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Understanding and Installing Manufactured Housing Waterlines
Sun 03/18/07 11:30:52 am
by Mark Bower

Plumbing in a manufactured home can be quite different than plumbing in a site-built home. In fact different enough that plumbers in many areas will not work on mobile homes. Why? Some plumbers don't like to work on the new plastic waterlines. Others don't like the fact that things such as tub faucets and drains aren't standard. Another reason is just plain laziness -- too much work to crawl under a home to get at a waterline. There is also, "You just never know what kind of plumbing mess I'll find, so why mess with it at all?"

Today's plumbing in manufactured homes can be described as on the cutting-edge of technology.' Because codes for site-built houses are strict and hard to change, mobile-home manufacturers are often the first to test new technology. Thanks to mobile home manufacturers, this country is now seeing a shift towards plastic waterlines -- more specifically, a shift to cross-linked polyethylene (pex).

water - understand and install

Working with plastic waterlines is very simple, easy and fast. So why would plumbers scoff at that? One reason is that in many areas, codes for site-built homes have changed very little over the years. This has given many plumbers a good reason for not wanting to learn anything new. In fact, those same plumbers probably despise the new technology; therefore, they refuse to work on mobile homes.

If your having trouble finding someone to work on your plumbing and you don't want to attempt it yourself, try contacting a manufactured home repair company instead of a plumber.


In the past many mobile homes were built using galvanized pipe or copper for waterlines. If you have an older mobile home, most likely you have the metal galvanized pipes. Today, galvanized pipe has become the headache of the industry as it tends to corrode shut. Galvanized pipes are no longer used for waterlines, and homeowners who have galvanized will experience loss of water pressure or rust particles in their water due to the corrosion in the pipes. The only solution to that problem is to replace them.

Copper, on the other hand, is still occasionally used but has become quite expensive and much more time consuming to install. Although copper waterlines will not corrode, cold weather can be deadly on them. If it freezes, copper either bursts or expands so no fittings will fit, making repairs about impossible. Plus, both products are difficult for the average homeowner to work with. This gave life to another alternative -- plastic waterlines.

At first the most popular plastic waterline was polybutylene, a flexible gray or black-colored plastic waterline. In the late eighty's and mid nineteen-ninety's, many of the plastic fittings (right picture) that were used to connect polybutylene tubing were substandard; they would become brittle, crack and break. A class-action suit resulted and today polybutylene is no longer manufactured.

Anytime work is being done and plastic fittings are discovered, they should be removed. Brass or copper fittings are used today with the pex waterlines, polybutylene's suitable replacement.

Between pex and CPVC (hard rigid plastic) waterlines, pex provides the most resistance against corrosion and has an ability to “remember” its shape. That feature helps prevent the pipe from bursting under extreme conditions such as freezing. CPVC, copper and pex are waterlines available on the market today, and pex is by far the more superior. Both pex and CPVC products withstand heat very well. One advantage of CPVC is that it can be glued (solvent welded) which requires no tools for assembly. But like copper, it cannot withstand freezing without damage. At the current time CPVC is probably the most widely available, but pex is rapidly making its way onto retailers shelves. When choosing your new waterline, consider using pex and investing in the crimping tools necessary to do the job.

If you want to know how to work with CPVC, copper or any other type of waterline, numerous books are available. The rest of this chapter will be devoted to working with pex.

No matter what type of waterlines (galvanized, copper, black, polybutylene, cpvc, pex) your mobile home currently has, you can easily repair leaks or do other plumbing projects by using materials available at your home improvement center or hardware store. For instance, several companies have available universal compression-type fittings and couplings designed to easily connect together about any type of waterline using only basic tools.

Most all homes have two sizes of waterlines -- ½ inch and ¾ inch (inside diameter). ¾ inch waterlines are generally only used as the main waterline leading in and out of the water heater. ½ inch is generally used everywhere else in the home. One exception may be the risers leading to the toilets or sinks which sometimes are 3/8 or 1/4 inch.

PEX pex waterlines

Today pex waterlines are pretty much the standard in the manufactured home industry. In many areas pex is also the plumbers choice for new conventionally-built houses. Probably the only turn-off with pex is that it is installed with crimp rings which require a special crimping tool. Not that long ago a crimping tool sold for over $150. Thanks to the popularity of pex, crimpers now sell for well under $100 and the costs will continue to fall. Investing in a pair of crimpers is a wise decision for anyone considering tackling their own plumbing. You could save 1 or 2 calls to a plumber and the tool would be paid for (and your neighbors would appreciate borrowing them!) You could delay the purchase of a crimper by skipping the rings and using compression fittings, the only other way to connect pex waterlines. But compression fittings aren't as secure as crimped fittings and the damage you could get from a blown compression fitting would pay for a whole box of crimping tools. The above picture shows a pex crimper, pex cutter, go/no go gauge (page 14-4), crimp rings and a few of the available insert fittings.

