DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required

Avatar Katelyn | April 2, 2013 3996 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

How do we spend our Saturday nights these days? Why, hanging out in our attic for six and a half hours of course!

Six and a half hours Katelyn?! Bloody hell! Why on earth would you hang out in a blazing attic for six and half bloody hours?

Oh imaginary British person, because we were working on the PEX piping project I mentioned in our last post of course! You’re so silly.

But I thought you so confidently said, and I quote: “it didn’t look all that hard or expensive to DIY your own PEX.”

…Yeah. Well. The PEX part WAS easy. It’s just that everything else took freaking forever. GOSH.

Don’t get testy with me you cheeky prat!

Don’t be such a turd!

Bollucks! Fish and Chips! Cheerio!

This is what happens when you work from home and hang out with your cat all day.

ANYWAYS, we successfully replaced our leaky old galvanized pipe with a fresh new piece of PEX piping! Remember this pipe with 2 leaks on it?

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Well, that pipe is no more!! But let me back up a bit. Like I said in the last post, when our plumber mentioned replacing this pipe with PEX piping, we started doing research on PEX. Cross-linked polyethylene, commonly known as PEX, is made of plastic, flexible tubing. It’s an alternative to PVC or copper pipes that is being more and more widely used due to its low cost and ease of installation. The “low cost” and “ease of installation” parts of that sentence made our ears perk up, so we looked into how to install it ourselves.

PEX piping

We found several tutorials and sorta spliced together bits and pieces from each. We mainly used this one, this one, and this one. At the end of the post I’ll list the steps you SHOULD follow in case anyone reading wants to attempt this in their own home. We may have accidentally not followed some/followed them in the wrong order. Oops. So consider this kind of a “do as we say, not as we do” deal.

First off, we did what you’re supposed to do before ANY big plumbing project: we turned off the water supply to our house. There are two spots you can do this- at your main water valve where the supply line goes into your house (usually around one of your hose faucets outside) or near the street where your meter is. Since we didn’t have a water meter key to turn it off at the meter, we decided we’d just turn it off at the main water valve.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Next you’re supposed to run all your faucets, showers, etc until no more water is coming out. This is to drain any water that was hanging out up in your pipes. It took a few minutes and then no more water was coming out so we assumed we were good to go.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

We gathered our materials and went up to the attic. Make sure to wear gloves and breathings masks! Here’s the supplies you’ll need (plus I’ve listed a few more that we didn’t know yet at the time of this picture… yes there were a couple trips to Home Depot that night)

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

1- PEX piping. We needed 25 ft of 3/4″ piping, so we got a 50 ft roll just in case. Just measure the diameter of your current pipes and the length of the pipe to find out what type of PEX you need. You can get white, blue, or red (the only difference is that red is used to identify hot water, blue is used to identify cold, and white can be either. We chose white).

2- Plastic sheeting. This was great to have under the pipes to protect your insulation and wood. Be generous and spread that stuff around.

3*- Pipe wrenches. We started with one (pictured). Then we had to get another. You 100% need TWO for this project!

4- PVC/plastic tubing cutter. This is to cut your PEX.

5- Flashlight. Or two. Or ten. Gather as many as you have, attics are dark.

6- Sharkbite PEX adapters. We got two 3/4″ male adapters because we were removing the two male ends of our 3/4″ galvanized pipe.

7- Teflon tape. You have to wrap the threading on the adapters, the same way you wrap a shower head when you replace it.

8- A saw that can cut metal. We used Evan’s jigsaw with a metal-cutting blade, but you could also use a hacksaw, a reciprocating saw, etc. Just talk to people at Home Depot or look online to make sure it can cut metal.

9*- Trays to catch water drips. We bought one painters tray, but luckily I had some disposable 9×9 baking trays because we ended up needing those too. You definitely need at least two trays that can catch water if you’re working on a project like this. And maybe some plastic cups too just to be safe.

10*- WD40. It’s not in the picture, but you 100% will need it if you’re trying to remove galvanized pipe.

11*- Water meter key. This also is not in the picture, but you need it to turn off the water at your meter.

Notice all the asterisks. Those are all the things we didn’t buy/didn’t have enough of when starting this project. Learn from our mistakes.

