Device Makes Pressure Testing Easier, Faster for Plumbers

Device Makes Pressure Testing Easier, Faster for Plumbers
Tim Breault demonstrates what the Palmer’s Plug would look like in a pipe.

There was a time when master plumber Tim Breault used to take showers at work — and not by choice. But those mishaps dried up after he found out about the Palmer’s Plug, a plastic device used to perform pressure tests of drainage, waste and vent (DWV) lines.

“I swear by them,” says Breault, who has been a plumber for more than 35 years and owns Tim Breault Plumbing in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They’re ingenious. When I first saw one, my first thought was, ‘Why didn’t I invent that?’ I turn other plumbers on to them and they say, ‘Are you kidding me?’”

The on-the-job showers occurred back when Breault used inflatable rubber balls to plug test tees for pressure testing. Occasionally the balls would blow up during testing or removal, unexpectedly releasing the pent-up water in the lines above — and dousing any unlucky plumber who happened to be standing near the test tee.

“Sometimes the test ball gets blown into the other end of the tee, so all the water goes all over you,” he explains. And if plumbers aren’t careful when deflating the ball after an inspection is complete, the force of the water (which could be exerting pressure of 30 psi or more) can quickly push it down past the tee opening, trapping their fingers between the ball and the pipe.

Furthermore, if the ball gets pushed too far down the pipe, it’s difficult to locate and retrieve. Sometimes the only alternative is tearing up a concrete basement floor. In addition, a blow-up ball is much more expensive than the Palmer’s Plug.
Made by Palmer’s Plastics and invented by a plumber, Denny Palmer, the disc-like device is made from heavy-duty plastic that will not adhere to pipe glue. The plugs come in 1 1/2-, 2-, 3- and 4-inch diameters with respective pressure limits of 40, 25 and 20 pounds psi.

The plug is easy to install. Just insert it into either end of a test tee until it snugs up against the hub of the fitting and it’s ready to go, says Breault. “That’s a fraction of the time it takes to use a blow-up ball. Some of my guys put a little bead of caulk around the hub of the fitting, but you don’t really have to,” he adds. “You can just stick it in and then go rough out your bathroom or whatever you need to do.” (The manufacturer suggests using plumber’s putty.)

Removing the plug is just as easy. First, snip off the end of the nipple that protrudes from the plug. That releases the pent-up water, which goes where it’s supposed to go — down the drain and not all over the plumber. “Since you’re pulling it out without any pressure behind it, you don’t get a shower,” Breault points out.

After the water is fully drained, take a screwdriver and poke it through the small tab on the plus and pull it out. “It peels right out, just like when you pull open the lid on a can of sardines,” Breault says. “Then put in your test tee plug and you’re done.”

The Palmer’s Plastics website says the plugs, which are good for one-time use only, can hold water for about a month, and Breault says that claim, well, holds water. “I’ve heard guys say they’ve gone to set fixtures and the sewer is backed up, but that dang plug is still in there,” he says. “It’s as solid as the PVC pipe and fitting that’s holding it. I don’t think it could ever blow through.”

Breault says he can’t see any downside to using the product, citing benefits such as improved job site safety, cost-effectiveness, and fast and efficient installation. “I can install one in about 10 seconds and have a leak-proof test tee,” he notes. And never worry again about unwanted on-the-job showers.


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