So what has actually changed in the last few years? Well, for me at least, the two big advances have been the introduction of 'Layflat' pipe and connectors that mean that Chrome wastes are no longer the stuff of nightmares.
'Layflat' is not an apt description of the product, rather it is a marketing statement stuffed full of wishful thinking. An apt description of the product would run something along the lines of "Far less likely to take your eye out as it whips back into a coil" but I guess they'd have to sell it in bigger coils if they were going to get all that on the side of the box, so 'Layflat' it is.
The big advantage of plastic is that you can thread it through holes in the centre of your joists. As a result, your pipework is well away from errant hammers and nails, the joist isn't weakened anywhere near as much as it would have been if you'd notched it, and you can avoid having umpteen joints in your pipework, which is always going to be a weak spot no matter how good your soldering.
Even better is that you can buy plastic pipework in really long coils, so that you can avoid joints all together if you need to. The downside of these coils was that, once coiled, the pipework was very reluctant to uncoil. This was a pain if you wanted to thread it through 3m of joists, a real pain for 5m and an absolute agony for really long runs.
I'm fairly sure that it was John Guest that first came out with this new type of plastic pipe but most of the plastic pipe companies seem to have a similar offering these days. I recently discovered a coil of the old pipework at the back of our lock-up and I'd forgotten just how awkward it was to use, especially if you're working on your own, compared to the new stuff.
I think they have now stopped selling the old pipework, so all plastic pipework - certainly that sold by John Guest - is this new 'Layflat' pipe, a change for which you should be eternally grateful.
|Solvent-weld to chrome, nicely done|
In the manual I mentioned that chrome is a complete pain to work with. This isn't because it's very poor at transporting water and waste - although it's not the greatest. It's a pain because it never used to fit anything else very well.
The whole point of Chrome is that it looks nice so, if you are going to use it, you need the end result to look nice and shiny and neat. The problem was that sooner rather than later you needed to change from chrome to plastic pipework and that was never, ever, a nice, shiny or neat change.
You really only had two options: fit the chrome into plastic push-fit pipework or use a compression connector.
The problem with using plastic push-fit is that it's not really designed for this diameter of pipe and, whilst chrome pushes-into push-fit fittings easily enough, it also pulls back out again with little or no encouragement. This is bad enough when you can see the problem but when you hide the push-fit behind stud walls and under floorboards you are just asking for trouble.
Compression fittings aren't much better because they are huge and ugly and, once again, the chrome pipework can be pulled out again fairly easily - because the chrome pipework is slightly narrower and because chrome is pretty slippy stuff.
To add to the frustration, what you wanted your chrome pipework to join to - solvent-weld plastic - it obstinately refused to do so.
The end result was that I avoided Chrome pipework like the plague. Sadly, whilst the Black Death hasn't darkened my doorstep since the 1600's, Chrome keeps cropping up all the bloody time and has to be dealt with.
Fortunately those lovely people at McAlpine have come to the rescue with a series of fittings designed specifically for chrome waste pipework. This includes general chrome fittings, designed specifically for Chrome Waste pipework, lengths of chrome pipe itself and, most importantly of all, adaptors to take you from chrome to solvent weld neatly and easily.
I can sleep well at night once more :)