Before we could add the PEX piping, we first had to remove our old galvanized pipe. We started by prepping the area- we picked an easy to reach section of the pipe we were removing, laid out lots of plastic underneath, and set a tray under where we were going to cut.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required- evanandkatelyn.comDIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Before you can actually remove your pipe, you have to cut it somewhere in the middle so that you’re actually able to unscrew each end. So after the area was prepped, we took a deep breath, decided we had the balls to move forward, and Evan took his saw to it! Look you can see the blade going through the pipe!

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

It wasn’t necessarily a speedy cut, but eventually the saw made it all the way through.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

…And already we were having a water problem. See the pool collecting in the tray?? Yeah, this is when we started to silently freak out inside. There was a steady stream of water trickling from our pipes filling up our tray surprisingly fast. Luckily, I remembered I had some throw away 9×9 baking pans so I ran down to the kitchen and got those, because our single tray was not going to hold out much longer.

We were able to scoot over the full tray and put one of the 9×9’s under the leak, but the first tray was so full that trying to remove it so that we could empty it would have made us spill water everywhere. So to try to contain the leak, we did what any resourceful 20-somethings would do- we duct taped the crap out of it.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

This slowed the leak slightly, and it was enough to allow us to figure out why the water wasn’t stopping. Evan double checked our main water valve to make sure it was off all the way. It was, but he turned on our outside hoses to release more of the water in the pipes. Then we turned on the faucets again just in case… and there was water coming out of them! Somehow, even when our main water valve was off, water still got in.

So we decided to just keep all the faucets on the on position and Evan ran to Home Depot to get a water meter key so we could turn off the water at our meter too. Meanwhile, I hung out in the attic scooping water out from the original tray, having flashbacks to a previous plumbing experience that involved scooping lots of water with a plastic cup… I finally got enough out to move it, then Evan came back and shut off the water at the meter. From then on we were fine water-wise, yay!! No more almost-flooding our attic!

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Now that we had stopped the leaking, it was time to be done with this pipe and remove each of the two ends from their old fittings. We busted out our new pipe wrench, clamped it on, gave it a tug and… nothing. The thing didn’t budge. At all.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

We did some online research and found out that you need TWO pipe wrenches… one to turn the pipe you’re removing, and one to turn the threading it’s screwed into in the opposite direction. This keeps you from breaking anything and gives you a little more turning power. Whoops. It also said WD40 helps loosen things if you spray it into the threading and wait a few minutes. But it said the BEST thing to unscrew it is to heat up the metal by blowtorching it.

Yes. Blowtorching it.

Apparently warming the metal makes it malleable enough to unscrew. I mean, I’d take a culinary blowtorch to a crème brûlée given the opportunity, and my fiance will not deny that he’s a bit of a pyro, but NEITHER of us was about to bring a blow torch into our wood-filled attic.

So Evan ran to Home Depot again while I stayed here to keep an eye on leaks, and he picked up another wrench and some WD40. No blowtorch.

He came back, we tried the WD40 and the additional wrench… and still no dice. That pipe would NOT budge.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

We started this project at 3:30pm. By this point it was about 9:00pm. We had no running water, no way to turn it back on since our pipe was cut in the middle, and no way to replace the pipe because we couldn’t get the dang thing off. So we decided to go have a snack (it seemed logical at the time).

As Evan laid on the floor in defeat and I perched on the counter eating wheat thins, we talked about how we could always stay the night at his parents if we had to. For a minute I thought we were going to give up. But then we decided to try unscrewing the other end of the pipe, just to see if it was easier to get than the first end we tried.

We sprayed it with WD40, waited a few minutes, then with just one wrench (because it was at a T-joint) Evan was able to unscrew it!! Oh happy day!!!!!!

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required- evanandkatelyn.comDIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

We didn’t lay out plastic beforehand, shame on us! At least we remembered the tray. Luckily there was pretty much no water to deal with this time.

Then we got to actually attach our new PEX! First off, we prepped the adapter by wrapping it with Teflon tape the same way you’d wrap a shower head before installing it. You have to wrap it in the same direction that you screw it in, so clockwise if you’re facing the threads (see in the picture below).

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Then you screw the adapter into the joint that you unscrewed your pipe from.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Now that the adapter was in, it was time for us to bust out our new piping! You know I love a man with nice PEX…

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

We cut the PEX with our PVC cutter to make sure we had a nice clean edge.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required- DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Then we marked 1″ from the fresh cut (this marks how far you need to push the PEX into your adapter).