PEX to Polybutylene

pex to polybutylene

As mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, pex is polybutylene's replacement. Once only available in clear or white, pex can now be found in a variety of colors including red, blue, white and clear. Because so many manufactured homes still contain the gray polybutylene, repairs are still necessary. Since parts for polybutylene systems are no longer available, repairs have to be made using pex. The repairs are simple, you just have to remember that anytime you connect pex to polybutylene, you need a pex to polybutylene' adapter (pictured right) available anywhere pex fittings are sold. In the adapter kit, the gold ring is used on the gray polybutylene line and the black ring is used on the white pex line. Besides being a different diameter, the polybutylene side of the fitting contains a lot more rings than the pex side. Do not use a regular pex to pex' coupler as the inside diameter of polybutylene is larger.

In the photo to the right, the top coupler is a pex to pex' adapter. The bottom coupler is a pex to polybutylene' adapter. On the right side of the pex to polybutylene adapter is the polybutylene connection. Notice how its thicker and the ring spacing is tighter.

pex waterlines
If you have a leak in the middle of a gray polybutylene waterline, cut out the leak and install a piece of pex with a pex to polybutylene adapter on each end.

Figuring out how to do plumbing in your home using pex isn't rocket science. Notice that everything is connected using fittings with rings. For instance, if you need to add a line to install an outdoor faucet (previous chapter), you simply cut in half an existing cold waterline and slip in a tee. A tee is the fitting used when a waterline needs to branch off of another. Then slip a ring over the end of each waterline that connects to the tee and crimp. Unlike trying to solder copper or glue CPVC, the beauty of using pex is that the pipes can be wet or still dripping and a successful crimp can still be easily made. How much easier can it get!

Installing New Waterlines

As mentioned earlier, if you've got the old metal galvanized pipes, you're probably experiencing loss of water pressure and occasional chunks of rust coming through your waterlines. The only way to repair it is to replace it.

When installing new pex lines, never worry about removing the old waterlines. If they aren't in the way, let them lie.

The toughest part of replacing waterlines is working underneath the home in cramped space. But before you start doing the back stroke, be sure you understand how your home's plumbing system functions. Basically, there's not much to understand. In fact it can all be summed up in one paragraph.

The ¾” main waterline comes into the house by the water heater and makes a tee. One side of the tee goes into the hot water heater which then feeds all the ½” hot waterlines. The other side of the tee feeds all the ½” cold waterlines. Congratulations! Go pick up your diploma as you just passed Plumbing 101.


Manufactured homes are built to a HUD code. Homes built to a UBC or any other code have stricter plumbing requirements. In most areas pex waterlines are acceptable but all fittings have to be accessible. In other words, connections cannot be made inside walls or underneath floors as they typically are in a manufactured home.

For pex to meet codes under those conditions, manifolds are used. Think of a manifold as a hot and cold control panel. The hot side of your main line would flow into the hot control panel. The cold side would flow into the cold control panel. A separate waterline would run from the control panel to each fixture in house. For instance, in your bathroom three ½” cold waterlines would run from the cold panel to your bathroom sink, tub and toilet. To accomplish that and meet code, each waterline would need to be one long piece with no hidden fittings connecting additional pieces of waterline. The beauty of this system is that you wouldn't need to install shut-off valves at each fixture, but rather simply turn off the valve for that line at the manifold. Depending upon your area, your waterlines may need to be inspected by a building inspector. Find out before starting any major work. If your area is like most, building inspectors don't require mobile homes to meet any code but HUD.

