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Thread: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2012

    Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    Hello All!

    Now planning a darkroom, and have a few questions about plumbing configuration, please:

    The darkroom will have an L-shaped sink for processing and printing, and a smaller, separate sink to fit a 20x24 print washer. I'm still looking for a reasonably priced Hass Intellifaucet in good condition. May end up splurging or going without one, don't yet know. (My previous B&W darkroom work did not have the benefit of such a fine device.) I'll be hiring a plumber to do all the installation work, so I want to have all I need ready to go.

    1) Will a single "whole house" water filter suffice, or should I have a filter dedicated to both cold and hot lines as seen in many darkroom pictures?

    2) Many home darkroom pictures show two (or more) sets of faucets. Is more than one better, necessary? For what do you use your multiple taps?

    3) Is there anything about plumbing your darkroom you wished you had done to begin with, but only saw the need/advantage later on?

    4) If I don't spring for an Intellifaucet, is there a brand of mixing valve you'd recommend?

    5) Any other suggestions, tips or tricks would be appreciated ~

    Thanks in advance to all who respond!

  2. #2
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    Darkroom plumbing is a personal thing, but my setup is one eight foot sink with one hot/cold mixer and three cold valves. Then at the end there is a 30 x 36" (approx) sink with another mixer and two more colds. One of the cold for the print washer and another for a tray siphon. The darkroom has a small dedicated 5gal electric water heater. There is one cold water filter for all the darkroom (up stream from hot water heater) and a shut off valve for the darkroom. There is one final plumbing thing not usually mentioned, but I have a water detector on the floor (like a smoke detector) to detect rising water in case all else fails.

    Because of my hot cold arrangement, I doubt an intelligent faucet would work. Print washing is such low flow I'm not sure the intell-faucet would be regulating properly.

    Water here is very hard with calcium but not much else. No chlorine, light metals, iron, or pesticide runoff. However, leave a glass of tap water standing and sediment forms in a few hours.

    I use distilled water for film developer mixing.

    Faucets are mounted well above the wet surface. It is easier to add faucets or places for faucets now rather than later. I don't use all my faucets all the time, but glad they are there. I had to add one after all was done. What a pain. All my plumbing is copper, but latest connections are done with Shark-bites.

    I could have put all this in the walls, but I prefer it in the open. If I decide to move again (dog help me if I do), it is nice to quickly disconnect the plumbing and take it along. You should go through the "Show Me Your Darkroom" section here and look at all the different darkroom arrangements. What a wonderful resource.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Iowa City, Iowa

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    You dont need to spend the money on a Intellifaucet (unless you want one). We recently renovated a bathroom. Delta has a Thermostatic cartridge that goes into a standard rough in. It holds temperature dead on. I have a couple beautiful Lawler chrome plated mixing valves, I scrounged up they are beautiful. You can find darkroom valves on Ebay.

    Here's a link to Delta.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Madisonville, LA

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    I've never found the thermostatic mixing valves worth using. Made for showers and I just don't find them that accurate for darkroom work. The Intellifaucet works perfectly. My K250 regulates to less than 1/4 gal/min flow within 0.2 degrees F for print and film washing. You can decrease the total flow range of the unit down to 20% (I use 30%) for increased low flow accuracy. Set it and forget it. Before the Intellifaucet, I spent all my time checking and fiddling with the mixing valve.

    I have a single particulate filter before the cold water line splits to go to a dedicated 10 gal water heater. This is shown on the referenced thread. When I was using well water, it filtered out quite a bit of gunk. Now that I use potable water the filter just sits there since our city water requires no additional filtration. I have a hot/cold faucet and also 4 spigots from the intellifaucet PEC line. I usually have an archival print washer, a wash tray, an open faucet to mix chemistry and a spare spigot off the intellifaucet line.

    I feed both chilled water as well as hot and cold to the K250. During winter, I use hot/cold; in Summer it's cold/chilled since the "cold" comes in around 80 deg F. I described my setup in this thread:


    I gave the old photographic thermostatic control valve to someone for shipping cost. FYI, there's a D-250 at the auction site now.

    To answer your specific questions:

    1. A single whole house filter should suffice. Why filter water that has already been filtered? As long as a filter is needed in you area, the whole house filter should do the trick.

    2. & 4. see above.

    3. Not really

    I would ask what part of the Country are you in and what is your water source? Does your water source even require filtration?

