How difficult is a water softener install?
June 12, 2008 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Much like my last question posted here four years ago about OS9, I am being flummoxed by hard water. Or more specifically, the level of difficulty wrt installing a water softener. How hard is it?

This is all before I RTFM which came with the softener, but I want to get a feel for what I'm getting involved in... hopefully from someone else who has done this.

Our house has an old (10 year old? maybe?) water softener that is rented. Thus, all of the hardware is in place for such a device. We went ahead and bought a new water softener outright, so once the rented one is gone we'll be putting in the new one.

My skill level with plumbing is low. I've replaced a gasket on a bathroom faucet handle once, I've removed and cleaned pipes under the sink once or twice, I've jiggled toilet handles 50 times, but that's it.

With my skill set and the existing hardware seemingly in place, can anyone provide a feel for how difficult a task this is? If it's too hard, we'll get a handyman. But I wouldn't mind avoiding that cost.
posted by hijinx to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I installed a water softener in about an hour. There was a water softener there at some point in the past but not immediately preceding my installation. I followed the manufacturer-supplied installation instructions to the letter with no issues.

I had to shut off all water to the house, drain the lines in the house, de-solder and cut pipes to the appropriate length, re-solder pipes and turn back on the water. Many of the connections from the copper plumbing to the softener were easy teflon-tape NPT pipe segments. This means you may be able to get away with just a pipe-wrench.

I also needed to buy some piping components (and solder them in place) which were not supplied with the softener. These components may be installed already with your current softener. I'm not sure if water softeners have a standard pipe layout (i.e. if your replacement softener will be a drop-in replacement)

I have a separate toolbox just for plumbing tools. Given the extent of my installation I needed all of them, and you may too. Unless you can borrow the tools from someone you know it may be cheaper for a handyman to complete the installation than to buy all of the required tools. Home Depot quoted me <$100 CAD to install the water softener 3 years ago when I asked out of curiosity. For people who know the job, and especially where it's basically a removal/replacement it should be very easy.
posted by KevCed at 11:11 AM on June 12, 2008

GE (the manufacturer of my softener) also had an 800 number to help with installation issues. I never used it but I imagine you could call your manufacturer's number and ask what level of technical expertise they think it necessary to install their product.
posted by KevCed at 11:12 AM on June 12, 2008

What kind of connections does it take? If they are screwed and flanged connections then it probably won't be that hard to install. If you are going to have to sweat any pipe joints though the level of difficulty just went well beyond novice. You may need a plumber anyway if your whole house main water shutoff valve is not 100% water tight. Many old ones leak a little bit.
posted by caddis at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2008

Caddis makes a good point. In prepping for the water softener install we found that the house's main water shutoff valve was a gate valve (very common type of valve, most garden hoses use this type, the kind you screw open and screw shut) with a lot of calcium, lime and corrosion. We had it replaced with a ball-valve (the kind you turn 90 degrees to go from full-open to fully closed) by a professional plumber. He was required to shut-off the main shut-off for the whole block.

You might save some money on installation if he does both jobs, something the average plumber is likely qualified to do.
posted by KevCed at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2008

Thanks for the help, all.

It appears that this would involve soldering which means that I'm going to almost definitely sit it out. Handyman to the rescue!
posted by hijinx at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2008

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