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What do you do when you.......

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by JimLewis, Jul 30, 2004.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    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.
  2. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,661

    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.
  3. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898

    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

  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    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.
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    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.
  6. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898

    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.....

  7. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,661

    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.
  8. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,926

    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.

    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).

  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872


    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?
  10. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,926

    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.

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