Finding an Easier Way to Connect the Pipes

Fittings that connect without solder, glue or special tools amp up efficiency and profit margins for Georgia plumbing firm

Finding an Easier Way to Connect the Pipes

Tim Redd, Universal Plumbing technician, uses brass SharkBite Universal push-to-connect fittings on a new home construction job site. (Photo courtesy of Universal Plumbing)

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After nearly 35 years as the owner of Universal Plumbing, Larry Jones has learned that staying ahead of the curve on technological advancements is critical to business success. As an example, he points to SharkBite Universal brass push-to-connect fittings, which enable his technicians to install fittings in mere seconds — no solder, glue or special tools required.

“We try to stay ahead of the curve — house the latest technology in the industry in order to help our customers,” says Jones, who established the company in 1985.

Because the SharkBite fittings don’t need to be soldered, clamped, crimped or glued, technicians at the Augusta, Georgia-based company can routinely perform residential and commercial service and repair jobs anywhere from 60% to 70% faster, says Jones, who employs 19 people, including 14 technicians.

“You just push the pipe into the fitting and you’re finished,” Jones explains. “You just have to make sure you cut the pipe straight. The fittings don’t work well with an angled cut because then the pipe doesn’t bottom out (seat completely against an O-ring) inside the fitting.”

GETTING SOLD

Jones first heard about the SharkBite lead-free brass fittings from some of his employees. Those technicians had used SharkBite fittings while helping to rehab houses in the Harrisburg neighborhood in Augusta, an effort led by a social-services agency called Turn Back the Block. Clayton Boardman, director of sales for SharkBite, donated the fittings, and Universal Plumbing’s technicians raved about them, Jones says.

“I will admit I was a little skeptical,” Jones concedes. “It looks too easy for it to seal tight and not come loose, without any soldering or tightening them with Channellocks. But some of our senior techs who have been around the block literally made a believer out of me.

“It took a lot of talking to even get me to look at it,” he continues. “Just cut the pipe and pop on a fitting? It didn’t seem possible. But after I saw the guys use them, I was sold. Now we’ve plumbed whole houses with SharkBite fittings.

“Our guys have them on all our trucks,” he adds. “We’re totally sold on the technology.” (The company owns eight service vehicles: six Nissan NV cargo vans, an Isuzu truck with a 16-foot-long box body and a Ford E-350 utility box van.)

WORKS WITH MOST PIPE TYPES

The brass SharkBite fittings work with PEX, hard drawn copper (types K, L and M), CPVC, HDPE or PE-RT pipe in any combination. When a pipe is inserted into the fittings, stainless steel teeth bite down for a tight grip. At the same time, an O-ring compresses to create a watertight seal.

The pipe must be cut square, deburred and free of debris before installation. If necessary, the fitting can be removed with a special disconnect clip or tong available from SharkBite. The fittings carry a 25-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects and are certified to 200 psi and 200 degree F water temperatures. They can be used inside concealed walls, but SharkBite urges plumbers to consult local plumbing codes for specific applications.

Universal Plumbing technicians use the SharkBite fittings for repairs or installation work involving 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-inch-diameter pipes. They’re not only faster to install than conventional fittings, they are also easier to use in tight spaces where soldering or crimping/clamping is difficult.

In addition, technicians can use them even if there’s still water in pipes — a huge timesaver. And Jones says that in the four years his company has been using the SharkBite fittings, he’s never had one fail. “If the pipe isn’t cut straight or not pushed in all the way, it might drip a little water,” he says. “But we’ve never heard of one blowing off a pipe.”

PRODUCTIVITY BOOSTERS

In other instances, such as a repair that involves replacing a section of copper pipe, the building’s water cutoff valve might not seal completely, allowing water to keep flowing. That’s where company technicians use a SharkBite fitting as an isolation valve.

“They just push it on and there’s no water coming through anymore,” he explains. “They work like that even if a line is operating under full pressure. I’ve seen these fitting do things that just make me say, ‘Wow.’”

On remodeling projects, the SharkBite fittings also provide an easy way for technicians to transition a building’s older copper pipes to PEX or PVC pipes, he says.

Speed and convenience does come with a price, however. Jones says the SharkBite fittings are anywhere from 50% to 75% more expensive than conventional fittings. “But the timesavings on jobs more than makes up for that,” he notes. Furthermore, using the fittings reduces expenses incurred from accidents like solder drippings on a carpet or other surfaces, for example, or damage from a torch while soldering.

Overall, Jones says he heartily recommends the SharkBite fittings, pointing out that by finishing jobs faster, technicians can finish more jobs per week than they could before they started using SharkBite fittings. And that translates into higher profitability. “Any plumber who does repairs or new installations needs to know about this product,” he says. “I think this technology is here to stay.”



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