Making a crimp connection making a crimp connection

Step 1 – Using a pipe cutter, make a square cut. Remove any burrs or jagged edges.

crimp ring

Step 2 – Slide the correct-sized crimp ring over the end of the pex waterline.

cutting pex waterlines

Step 3 – Insert the fitting into the pipe until it hits the shoulder. The ring should be positioned 1/8 to ¼” from the end of the pipe. If you encounter difficulty with keeping the ring in place until crimped, gently squeeze the ring using a pliers. Do not oversqueeze with the pliers or you may not be able to get the cimping tool over the ring.

pex waterline crimper

Step 4 – With a properly calibrated crimper, squarely center the jaws over the ring and squeeze the handle one time. If crimped more than once, the connection must be cut out and redone.

go/no-go gauge

Step 5 – Remove crimper and check the ring using a GO/NO-GO gauge. A GO/NO-GO gauge will tell you if you've made a proper crimp. For each size of pipe the gauge will have two slots. The GO slot will slip over the ring, the NO-GO slot will not. If both slots (or neither slot) slip over the ring, then the connection must be cut out and redone once the crimper has been recalibrated. To recalibrate a crimper, one screw loosens and the other adjusts. Since all brands of crimpers adjust a bit differently, refer to your manual for more details

Tips: When installing new waterlines, here are some tips for making the job easier.

A) Purchase pex waterline in 20' sticks or lay out rolls several days ahead of time. Straight sticks are a lot easier to feed through the belly than rolls of pex that won't lay straight.
B) Help feed long lines of pex through the belly by occasionally cutting an 8” slit in the belly and using your hand to help feed it along. Patch the belly once the line has reached its destination and has been tested for leaks.
C) Run both the hot and cold lines together. Tape them together at the ends.
D) Before feeding the hot and cold lines into the belly, label the cold line by wrapping a piece of black electrical tape on it every 5 feet or so.
E) Never use a crimp ring that isn't quite round.
F) Check the calibration of a crimping tool before each project. Check by crimping a ring on a scrap piece of waterline and checking with the GO/NO-GO gauge.
G) When installing a copper to pex adapter, solder the adapter to the copper before crimping on the pex.
H) Properly support the pipe on long open runs with fasteners every couple feet. Automatic fasteners make the job a cinch as they work somewhat like a staple gun.
I) Do not expose pex pipe to UV light (sun) for more than 24 months.
J) When running new lines, leave some slack for any future adjustments.
K) But any polybutylene waterline left in your home in most cases will function properly if the plastic fittings are removed and the pipe is kept straight. Polybutylene with sharp bends in time will crack and leak.


Mark Bower owns Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair and is the author of "The Manual for Manufactured/Mobile Home Repair and Upgrade" available on this website.

The Manual for
Manufactured Home Repair & Upgrade

“Every winter my roof leaked around the swamp cooler.  We even had a couple mobile home repairmen out to seal it.  Nothing worked and this went on for 5 years,” said Maureen of Elko, Nevada.   “Then last summer I ordered The Manual and it suggested I use neoprene to seal the leak.  Since then I’ve had no leaks at all!”


Maureen is referring to The Manual for Manufactured/Mobile Home Repair and Upgrade by Mark Bower.  Most just dub it The Manual.  Bower owns and operates Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair in Aberdeen, South Dakota. 


Maureen isn’t alone.  Hundreds of others have written to Bower sharing similar stories of how The Manual has solved their problems.  Esther of St. Louis, Missouri, writes,  We had squeaky floors in the living room and without The Manual, I would have had my husband tear out the floors and put in new ones.  What a lifesaver!”


Bower enjoys the letters he receives regarding his manual. “I wrote this manual from experience,” says Bower. “I’m not just some guy with his feet up on the desk – I’m out in the field every day doing what I write.”


Tom of Lansing, Michigan, followed the simple instructions on installing a shut-off valve and saved $75 on a service call.  Mary of Churdan, Iowa, writes to say she uses the manual to keep the repair guys she hires honest, “When I had my home releveled, I sent two different contractors packing because I knew they weren’t doing the job right.  This manual has literally saved me hundreds of dollars!” 


Bower has updated his manual for 2004.  More information was added regarding additions and porches.  “We added details on attaching porches so they don’t leak even if they shift with the seasons.” says Bower.  With high energy prices now upon us, Bower says he’s also included a section on building a solar heating panel.  “Find an old sliding glass door and you can build one for under $100,” says Bower who built two panels for his own 1800 square foot manufactured home.  “You’d be surprised at how much heat they create when the sun is shining.”


David of Lake McConaughy, Nebraska, says The Manual should be called, The Mobile Home Bible. Dave writes, “I wish I had your manual when we had our 1965 Star.  It would have saved me WEEKS of work!” 


Vicki of Ocala, Florida, bought Bower’s manual because it had instructions for installing a metal roofover.  “My son and husband had the roof up in 2 days from start to finish,” says Vicki. “The 4 inch overhang is awesome – no more water running down the siding. Great roof, great instructions, I love it!”


