If you’re going to do any work with piping, you’ll also need pipe fittings. That’s because pipe fittings are simply pieces used to connect multiple lengths of pipe. They can come in many shapes and sizes to facilitate a wide range of projects, both residential and commercial. Here’s what you need to know about this subset of valves and fittings, and it shouldn’t take you more than two minutes to read:
There are many different kinds of connections, and professionals end up using most of them at some point in time:
- Sweat: These fittings are welded using solder as a filler.
- Solvent: These fittings are smooth-walled and use quick-drying solvent cement to essentially weld the joint together.
- Threaded: These fittings essentially screw together (with female openings being threaded on the inside, such that they close around male fittings).
- Push-to-Connect: These fittings work just how their name suggests, and are easy to use even for beginners.
- Flare: These fittings connect flared pipes to fittings via a flare nut.
- Crimp: These fittings use a tightened ring around the pipe after a fitting is inserted.
- Clamp: These fittings use a tightened clamp around the pipe after a fitting is inserted.
- Compression: These fittings involve a threaded body, a nut and an interior ring called a ferrule compressed to produce a tight seal.
You can get everything from brass pipe fittings to plastic pipe fittings, and the kind you need depends both on the connection type discussed above and the project (the pressure in the system, the material flowing through it, how disastrous a leak would be, etc.):
- Polyethylene: This is a common plastic used for clamp fittings. It isn’t suitable for heavy-duty applications.
- PEX: PEX actually refers to crosslinked polyethylene, and it’s surprisingly flexible and durable. It’s been used particularly in plumbing in the past couple decades because it doesn’t corrode and provides some protection in freezing temperatures. You’re likely to find crimp and clamp fittings in PEX.
- PVC/CPVC/ABS: Polymerized vinyl chloride, chlorinated poly vinyl chloride and acrylonitrile butadiean styrene are all plastics widely used in piping systems (the latter two for potable water systems). Fitting types made in these materials include compression and solvent connections.
- Galvanized Steel: Galvanized steel refers to steel that has been coated in zinc to prevent corrosion. You’re most likely to find threaded connectors in this material.
- Copper: Copper is often used in piping because it doesn’t become brittle over time. You should be able to get both compression and sweat fittings in copper.
- Brass: Brass fittings, typically compression fittings, are made of an alloy of copper and zinc. Brass pipe fittings are often preferred because they’re very durable and resist corrosion better than other materials, but are still relatively affordable. You do need to be careful when choosing a brass fittings manufacturer because only some will offer lead free brass fittings, which are needed for drinking water systems.
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