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

But before we pushed it into the adapter, we needed to straighten it the best we could. Luckily it’s pretty flexible.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

As we straightened it we fed it under the boards on the floor along the length of the original pipe.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Then we just pushed the end of the PEX into the adapter and it was done! No clamping, no adhesives. Just pop it in and stop at your inch mark.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required- DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

With new confidence and one end of our piping complete, we decided to tackle unscrewing that first part of the pipe again. But we used a slightly different technique this time (after spraying again with copious amounts of WD40). Instead of Evan holding onto both of the wrenches, I pushed the one on the joint counter-clockwise as hard as I could while Evan used his body weight to push the one on the pipe clockwise with his foot.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

And that did it!!! We loosened it enough for Evan to do the rest by hand! It only took two pipe wrenches, a buttload of WD40, and two adult humans using all their force to unscrew this pipe, but we did it! PS doesn’t Evan look like a giant trapped in a doll house in the below pic?

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

Sweet success!

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

From here you pretty much do the same thing as you do on the other end. Teflon the adapter, screw it in, cut the PEX, mark an inch from the cut, and pop the PEX into the adapter. Easy easy.

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required- DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

And then of course, rip out the old pipe with your bare hands and growl at it. Grrrrrrr!!!!!!!

DIY Galvanized to PEX, No Blowtorch Required-

So there it is, we did it! By the time we finished it was 10pm and we had officially spent 6-1/2 hours replacing one pipe in our attic. But it was worth it! All together, we spent about $100 on these supplies, which may seem like a lot. But to get it fixed by a professional it was going to cost $800, so in comparison $100 was small change. Plus we will be able to use most of the items again for future projects.

As promised, here is a quick guide to all the steps you SHOULD follow:

STEP 1: Turn off your water. To be safe, do it at your main water valve AND at the meter using a water meter key.

STEP 2: Run all your faucets and showers to empty them of water. Don’t forget your hose faucets outside too! Leave them open til you’re done with the project, just to be safe.

STEP 3: Prep your area. Lay down plastic wrap and a shallow tray under the spot you’re going to cut. Make sure you have at least two trays on hand to catch water.

STEP 4: Using a saw that can cut metal, cut your galvanized pipe. Some water will come out, don’t panic.

STEP 5: Bust out the WD40. Spray it onto the joints where your pipe is connected, and try to get some of it to go into the threading. This helps break up any rust in there. Please don’t bring a blowtorch into your attic.

STEP 6: Unscrew the pipe ends. Use two pipe wrenches pulled in opposite directions, one gripping the pipe you are unscrewing and one gripping the joint you’re unscrewing it from. Don’t break the pipe, but use your body weight to unscrew it. Having two people helps.

STEP 7: Prep the PEX adapter. Wrap it with Teflon tape clockwise (the same direction you turn it).

STEP 8: Screw adapter into the joint you unscrewed your pipe from.

STEP 9: Cut a nice clean edge on the PEX with your PVC cutter and mark one inch from the end.

STEP 10: Straighten your PEX and run it along the length of the pipe you’re replacing.

STEP 11: Push the end of your PEX into the adapter until you reach your one inch mark.

STEP 12: Do the same thing on the other joint and you’re done! Celebrate with late night cheeseburgers!

Hope this helped and made DIY plumbing a little less scary!

You can also find us at:YouTube (all our DIY videos)
Instagram (sneak peeks @evanandkatelyn)
Patreon (if you wanna support us, but no pressure!)
Pinterest (stuff that inspires us)
Twitter (us, in 140 character doses)
Facebook (be our friend)
Instructables (straight up tutorials)
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting us!
How to swap a galvanized pipe for PEX piping


This post currently has 53 responses.

  1. Maria

    April 2, 2013 at 11:06 am

    You guys are crazy brave and have some mad skillz. I don’t think I could replace a pipe! That is awesome!

    In other news, after reading your imaginary British person conversation above, I decided you would be someone awesome to hang out with in real life. But you live in Texas. Silly Texas person.

  2. Katelyn Shibley

    April 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks!!! This was slightly (VERY) nerve-racking, not gonna lie. Haha I probably should hang out with people other than my imaginary British friends! :P But yes TX is quite a ways from DC

  3. Joe

    July 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I just replaced a leaky 20 ft galvanized pipe section using your shopping list and instructions. The whole thing took under 4 hours, thanks to you.

