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Copper Press Fittings

radmixradmix Member Posts: 189
I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons of moving from soldering to copper press fittings. I do mostly residential to small commercial projects. My concern is the price of the fittings compared to the labor to do the installation. On average the fittings are about 50% more and with some fittings like ball valves and special fittings can be up to 300% more. Even if you go with the press system it seems that your always going to be soldering some joints on the job i.e. zone valves, some air eliminators, water make up valves have solder joints. Does it make sense to invest in a product that will cost $1,500.00 to press a joint and the fitting may cost several dollars more. It may take me 1 minute to solder a joint and you could save in reality several dollars.


  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,111
    edited December 2013

    1. How much work you do in copper.

    2. Your cost of being there doing the work per hour. Not just wages. If your package is 100.00 an hour that's 1.67 a minute. Just using a round number.

    3. Sizes of copper pipe most used the bigger the more time savings.

    4. How much of your work is new install with no existing, total recon of existing, verses repair to existing

    1 min. To prepare a joint, flux, heat, and solder seems a little short depending on pipe size.

    Pro press in tight spaces is another thought in your work.

    As far as fittings cost customer pays for them so really tooling is your investment, and some inventory.

    Think about tools transported into work area solder, verses pro press also.
  • hot rodhot rod Member Posts: 7,006
    add the cost of the "hot" or burn permit

    In some areas a second person is required to watch, whenever a torch is used. The cost of that second person on the job should offset the tool cost fairly quickly.

    The customer pays the cost of the fitting and the parts, don't sell press fittings for the same cost as sweat.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • IronmanIronman Member Posts: 3,403
    A Couple More Considerations

    First, you can press a joint with water, lots of it, still running through the pipe. I've had buildings where there was a leak on a 4" cu. main and the valve wouldn't hold. I literally had to pack several loafs of bread into the line to sweat it and it took multiple attempts. How much easier and quicker would it have been if I'd had my ProPress back then!

    Second, as Gordy alluded to, virtually all of your overhead is generated by labor, not materials. Lower your labor and you lower YOUR cost of doing business and you could still charge just as much for the repair/install as you would have using sweat fittings.

    Also, most of the parts that you mentioned can be obtained with threaded ports. Just use p.p. male adapters.

    I don't see totally eliminating my torch any time soon, but my ProPress has probably cut its use by 95%.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • gennadygennady Member Posts: 677

    Went with propress 5 years ago and never looked back. Pressing up to 4". Now waiting for carbon steel mega press to be available.
    Gennady Tsakh

    Absolute Mechanical Co. Inc.
  • Aaron_in_MaineAaron_in_Maine Member Posts: 313
    One man

    I am a one man shop so any labor time saved is valuable. I bought mine this fall. Customers pay for the fittings. Plus being able to press with water in the pipe is huge!
    Aaron Hamilton Heating
    [email protected]
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Press fittings

    Is there any way to disassemble a press fitting without cutting and coupling?

  • R ManninoR Mannino Member Posts: 422

    cut out and throw away
  • R ManninoR Mannino Member Posts: 422
    As Ironman

    has said water, no problem. Once we changed a valve out on the fly, we couldn't find the main.
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,930
    Once you try it

    it's real tough to go back!
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,911
    I still will not press and they can keep there

    iron press fittings too. If I want quick and cheap I will use pex. Of course I still thread up to 6" iron so I am a dinosaur.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • jonny88jonny88 Member Posts: 1,139
    Respect Charlie

    I was beginning to give up hope.There is a lot of heavy hitters here advocating press fittings.You got a tough fight on your hands .
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,111
    The look

    For me a clean professional soldered joint is artwork hands down I have to say.

    But from a productivity stand point. The quicker you can get in and out of a job the more work you can take on with maybe less personnel. This equals more jobs and dollars in your pocket.

    Even having the pro press as a go to tool in a water filled pipe scenario, combustible hazard setting as been pointed out could be a huge asset.
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,911
    I work in old tinder boxes

    It goes with working on steam and vapor systems. If I did a lot of new work I may exam pro-press. I think press copper is a half step to me. Why use pressed copper instead of pex? If you want to save costs in material and labor why use copper. Pex is also not going to corrode like the copper will. Also the pex will take a freeze where the copper will not. As for iron press fittings I just shake my head. If you do not want to thread learn to weld or use Aqua-Therm. Again no flames, no heavy lifting, no corroding. If it is for gas then use CSST.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,582
    Freezing copper with Propress...

    I had a case one time that someone left the door to a mechanical room open during freezing weather. The only thing that saved this system from disastrous damage from freezing was the fact that the makeup was off, and the PP fittings pushed off due to the expanding ice. I simply pushed the fitting back together again, and re-pressed them and it was fine! I am certain the manufacturers are aware of these situations, but they don't advertise them because they are uncontrollable.

    I've also seen PEX frozen, and broken. It looked like a piece of bamboo that had been beaten against concrete. Shattered.

    Anyone who knows their cost of doing business realizes that labor is their most expensive commodity, and PP will significantly reduce their installed cost such that it pays for itself. It has its advantages, and its disadvantages. For example, if you are REALLY particular about straight pipes, etc, you will not be happy with the looks of PP. If MUST be anchored at a minimum of 2 X as much as regular copper in order to give the same looks. But obviously, it is worthwhile, or Viega , Rigid and EPCO wouldn't be making the fittings and tools to make them work.

    As someone else pointed out, I have had occasions where we were unable to shut off the water to a building, and used a PP ball valve to replace a defective stripped gate valve on a DHW heating system. We cut the pipe live using cordless Sawzall, stabbed the valve on with the ball port open, then pressure the valve, and closed the ball valve… About 2 minutes from start to shut off, and one pair of AMAZED maintenance supervisors…

    They are not for every one (Charlie) and they don't/can't replace soldering in certain application, and even when they come out with their steel pipe and fittings, I suspect that Charlie and his steam systems will still stay with cuttings and threading, a proven application for that methodology with no feasible replacements.

