Rarely is there a chance to improve function and reduce cost on a project, but cast-iron starter fittings present contractors, engineers and building owners this very opportunity. What could be more functional than combining three fittings, three couplings and a piece of pipe into a single fitting? (See Figure 1.)
Originally known as “stringer fittings,” starter fittings were designed to be the starting point for DWV systems in a bathroom by picking up all the fixtures when the layout is repeated on consecutive floors.
The benefits of using starter fittings can be seen in a faster and easier installation process, in reduced material and labor costs, when considering space requirements and in the reliability of using cast iron.
Today, plumbing contractors require fittings for DWV applications that allow for quick and cost-effective installation. Starter fittings have a lower total installed cost due to the material and labor savings, not because they offer less functionality or quality.
A starter fitting combines many different fittings into a single compact fitting, resulting in fewer fittings and joints for the installing contractor. As noted in Figure 2, it would take one fixture fitting, one sanitary tee, one wye and a section of pipe all joined together to constitute a typical starter fitting. In the case of hubless cast-iron starter fittings, each of these joints also requires the use of a hubless coupling. This adds up to a considerable material and labor cost to the contractor.
If a contractor has a high-rise project with 600 bathrooms, he is essentially saving material cost for 1,200 fittings and 1,800 couplings simply by incorporating starter fittings into the building design. In addition, there is the tremendous labor savings on making 1,800 less joints over the course of the project.
While preferences of hubless or hub-and-spigot fittings vary from area to area, most contractors agree that using starter fittings on multifamily residential projects is simple.
Markets such as New York City primarily use hubless cast-iron starter fittings while contractors in markets such as Chicago prefer hub-and-spigot starter fittings. In some markets, plumbing contractors use starter fittings designed for installation in the floor. These installations typically require slab penetrations to be boxed out to accommodate the starter fittings. This method reduces or eliminates any core drilling through the slab.
Although these fittings are designed to be installed in line with the main soil stack, the positioning of the inlets and the vent “direct” the entire bathroom installation. As shown in Figure 2, these installations are repeated floor to floor, making installation easier for the contractor.
Supporting starter fittings is simple, too. Starter fitting patterns designed for use in the floor are generally supported with riser clamps, while other configurations for use above the floor require the use of a support frame and trim package.
The commonality for all areas is that for generations, all configurations have provided silent, reliable service in some of America’s mightiest structures.
Compact designAnother major advantage of starter fittings in high-rise construction is they more readily avail themselves to fabrication than conventional fittings. Today, many contractors preassemble as much of the installation as possible prior to the materials arriving at the jobsite. The repetitive installation design makes it easy to precut pipe for soil stacks and vent stacks so assemblies can be quickly installed at the jobsite with minimum labor.
Through the use of fabrication, distribution complexity is minimized since each installation can be crated up, set in place via cranes and then quickly roughed in. With fewer joints present in the system, installation and testing efficiency is increased.
These fittings use less space. Space requirements have long been a concern of engineers and designers. Space is a premium on any project, but exponentially so in high-rise construction. Engineers and designers are using a variety of ways to maximize square footage; unfortunately, this does not leave much room for contractors to install plumbing within the walls.
Starter fittings provide the functionality of conventional plumbing but in a compact design that utilizes less space between walls or in the slab. Some left- or right-hand hubless starter fittings manufactured by Charlotte Pipe are actually less than 8-in. wide, even when installed with a support frame. In addition, the height of some vertical starter fittings is reduced significantly over conventional fittings to accommodate the positioning of the inlets in relation to the slab on each floor. All this equates to a building having more usable, livable and functional space.
Starter fittings are available in right-hand, left-hand and double configurations. Right and left hand are single starter fittings and refer to the position of the water closet inlet. These fittings are designed for single bathrooms in floor plans that are repeated vertically. Double starter fittings are designed for floor plans where back-to-back bathrooms are planned and repeated floor to floor. Normally, double starter fittings are equipped with a baffle, or a partition, to prevent any back flushing in the adjacent water closet.
Reliability and recyclabilityThe reliability of cast iron provides a substantial advantage. Multistory projects present unique challenges to engineers and contractors and for generations, cast iron has provided a proven DWV system with benefits that are almost tailor-made to these projects. Starter fittings boast the unmatched reliability of cast iron, a 96% post-consumer recycled material that has been in use for hundreds of years. It also is 100% recyclable.
In addition, cast iron is a noncombustible piping system. Fire stopping for cast-iron DWV systems incorporating starter fittings generally costs less when compared to combustible piping systems such as PVC. In addition, the density of iron makes for a remarkably quiet system, which is an important quality for any multistory high-rise project.
Unlike conventional plastic installations, cast-iron systems in general and starter fittings specifically do not require set times and cure times. For example, if 4-in. PVC is installed in 38° F temperature at 60% relative humidity, it could take as many as two days for the joint to fully cure before the system could be tested. Cast-iron systems incorporating the use of starter fittings can be tested once the plumbing installation on the floor is complete.
So what does all this mean for the plumbing contractor today? The answer is quite simple: Installation of these fittings coupled with thoughtful plumbing design will reduce the total number of fittings and reduce the number of joints. They also minimize the complexity of distributing fittings on a jobsite, fit better within confined plumbing walls and improve the overall quality of a project.
All these factors save contractors time and money associated with procurement and installation. Ultimately, this maximizes the profitability of the plumbing contractors who wisely choose to utilize starter fittings. Cast-iron starter fittings add value to today’s high-rise construction projects.
For more information on starter fittings, illustrations, their history and the many benefits of use, download the white paper at www.charlottepipe.com. The multistory cast-iron catalog for dimensional and applications information also is available for download.