  4. Katelyn Shibley

    July 8, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Ah omg that’s awesome! You totally beat us time-wise haha. So glad we could help though, really glad it worked out! :)

  5. Katelyn Shibley

    October 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Thank you! Hope this helps make it a little less intimidating (if we could do it, anyone can haha). Good luck!!

  6. Larry Porterfield

    November 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for this guide. I didn’t think the PEX should be that hard, but I’m glad to see the “how-to”. Things I learned from other sites. First, spray your WD-40 early in the process (perhaps before your Step 4) so it has time to work into the threads. Second, when using the 2 pipe wrenches, you want to keep the good pipe from moving (so it doesn’t loosen at it’s other end), so the one wrench holds it in place and the wrench on the bad pipe is the one that should move/turn. Third, you can extend the power of the wrench by sliding a metal pipe (2 – 4 feet) over the handle. When I did all these things on galvanized pipe not in my attic, it came loose like it was easy. I’m considering re-piping my entire house with PEX, but maybe in stages.

    • Katelyn Shibley

      November 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Ah those are some good tips! Wish we had read that about spraying the WD-40 early. We did read about using a metal pipe to extend the wrench, that was our next plan of action if we couldn’t get things to work, those metal pipes are like $20 though! Crazy! All super helpful tips though :) Thanks!

  7. James

    November 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Came across this as I researched PEX in order to build up some confidence in my own massive DIY project. Reading your post was both amusing, informative and extremely confidence inspiring…..I mean, if the two of you can do it, well….. ;)

    • Katelyn Shibley

      November 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Yay I’m glad it helped! Seriously, if we could figure it out and still have success after all our mishaps, anybody can do it!

  8. Tim

    December 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Newb question: Was there any issue with using brass Sharkbite adjacent to galvanized pipe? Did the Teflon tape provide all the needed barrier? Or is none needed between brass and galvanized?

    • Katelyn Shibley

      December 23, 2013 at 9:09 am

      In the past 9 months since we did this project we haven’t had any problems, the teflon tape was enough and we haven’t had any leaks or anything (we check it periodically).

    • Katelyn Shibley

      February 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Thank you! You can do it!! It’s really not that bad- just make sure your water is REALLY off and have trays to catch extra water just in case anyway!

  9. Ryan Hartzog

    June 22, 2014 at 7:50 am

    This was a great post. My wife and I will be tackling a similar project soon and this was helpful to see. Thank you from a fellow Texan.

  10. Chris

    November 20, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I came across this blog while researching how to replace my galvanized water main into my basement with PEX. Good posting. I can see my wife and I doing a similar project in the near future. I admit though, that I have to agree with Tim in the comments section from 2013, that the union between the galvanized steel pipe and brass or copper anything needs to be dielectric. Otherwise you run the strong risk of extreme corrosion. If I were you, I’d double check my attic plumbing work. I hope I’m wrong. But at least research it yourself. Well done on the project overall!

    • Katelyn Sheline

      November 26, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Hey Chris! Thank you for the tip! We went up and checked out work. So far no corrosion but we will keep a close eye on it. Thank you!

  11. Solar_rogue

    December 21, 2014 at 3:16 am

    Stumbled upon your blog. A couple things id like to share I’ve learned the past few months. The brass to galvanized fitting creates a slight galvanic current which slowly erodes the lessor of the two metals, you have at best a temp fix, not sure if the Teflon tape cancels out that current ? But for sure next time Use PB blaster( or similar ) not wb-40. You can have saved yourself a lot of elbow grease, it’s a penetrating and liberating oil that eats threw rusted stuck pipes (bolts , etc) a pair of angled adjustable vice grips would have done wonders too. Pipe wrenches work better on lugs and what not. Vice grips for pipe and PB would have knocked that part out.
    Mentioning leaving the water on. Air has roughly double the pressure. When doing any plumbing, leave all facets open when the water is turned on to relive the air pressure out. So not to blow any pipes or fittings.
    The best way to cut old metal pipe is with an angle grinder. . Using a circular saw, reciprocating saw or jig saw … Even with a Diamond tip blade you only get a few cuts and you get a lack of usability / maneuverability/ speed /safety the angle grinder will give you.
    Something to plan ahead for depending on project size.

    All gavenized steel is at least 50-60 years old. Everyone should consider replacing it all. Cause it’s all going to crap out in the next 5-6 years. In the mean time it’s rusting in the tap/ cooking water (consumables) and damaging the hot water heater with sentiment.