    What really concerns me with this and other new age piping systems is that we are losing track of the craft associated with our trades, and to me that is a tragedy… Hard to replace that kind of history.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • IronmanIronman Member Posts: 3,403
    edited December 2013
    Changing Times

    Mark and Charlie,

    I can indeed sympathize with what you're saying. Things are a changing - faster than some of us want to see. Making near perfect sweat joints is indeed something that is becoming a passing art. But, a lot of things have changed during my time in the trade.

    I still remember when I would occasionally skip school as 10 year old boy and go to work with my older brother and the plumber he worked for. Those were still the days of cast iron soil pipe with lead and oakum joints. Then came cu. DWV. Finally, PVC came along. I doubt that any of us would really try to compete in today's market by insisting upon cast iron soil pipe.

    Consider plaster and lath walls: does anyone attempt that in new construction? It's difficult to find anyone who can do wet walls at all.

    My grandfather had a horse and buggy. While I might on rare occasion enjoy a nostalgic ride in one with my dear wife, I certainly wouldn't want one for my work vehicle. I'll take my diesel Mercedes van any day over what tradesmen had 80 years ago.

    Change is an inescapable fact that comes with life. Like it or not ( most times we don't), we have to live with it and adapt to it to survive. That applies to business, too. If I can do that without sacrificing the quality of my work, I can live with it. If it actually improves my bottom line at the same time, I can actually enjoy that.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,911
    I AM NOT saying to resist change

    I am saying why would I use a turbo diesel in a model T? If you want new and you do not want to solder quit using copper altogether. It is like using copper for residential DWV. Why bother plastic is better? Why spend thousands for a tool that will need repaired, replaced, or made obsolete soon? Embrace the future and leave the old stuff to the dinosaurs like me. I enjoy threading iron, I prefer sweating copper. I prefer my labor to equal my material, even exceed it sometimes. I prefer paying me not my beloved wholesaler.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • WeezboWeezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    slam a Dresser coupling on it with a rising stem gate open .

    done deal.

    *~//: )

    Go With it Charlie ..

    come the day when making a hot tap will be like an unknown art form
  • IronmanIronman Member Posts: 3,403
    Middle Ground


    I realize that you're not saying to resist change. I was just pointing out its inevitability.

    I don't however follow your reasoning that if copper is used, it must either be sweated or abandoned for pex. I can understand pex over copper for the smaller diameters in potable water distribution, but what about larger sizes of hydronic lines? Are you really advocating using 2" pex over copper with press fittings for a boiler change out? I can't see it. And, I can't follow why copper should be taken off the table because a new method of joining is available.

    Please explain, I'm missing something.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Larger sizes of hydronic lines

    is where Aquatherm starts to make sense.  Still use a bit of threaded pipe near the boiler sometimes, but the flexibility and economy of saddle welding is tough to beat.  It's also theft resistant (little to no scrap value) and deters knuckleheads (no tooling, no working.)
  • Jim GodboutJim Godbout Member Posts: 49
    There is a fit for everyone

    We have been pressing for almost ten years, labor is my most expensive cost, pressing has increased our speed on projects and safety of work place.

    We use it on copper, and iron. We also use a fair amount of aquatherm on our heating systems and domestic.

    I find there are fits for every piping method, and some parts of the country may not have labor issues, fact is northeast is falling way behind in qualified technicians coming through the ranks.

    So time is extremely valuable to us
    Jim Godbout
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,911
    Disclaimer time

    I do not have help working for me. My time is what I sell. If I had to deal with help I am not sure I would trust them with a torch.

    I can't see what the big deal is with soldering a few fittings for a boiler change out. Most boilers I change are steam so it is iron and threaded. When I change water boilers most do not use more then 1 1/2" pipe for the manifolds so I just solder them. The boilers I trouble shoot are often installed with press fittings and the fittings are not the issue, the improper installation practices are.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • IronmanIronman Member Posts: 3,403
    Ah, I Follow

    My shop is small, too. I had a large one 20+ years ago and had nothing but large headaches to go with it. I know what you're talking about there. Now, it's just me and my son plus a couple of part timers.

    My thinking is a little opposite from yours in regard to my help. They are all older and very well experienced. In fact, it was the two of them that finally persuaded me to get the ProPress. That, plus a large solar job on a 12/12 roof where Buderus wanted all the joints silfossed which would have been impossible. Viega offers high temp O rings that are rated for solar and we were able to use them instead of silfossing the joints. That sold me on it and I'm very happy with it.

    As far as the cost of the tool: I just charge for it like I would for solder, torch and paste (STP). When you figure up the cost of those per job over, say, 5 years, they'll probably be more than the ProPress.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,930
    Unprofessional? Cheap?

    I beg to differ
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,111

    I was not calling the use of pro press unprofessional, or cheap looking at all. For ME I prefer the appearance of a soldered joint. Cleaner lines. Pro press looks like threaded black pipe only copper pipe from a distance. Its a matter of individual opinion not approval. That's all. And I'm not knocking iron pipe work either.
  • R ManninoR Mannino Member Posts: 422
    It's OK

    Gordy, a perfectly soldered joint is certainly more beautiful than a propress one, no doubt about it. My problem is the time to make it beautiful. But, hey we're all different that's what makes this world go around.
  • hot rodhot rod Member Posts: 7,006
    Dan Foley embraces press

    even proudly displays his press work and knowledge "out front"

    Atta boy Dan and Brian.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
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