Plumbing: Pipes and Pipe Fittings: Cast Iron


Cast-iron pipe may not win any beauty awards, but it's durable, doesn’t rust easily and lasts darn near forever. It’s extremely heavy, but that mass also muffles sound far better than plastic does. Even today, plumbers will install a length of cast-iron pipe in areas where people may not want to hear the gurgle and sloshing of wastewater.

Older cast-iron pipe (see left image) was joined by packing hubs with oakum and sealing the joint with molten lead. Newer no-hub cast iron is joined using no-hub couplings (see right image) consisting of neoprene sleeves and stainless- steel band clamps. Special transition couplings can be used to tie newer plastic pipe into existing cast-iron systems.


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Tying Into an Existing Soil Stack

Cast-iron pipe was once commonly used in house hold plumbing, particularly for the large main soil stack. Cast iron contains about 4 % carbon, which makes it so hard you can barely cut it with metal-cut ting blades. Snapping it, as shown below, is the best way to remove a section while remodeling. Always make certain the pipe is secured well with riser clamps, as shown, before you cut into it to keep the heavy stack from dropping down.

Snap cast-iron soil stack. Measure new cast-iron tee and mark stack for cut ting. Add 1/4 in. (6 mm) to measurement to make sure tee slips in. Wrap cutter chain around the pipe so cutting wheels rest on mark. Lever tool until pipe snaps. Cut at second mark and knock out the section using a hammer and block of wood.

Steel-sleeved rubber couplings. Slip rubber and steel couplings onto cut pipe ends first. Insert cast- iron tee fitting and work couplings over joints. Use torque wrench to tighten band clamps. Rubber gaskets should be crimped firmly, but not so tightly that they bulge out from pressure.

Steel Pipe Repairs and Add-ons

You can’t simply unscrew a section of threaded pipe from the middle of your plumbing system to tap into it or make a repair. You need to cut and remove the affected piece of pipe and then use a union (Step 3) and some shorter pieces for reconstructing the section.

1. Turn off water. Cut pipe using a hacksaw. Avoid using a reciprocating saw, because vibration can knock loose mineral deposits that can clog fixtures and faucets.

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2. Use two pipe wrenches for disassembly. One turns the pipe, while the hold- back wrench prevents damage farther down the line.

3. Install a union to reconnect pipe sections after adding a tee or making repairs. Unions have three parts—a part with male threads that goes onto the first pipe, a part with only female threads and a tapered- type joint that goes onto the facing pipe, and a tapered nut that pulls the parts and pipe together.

Last modified: Friday, 2007-11-02 23:42 PST