There are three types of crimp rings on PEX tubing. There are various professional, DIYer, and homeowner ways of removing them. A professional will use appropriate tools to remove these rings. A DIYer and homeowner would improvise with whatever tool are available at hand.
If you are getting into a PEX project where you are repairing, remodeling, or adding on to your PEX installations. Or if that crimp did not go on correctly or do its job. We will discuss – how to remove a PEX crimp ring.
You will be able to remove, replace, or add on or repair the connection. We are going to look at three types of fittings. Some proprietary tools designed specifically for removing different types of crimps. Then we will look at some typical tools you may have that might do the job just as well.
Types of PEX Crimp Rings
Pro-PEX type fitting or rings – One of the first kinds of fittings you may run into is the pro-PEX type of fitting. It will be a PEX tube with a PEX ring of a slightly larger diameter holding a fitting in place. This is not something a typical homeowner, a DIYer, a general remodeler or a handyman would use.
The reason is that the tools that make these fittings or allow you to use this type of fittings are rather expensive. The less expensive ones are several hundred dollars as they are battery-powered but there are some manual ones too.
Basically, these are plastic tubes that want to regain the same size at which they were manufactured. The tool goes into the plastic ring to stretch it a bit to insert the PEX tube and the fitting. When the ring is released from the tool it shrinks back to the initial size and grips the entire assembly firmly. This creates a compression joint sealing the fitting.
This is not something a typical homeowner may set but you may come across them if you are dealing with a system set up by a plumber. This is because they have the tools to set up these fittings and rings. When working with commercial size operations these tools and fittings are slightly less costly. And the overall cost of the tool and fittings is offset by the quality of seals achieved. Probably these may be the easiest rings and fittings you may remove.
Stainless steel crimps – Basically this crimp is a stainless-steel ring or a strip of metal curled upon itself. It has got some punches and nubs which when compressed hold the steel strip in a ring form. There is a loop that is formed which when pressed using a pincer or clamper creates a compression to hold the PEX pipe and fittings in place.
These are quite challenging to remove as it is stainless steel. And the design is not intuitive on how to remove it. There is a specialty tool to remove these crimps but these clamps can be removed with regular tools at home.
Copper crimp ring – This is a solid copper crimp ring that gets mashed or compressed on to the tube and fitting. There are specially calibrated pliers that do not over-compress or under-compress these crimps. They are known as PEX crimpers. Some proprietary tools can be used to remove the PEX crimp ring. But the regular tools at home remove these rings as well.
Methods of Removing PEX Crimp Rings
Here is how you remove each of these PEX crimp rings;
The PRO-PEX crimp rings – is the easiest to remove. You do not need any special tools to remove them. You can use the miniature hack saw, a handheld hack saw or a regular size hack saw. Do not use a hacksaw with very fine teeth because the plastic crimp ring is made of soft plastic. While you are cutting you want to give space for the plastic removed while cutting to fall off. If the teeth are too small the plastic binds up and does not make a clean cut. The size of the hacksaw you pick also depends upon the space you have around the fitting.
Cut the fitting at an angle or spirally. You could cut it square too but this gives you little room to move. Cutting at an angle will also give you grip and space to work the tools into the narrow space. Once you think you have cut through the ring just insert a screwdriver in the cut and twist it. Then split the ring at the cut edge and pull it off.
To remove the fitting – you could use the hacksaw or a PEX cutter. The PEX cutter makes a neat burr-free cut. These are spring-loaded cutters that deliver a 90° cut on a wide range of tubes from 3/8 inches to 1-inch diameter.
Just place the cutter a few centimeters away from the fitting. If it is a translucent tube you can see the end of the fitting. Otherwise, apply an estimation to avoid damaging the fitting. If it is a red, blue, or opaque tubing cut some way further back and then work your way in towards the fitting.
Once it is cut off like this, use a hacksaw to cut the PEX tube ring off the fitting. Do this with a delicate hand and finesse as you do not want to damage the fins or burrs of the fitting. Otherwise, the joint between this fitting and PEX pipe will develop a leak. Cut and check, cut, and check again till you are done. Then use a pair of pliers to grab the end of the PEX tube and pry it off the fitting.
You can also use a razor knife to cut the PEX tubing off the fitting. The fitting may show scratches where the metal meets metal but it will not cause a leak while reusing the fitting.
