes or snows here.) Code says water lines have to be 6" below frost line. So usually the water line is at 1.5' deep. Sometimes 2'. But never deeper.

Also no basements around these parts. They just get flooded. It RAINS here - like all the time. So it's on your belly in a damp, muddy, 2' deep crawl space, or do it outside. Given those options, I prefer outside.

JimLewis
08-03-2004, 03:24 AM
Jim why don't you just use a copper compression fitting to tap the service line? Yah, if it were only that easy. Usually, if we run into copper, it's old and it was thin to begin with. And the diamater of the pipe was once round, but with the twists and turns they made during installatin and with gravity from the dirt on top, etc. the diameter of the pipe always ends up being egg shaped - and a compression T won't fit over it. Nothing will fit over it in that condition. We've tried to squeeze it back into a round shape we could work with but have always been unsuccessful.

So we just call a plumber. It's in the contract that if we run into pipe like this, that the customer has to pay the cost to have a plumber come out and give us a T to use. So it's just simple to make a phone call and a day or two later, we're in business. While we're waiting that day or two, we're installing the rest of the system.