Monday, 14 November 2011

Water Works

First fix electrics were in and it was time to do first fix for the plumbing. I have always enjoyed plumbing work, soldering joints etc there is something satisfying about cleaning up the ends of copper pipe, the inside of Yorkshire fittings, coating with flux and heating the joint so that the solder flows uniformly around the joint making a neat water proof seal, sad or what? Anyway I originally started off intending to do all the plumbing in copper but ease of use and cost soon put paid to that. Before long I was using plastic for all pipework where ever it was supported throughout its length.  Unsupported plastic pipe set into pipe clips looks awful where they are exposed and I suspect have the potential to fracture over time due to the drooping effect of the pipes as they expand with the heat. Although individual copper fittings are generally cheaper than plastic a joint of some kind is required at least every 3mtrs (standard length of copper pipe) so plastic tends to cost in over longer lengths. It is also easier to produce a watertight joint with plastic first time. So it was with these factors in mind that a mixture of copper and plastic was used throughout the house. 
   Providing hot and cold feeds to all sinks and baths is not particularly difficult but guidance can be sought with regard to the regulations from the the Water Regulations Advisory Service(WRAS) who will provide you with a copy of their booklet, a very descriptive and helpful guide.

First Pipework

Pipework in Place
   First fix cannot be completed without knowing what and where all the components of the system will be so a few decisions were required. Like all good self builders I like to be unconventional (hence block and beam for the first floor) so in true fashion I decided on a thermal store to provide hot water and space heating. Not the first choice for heating engineers and plumbers and probably due to their complex electronics, however there was good reason, 'I like a good shower'.  That means more than a trickle, so as the water pressure appeared to be very high in this area, (I had several burst hose pipes during building) the choice of thermal store was a good one as (similar to a combi boiler) it heats the mains water as it comes into the house. Hot water is fed direct to the taps and showers giving mains pressure at the head with the ability to supply large amounts of hot water and with two en suites and two bathrooms, boy do you need it?Gledhill Water Storage were the manufacturer of choice but unfortunately they have since stopped making them, a victim of the recession!!
   The choice of boiler was on recommendation from a local service engineer and as I presumed he knew more about it than myself we chose his recommended Grant boiler with the size determined by the accumulation of the radiator sizes plus a bit for good measure, all guidance which can be found online.
   Central Heating is something I have never designed or installed before but there's always a first time for everything. How big should a radiator be? How many radiators does a room need? Where should they be sited?How powerful should the boiler be? There are a lot of options and decisions to be made and no doubt everyone will arrive at a different solution but in my case using what experience I had and the use of the Internet I designed my own system. Its amazing how little heat output is required in a modern house with all its insulation. My previous 1970's house had radiators the length of some walls but using an online design aid which took into account heat loss through outer walls, loss through adjacent rooms, ceilings and floors all the radiators turned out to be very small, some equivalent to the output of a single bar electric fire. I checked the results several times!! Radiators I here you say! yes we fitted radiators throughout the house despite protestations from me the better half won the day on this option.  We used ACOVA column radiators on special offer from B&Q for the aesthetic effect.

After plastering this is the room that I

put this radiator in. Small ain't it


Since all the walls in the house were solid block work there was no stud work and modern construction methods involve small bore pipework in the stud walls, therefore I had to find other means to feed the pipework to radiators, taps and showers. 
    On the first floor there was a false floor of  2x2 timber battens and chipboard flooring so a cavity was formed under which pipes could be laid and as all basins and cisterns were wall hung or enclosed there was no problem concealing pipes behind false walls. However on the ground floor it was necessary to bury the pipes under the floor screed  and apart from underfloor heating it is no longer acceptable to bury the pipes in the screed, so they were encased in a separate corrugated flexible tube, readily available from Screwfix and placed in the insulation under the floor screed.

Of course all loo's have to have a soil pipe and again these were readily accommodated behind false walls in the bathrooms.

False walls in Bathrooms to accommodate pipework and concealed cisterns.

All the pipe work was in place ready for the more exciting bit, second fix, where radiators, sinks, baths, toilets, showers, boiler and thermal store were to be fitted, not much left then!! However next, just the small question of plastering, but lots of bits to do first in preparation, but that's for next time on 'therealselfbuildblog'

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Thanks for viewing.


  1. Your knowledge and expertise about pipes can be seen on your works. But pipework can also be a tough job.

  2. You have such a great idea on all of that pipe thing. By the way, thank you for sharing.