You can also use heat to remove the PEX pipe. The barbs on the fittings may be holding the pipe firmly. This makes removing the PEX pipe a little difficult. We all know that plastic softens on warming. You could get a heat source like a hairdryer or a massage pad to hold the pipe until it softens.
Do not use a blow torch or an open flame to prevent burning the tube/PEX pipe. Just warm it sufficiently to make it expand. You should be able to remove the pipe with a twisting motion. If the pipe is too short then use a pair of pliers to hold the edge and pull it off.
The other way to remove the PEX crimps is to use the rotary tool. Rotary tools like the Dremel is a handheld cutter with a motor. You can cut off the plastic, steel, or copper crimp rings using this handheld rotary tool. Hold the tool at the ring till it has cut through and you see the PEX tube. Then use a screwdriver to pry off the crimp. Then cut gently into the PEX pipe – you should be able to pry off the tubing without damaging the fitting.
Stainless steel crimp rings – come in various sizes – 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch, etc. These are a little more challenging to get on and off. These are steel stripes that are curled to form rings. These rings have stamped out or cut out notches on one end that lock onto to small nubs or hooks on the other end. The PEX tubing and the fitting are held in the ring and the two ends of the ring are locked and clamped together tightly to seal off the joint making it waterproof.
There is a raised part on that clamp ring that looks like an anvil or a loop. There is an L-shaped proprietary tool that is like a large Allen wrench with a fitting at its tip that has a cut-out. This cutout is designed to slide over the crimped piece or loop. This cutout hooks the tip of the tool into the steel ring.
Then you rotate it or twist the steel clamp of the workpiece. The steel ring or clamp is open and should slide off. But if it does not, use a pair of pliers to pry it off. Be careful as these twisted edges may be sharp. You may cut yourself.
This tool comes with another head that snaps into a socket wrench. It works the same way as this tool with an L-shaped handle we just described. These head are detachable and will accommodate a 3/8 to 1-inch head for a socket wrench. This tool may or may not fit into a 3/4 fitting nor a 1-inch fitting thus not worth spending so much money on.
The alternate method is using a screwdriver, or a chisel you don’t mind nicking a pair of nail pinchers, and a pair of pliers. You could use a pair of nail pinchers to grab the tab on the end of the ring and pop it off the little bob or nub that holds it together. Then simply pull it off.
To free the fitting from the PEX tubing use any of the methods described above. You can use a hacksaw and screwdriver, heat the pipe, use a razor cutter, or a rotary cutter. Then you can grab the edge with a pair of pliers until it loosens and pull off the fitting’s barbs or fins.
Copper crimp ring – is the easiest to remove with the right tool. The PEX tube cutter will deliver a neat and even cut. Cut as close as possible to the fitting. Then use a proprietary tool called the Decrimper. This tool looks and works much like a pair of pliers. One jaw has a rounded anvil and the other – a cutting blade.
You open the jaws of this plier-like tool. Insert the anvil end into the tubing with the fitting. Then squeeze. This will cut the ring but just dent the tubing. Then turn the workpiece to loosen the copper ring from this assembly. When you do this – it presses the copper ring to open it up. Now dislodging it from the tubing.
If you have left the PEX tubing hanging off the edge then you may be able to grab it with a pair of pliers and pull it off. Or you can free the fitting from the PEX tubing use any of the methods described above. You can use a hacksaw and screwdriver. You could heat the plastic pipe, use a razor cutter or a rotary cutter. Then simply grab the edge of the tube with a pair of pliers, loosens it, and pull off the fitting’s barbs or fins.
In conclusion, we discussed the PRO-PEX plastic crimps, the stainless steel clamps, and the copper crimps. We discussed how they are fitted to understand how to remove them. These fittings may be a part of a system you may be remodeling or repairing. You could be tying more connections into an existing system.
Sometimes you may be ready to crimp but the fitting slides out of place or you make a wrong connection. This is when you may have to remove or decrimp to fix issues. We also discussed some proprietary tools such as a PEX cutter decrimper, etc. Then we discussed the household tools you could use which most people usually have at home.
You do not have to use these tools but take them as suggestions to deliver the mechanical force and action required to remove the PEX crimp rings. This because if you understand the crimping process it is quite simple to work out how to remove PEX crimp ring by other methods.
You do not need any specialty tools if you are dealing with one or a few crimps. But if you are a professional who works on many then it is recommended to get the right tools to do a neat and professional job, quickly and accurately.