    Cheers and best of luck on future projects

    • Katelyn Sheline

      January 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      We will keep our eye out for any erosion- we check every so often and so far it looks to be ok, but thank you for the heads up! Aw man I wish we had tried PB Blaster- the wd-40 did technically work but it definitely required elbow grease. Lots of awesome tips we will keep in mind for if/when we need to do any more replacements! It’s not in the budget to replace all of our galvanized pipe but we do keep an eye on it. Thank you!

      • James K Place

        June 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm

        Agreed. The Sharkbite website says they do not produce fittings that are to be used with galvanized pipe. You need to change them out. A few years ago I did pretty much what you did by running two 30 foot sections of pex to replace the galvanized. On the galvanized to pex end I found an Apollo female pipe thread fitting to pex at Lowes. This fitting was plastic and screwed onto the galvanized while the other end accepted the pex and had a screw type fitting that I simply had to hand turn to secure the fitting. It’s been in the attic for probably 4 years now with zero problems. I’ve looked for them lately and have not been able to find more for the complete change out that I’m planning. I think you need some form of cpvc connector to correct your solution. Good luck

  12. David

    February 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Evan and others. Tip for Stubborn/Rusty Galv. Pipe. Use 2 Wrenches. Turn to the RIGHT(calm down) as to TIGHTEN it. You will feel like you didn’t accomplish anything, but internally you did. Even budging it a Micro-Meter, you removed/moved rust(it might even have went “squeek”). No WD40. I have did this many times w/success. “DIYcauseIcant”. Peace.

  13. Rts

    June 1, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you. Need to do exactly the same thing. Only thing holding me back was worried about getting the old corroded pipe out of the joint. Now not concerned about it.

  14. Phoneguy

    July 28, 2015 at 1:57 am

    great article, thanks.
    1. suggest a 5 gallon bucket also, to dump those trays into.
    2. the brass sharkbite connector should be ok, threaded into galvanized. The big no-no is never connect copper to galvanized without a dielectric insulating fitting between.

    • Phoneguy

      July 28, 2015 at 2:00 am

      side note: I just saw on TV a device called ScaleBlaster. Everything I read sounds positive. I am considering getting one. It claims to stop calcium deposits not only on faucets, shower heads, glass shower doors, stainless steel sinks and dishes in dishwasher, but also eventually cleaning all the deposits from the inside of pipes. Anybody try one yet?

  15. Nora Beth

    May 2, 2016 at 1:08 am

    We are about to replace all of our galvanized pipe on the home we just bought two days ago because they are corroded inside, which releases lead into your water…among other things. We don’t have the money to do all of it right now, either, but there’s no way I’m messing with lead, especially with two young children, so we’re gonna make it happen. If you haven’t already, I would strongly consider having your water checked for lead. I know this is an old post but being as freaked out as I am right now (gotta check paint and soil, too), I couldn’t not share.

    I used the more reliable source, for information, but I wanted to share this one, too, for the photos:

    • Katelyn Sheline

      November 14, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Yes, we’ve used those in a couple other minor leaks around the house, but this one was a larger leak so we felt more comfortable replacing it :)

    • James K Place

      June 23, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Do these galvanized pipe compression fittings meet the plumbing code? I have a galvanized section that I may need to cut and terminate and using a compression fitting would surely simplify the process.

      • Katelyn Sheline

        June 25, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        They were recommended to us by the folks at our local hardware store so I think in Texas they meet code, but best to check with a professional in your area

  16. Nathan

    April 28, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for the tip regarding the brass fitting from Galvanized to PEX. I just had a leak in my house that needed an emergency repair and this post was so helpful. Lots of penetrating lubricant is totally great, especially if you can put it on in advance. Eventually I’ll get to replacing it all, but the rest is behind/between walls that require a lot more work to get at…. Thanks again! Much more help that the plumbing “experts” at my local Home Depot. Those people are such snobs….

  17. DGeorge C

    August 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    To break loose difficult pipes increase the length of the pipe wrenches. Get a 2 or 3 foot piece of pipe that will fit over the handles of the pipe wrenches. Increasing the length of the pipe wrench increases the force proportionally, a handle twice as long doubles the force, 3 times as long will triple the force, 4 times = 4 times the force.

  18. Gregory Coker

    December 9, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    I have been trying to find out how to attach the threaded part of the pex to the threaded galvanized pipe. Thanks for showing me how to do it!

Leave a Reply