Push-fit plumbing connectors: myth vs reality

Plumbers have traditionally used soldered copper or PVC pipes connected with solvent for their plumbing installations.

Many were initially reluctant to make the move from lead or copper pipes to PVC, and now they’re going through the same skepticism regarding push-fit connectors.

What are the myths about push-fit and what is the actual reality? Are push-fit connectors as good as copper or lead ones that are soldered or screwed on tight with a pipe wrench? Can push-fit connectors be used for permanent, in-wall installations or are they limited to temporary fixes? What’s the truth and what’s the fable?

The Myth

As with the myths surrounding renewable energy, the myths around push-fittings are equally dubious.

Most plumbers are leery of push-fit connections because they don’t see them having much of a track record. The perception is wrong, but it persists nonetheless. Plumbing professionals look at them and think they don’t have much of an established track record so how can they know if they’re any good or not.

It’s human nature not to want to be the first person to try something only to have it blow up in your face, leaving you looking foolish for trying it. 2000 years ago, Jesus talked about a man counting the cost of building a tower before starting lest he be unable to finish it and people begin to mock him. So, fear of public ridicule isn’t exactly a new concept. No one wants to look foolish.

Another reason for hesitancy is the technology itself. Many plumbers aren’t sure that the connectors can create a secure and permanent connection to put inside a wall. Pushing a pipe fitting together doesn’t give them the same sense of physical strength as soldering a connection or grunting and straining with a pipe wrench. In other words, it just feels too easy. How can something that easy be strong enough to last?

These are natural questions and concerns to have, but the “facts on the ground” as they say, turn these questions on their head. 

The Reality

Push-fittings, under the John Guest brand, have actually been around since the 1980s. Another brand, SharkBite, appeared in the mid-2000s. DIY enthusiasts have been the main ones pushing them. The low cost and ease of use endeared them to the weekend warrior who wants to do their own repairs around the house but doesn’t want to invest in soldering equipment or bust their knuckles with a pipe wrench.

As a result of their growing use by amateurs, push-fittings have slowly and surely begun making their way from the DIY community into the professional plumbing community.

How They Work

Push-fittings are simple. They have metal teeth or spurs inside them to grip the pipes that are inserted into the connectors. Then, a built-in neoprene o-ring creates a watertight seal. It’s the same type of connector you would find on the hoses of a power washer or on the compressor-driven tools mechanics use when working on your automobile. Those fittings have to be able to withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure for years on end. Push fittings on plumbing aren’t being taken off and put on all the time, but aside from that, they’re the same.

Where To Find Them

Push-fittings are listed on EasyMerchant in a wide variety of sizes. They have elbow connectors, angled ones, and straight ones. There are various adapters, T-joints, and multiple pipe connectors for complicated junctions. The prices are reasonable and shipping is easy.

The greatest advantage of all, of course, is still their ease of use. A connection that might take 15-20 minutes to solder or tighten with a pipe wrench can be finished in a few seconds – literally.

Where to Use Push-Fittings

How about in greenhouses? Britain’s flourishing organics products markets need greenhouses that have a controlled environment where organic, pesticide-free produce can be grown. Push-fittings can be quickly and easily installed to bring fresh water to the plants, then changed just as quickly to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Imagine trying to do that with soldered connectors.

The mind boggles.

But other uses are in more traditional areas. Push-fit connectors have been a good track record despite opposing perceptions so they can be used in new housing or building construction. Construction costs are high and don’t show any signs of subsiding anytime soon.

Using push-fit connectors as permanent installations in all your new construction will significantly reduce the time needed for installing the plumbing. They’ll last for the run and save you money today.