Problems with SharkBites

Homes in Asia is mostly fitted with PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) tubes, the homes in North America mostly fitted with either copper pipes and/or ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) tubes. Copper is a great solution for water. Copper tubes are build to last. They also have unique properties limiting chemical reactions between minerals in the water supply and the copper itself. It also does not corrode and the connections between the pipes and other copper fittings are very strong.

Of course with professional help, you can do anything. But I am not writing this article for those who always depend on professionals to get the work done. If you stand in front of stores like HomeDepot or Lowes in Calgary, you will realized there is a large number of homeowners fix issues without anyone’s help. That’s where the downside of using a metal for distribution of water is the the installation and future management of the system comes into play.

Soldering Copper

It is not hard to solder copper piping. All you need is the right tools and knowledge to do it. What you need for small repairs and construction jobs is the following;

  • Lead free solder
  • A propane or other gas touch
  • Safety equipments; glasses, gloves, etc

You can research on how to do the job on the Internet. I am not going to tech you that because my ultimate point is that you cannot solder copper pipe when there is a major leak. Well… not any leak, but a leak which you cannot stop for at least for five minutes so that you can fix the pipe. It is almost impossible to heat up a tube and apply the adhesive solder when there is water inside the pipe.

Solutions for the water flow

The obvious one would be shut off the main water value to the house. But if the main value itself is leaking or there is still too much ice or water inside the pipes that you cannot drain it?

SharkBite 3/4 X 3/4 slip coupling.
SharkBite 3/4 X 3/4 slip coupling.

Then the most popular solution in Calgary is to use something called SharkBite fittings. They are “O-ring type” clamping fittings. They do come in variety of configurations and sizes. Although the packaging itself reads “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.”, it is legal to be sold to the consumer in Canada. You do not hear much about this because often the front end staff at building material stores are unaware of the the warning. But still most customers have been advised to use the product only in exposed areas (not behind walls) only. The reason behind this is this type of fittings creates weak point on your water distribution system. I found some unverified claims that the O-Ring and the plastic inside the SharkBite clip can degrade over time. Unlike copper to copper contact with solder, this clips create weak point in the tubes. Then you should ask yourselves, why install them at all?

Since there are two factors already against this product, I would advice using against it. Please keep in mind that I am not a professional plumber or a contractor. This is only my educated opinion. There are other solutions to fixing constantly leaking pipes. One is to use all mental construction crimping fittings. They may not be available for every size and configuration. So the next best thing to do is find a way to drain the tubes to keep the work area as dry as possible. Finally, the next option is to hire a professional plumber. But then, it will take the pride and fun out of fixing your own house.