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Sunday, January 4, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ask the Expert / Darrell Hay

Copper pipe 'glue' earns mixed reviews

Q: I just saw some material for connecting copper plumbing pipes. For lack of a better term, this is a glue that replaces soldering the joints. Sounds great; can you give me the scoop?

A: You are referring to Copper Bond, which recently changed its name to Just-For-Copper. The polymer resins generate a chemical reaction in the copper, creating a hermetic weld at joints. The marketing materials claim the bond becomes a polyacrylic solid, with the same elasticity as the copper itself.

In the name of science, I bought a package myself and put together a water-heater relief-valve drain system as a test (I didn't want to use it anywhere on a pressurized system). Honestly, I was impressed with the ease of use and speed, allowing me to fabricate a system almost as quickly as gluing together CPVC (plastic). Just mix the epoxy and catalyst, push the pieces together, and within 10 seconds you cannot pull the joint apart. I especially liked the fact that there was no need to use the torch within 2 inches of the finished wall nearby.

Just-For-Copper is listed with UL (Underwriters Laboratories) but not NSF, the public health and safety company. None of the municipal plumbing-code officials I spoke with would accept this material for use on potable water supply systems within their jurisdiction (as it lacks this critical designation), despite marketing to the contrary. The owners of the company tell me they have applied for NSF certification and expect to receive it shortly. Until then, it is a longshot to be able to use it legally on domestic hot or cold potable water systems. But Just-For-Copper is approved fully for fire sprinkler systems (NFPA 13).

Claims are made on the Web site (www.copperbond.com) that no failures have been reported in the millions of joints properly applied. It didn't take much fishing to cast that claim in the dim light of doubt: A city code official who wishes to remain anonymous told me that a very expensive home owned by a wealthy, well-known local individual on the Eastside had a fire-sprinkler system put together with Copper Bond. Be assured, no shortcuts were taken with regard to proper installation. Unfortunately, numerous joint failures occurred some time after initial pressure testing. This same code official expressed concern that shelf life and proper mixing might become issues when/if national code adoption happens.

Q: Can chlorine toilet-cleaning tablets damage the guts of my toilet? I am talking about the tablets dropped into the tank that flush through and keep the bowl clean.

A: Can't even give the toilets one week off, can we?

First, hats off to KVI 570 radio's "Consumer Man," Herb Weisbaum, and the folks at Quality Plumbing for help on this issue. Chlorine tablets placed inside tanks cause damage to the rubber flappers, causing them to deteriorate and leak. This can happen as soon as 30 days, or it might take years. The manufacturers of the chlorine tablets deny it, of course, but the makers of toilet parts warn of this issue, and repair plumbers see and report it very frequently. Composite flappers are the latest weapon in the battle, but they are many times more expensive than rubber. Low-flow toilet bowls get dirtier more quickly leading to the increased demand for these products and the subsequent increase in problems.

The solutions:

• My stock response — smuggled, water-sucking Canadian toilets.

• Get out the bowl brush more often, ya lazy bum, and use good, old-fashioned elbow grease.

• Make like a bachelor and live with it. It's a toilet, for crying out loud, not the dinner table.

• Use rim-mounted chlorine tablets, not the tank-type.

Along the same lines, consumers using "blue-goo" toilet cleaners in their commodes are finding that they flush slower and less efficiently. The viscosity change can cripple an already weak low-flow toilet's abilities to do the job.

Deposits are left inside the trap and on the water passages, slowing and constricting water and flow. Remove the canister, and the problem goes away soon.

Darrell Hay answers readers' questions. Call 206-464-8514 to record your question, or e-mail dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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