The Manual also helped Pam from Duluth, Minnesota, replace her skirting and repair her underbelly. “It gave me the courage to tackle these projects,” writes Pam. “ I saved a lot of money by being able to do it myself.”


Bower says many manufactured home owners are do-it-yourselfers, and he’s glad to be able to provide them a tool, The Manual, to help them do more.

Get The Manual Now!

Mark Bower can be reached at [email protected] 


Manufactured Housing Repair On-Line

The MH Parts Store On-Line   MH Parts may not be very pretty... but when you need them you just can't do with out them. Don't run all over town to assemble the things you need for that home renovation or repair. Order from our on-line parts store. Everything you need is here from doors, windows, screens, plumbing and electric parts, bath and kitchen fixtures, roof and ceiling components, and more.... even set-up materials, The Part Store's Owner/Managers, keep it simple, they just provide you with the best possible products available.

The Manual for Manufactured Home Repair & Upgrade   If your looking for a book that covers all facets of manufactured home repair, you've found it! This is the only book of its type, available to the public, that we have been able to find. As you would expect from the title, The repair and upgrade techniques described in this manual are specific to manufactured homes. This book will answer almost every question on manufactured home repair that we have ever heard. Not only does this book show you how to repair and maintain your home, but also great methods for upgrading it.

The Manufactured Home Repair & Renovation Forum   An open discussion group where all are welcome to participate. No registration necessary! Discussion threads covering a wide range of questions, answers, and relating of personal experiences involving MH Repairs. Moderated by Tracy L. Mason of MB-Quality Contractors, from Greeley, CO. Ask our experienced manufactured home repair and renovation contractor about your home repair needs! Basic home fix-it techniques to trade secrets.

Advanced Foundation Systems   Designed and engineered for manufactued homes, These foundation systems add a high level of strutural stability and have proven most cost-effective for the manufactured home, buyer. Advanced Foundation Systems meet or exceed industry standards, and have been proven safer under adverse conditions. Advanced Foundation Systems offer you the best foundation technology available for your manufactured added safety and a lower cost.

Finance Your MH Renovation/Repair   There are many loan programs available to MH Owners. Secure the money you need to renovate, upgrade, or even expand your MH. One stop shopping. select your loan preferences and we will forward your request for loan information to as many as a dozen participating manufactured housing finance offices.

Skirting For The 21 Century Manufactured Home   System-1 is what skirting should be- 100% solid concrete. System-1 is not an imitation or a look alike – it is the original concrete skirting system that resists the elements from the summer heat of Texas to the harsh winters of Minnesota. System-1 is built to last and is designed to stay put for years of dependable service. Stop chasing your skirting down the street and look at just some of the benefits System-1 concrete skirting provides you.

5 Part Site Preparation & Home Installation Video Series   We are proud to offer the most effective way ever to learn about the step by step process involved in properly installing a manufactured home; A new five-part video series with George Porter, the industry's most respected installation specialist. After viewing all five videos you will have what it takes to tackle your site preparation with confidence and peace of mind. Even if you're not planning on doing the work yourself, this information will help you understand the entire process. This will give you an edge when choosing sub-contractors and help you make sure the site preparation is done properly.

Manufactured Housing Yellow Pages / SERVICE COMPANIES   The Yellow Pages is an ever expanding data base that is growing into one of the richest resources in the world for locating and contacting companies that participate in, or offer services to, the manufactured housing industry.

The Mobile Home Expert   The business of installing and servicing manufactured homes is rapidly moving away from the world of the one pick-up, one jack, local set up and repair guys and into the world of certified tradesmen, and licensed contractors. The modern manufactured home is greeted with stiff compliance codes regulating construction, warranty and installation. As more and more local agencies get involved in the inspection of installations it gets more and more difficult to know what the rules of the game are, especially if your operating in more than one jurisdiction. Consult with R.T. Bonney, who has participated in all phases of the industry over the past 30 Years He can provide solutions for the modern problems of operating most types of manufactured housing business.

Floor Repair Info Kit   includes a 25 minute VHS video about repairing the floor underneath your toilet, and a booklet on floor repair. Price:$25.95 - Shipping & Handling:$3.90

Painting and Texturing Paneled Walls   By following the steps in this 20 minute video, your paneled walls will look darn near like textured sheetrock. Works on both wood paneling and vinyl-covered paneling or sheetrock. Price:$19.95 Shipping & Handling:$3.90 

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