    Last edited by Luis-F-S; 5-Dec-2019 at 15:12.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    May 2015
    SooooCal/LA USA

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    To add to the above, try to locate the filters close to your taps to final filter all of the system before using...

    Some locales have better worse water supplies, so dual filters can help if bad (some stuff can get through dirty filters)...

    When buying filter cartridges, don't just buy the finest filter, but use the coarse filters, as fine filters can disturb the chlorine in the water that can make it fizzy and milky...

    Do not mix plumbing fitting metals together, as this can make an electrolysis condition that can eventually internally badly corrode plumbing and start particles from being dislodged...

    Safety shower mixing valves from your home store regulate temp well, and don't cost too much $$$, but do have to be preset to your working temps...

    Steve K

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Pine Junction, CO

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    I have a 10’ sink with four plumbing fixtures: one themostatic valve dedicated to print and film washers; a regular mixing valve with a spray hose on it that is used for cleaning up and other miscellaneous functions; another thermostatic valve dedicated to mixing solutions; and a plain mixing valve for whatever I need it for. Easier and probably less expensive to decide what you need now while you are building versus later. A little overkill doesn’t hurt.

    I filter both hot and cold separately and change the filters every six months. Put the filters in an area with easy access. I put mine under my sink and it’s a PIA to crawl under there, screw the filters apart, avoid spilling water on the floor, and get it back together without a leak.

    I’ve seen Chinese-made thermostatic valves on Ebay that look intriguing and not expensive. Most I’ve seen are listed as tub/shower valves. Worth investigating.

    There is a guy on You Tube (maybe “the naked Photographer”), that made his own thermostatic valve. Worth reviewing.
    Keith Pitman

  7. #7
    Robert Bowring
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Wauwatosa Wisconsin

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    I use a shower mixing valve and it has worked well. It takes a few minutes to stabilize the temperature but it will hold a constant temperature and flow rate. Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #8

    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Indianapolis, Ind.

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    Quote Originally Posted by David Wolf View Post
    5) Any other suggestions, tips or tricks would be appreciated ~
    I added a second spigot to my sink, connected to a fixed mixer and a foot operated valve. The idea being that I can step on the foot valve to deliver tempered water to rinse my hypo laden hands without worrying about leaving traces of hypo on the valve.

  9. #9
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    Surface Mount PEX

    This is a corner of my DR right now. Notice the power strip is highest on wall, Hass has a great controller. 7' main sink with cheap new Laundry sink for the 16X20 Print wash, the 11X14 washer is in the main sink with hangers on it. The Gas Burst is in the second laundry sink. 6 water valves. All sinks have their own P trap and are close enough to be legal when connected. One red air hose has 2 outlets, one 25 PS! to left of of main sink. The other feed 90 PSI to my DIY Gas Burst timers

    If you use Pex, buy a crimper don't use all Sharkbite as they cost too much.

    Air compressor is behind the wall in furnace room. No noise. All airline, water and drains go through rear wall in one light tight hole.

    5 enlargers in the room, 1 5X7 Elwood wall mount outside DR as instructional tool aka lamp.

    Covered the one window with blackout white vinyl, tinfoil, 2 layers of plywood re enforced with 2X4 and big lags. Storm room NE corner...

    Cheap remotes switch red LED and room light

    A work in progress, it was a bedroom.

    DR 2.1 by TIN CAN COLLEGE, on Flickr

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon now (formerly Austria)

    Re: Darkroom plumbing advice needed, please

    Maybe my set-up and my thinking behind it will help with your planning.

    My darkroom has a 10-foot sink. My water supply I had plumbed to enter just above the sink backsplash about 1/3 of the way in on the left. The two lines have ball valves that I can close to shut off the water to everything else downstream from it so I can put my darkroom plumbing to sleep for a time when on the road or whatever. Everything downstream from the main valves can be drained; makes changing filters easy. I'm now in the habit of shutting off the main water supply whenever I leave the darkroom.

    All my water lines are mounted exposed on the wall or on a painted 1x4 board mounted to the wall above the back of the sink. My water filters are mounted to the bottom of a shelf above the back of the sink. All the lines are exposed and easy to see, inspect, work on, or alter if needed.

    From the main valves, the lines go to two dedicated hot and cold Delta filters. From there the line splits; one side goes to a regular utility faucet (hot/cold taps and swinging faucet arm) on the left side of the sink that I mounted on a small shelf. It's high enough that I can fill five-gallon buckets with it. It's also a good source of hot water when I'm using the tempered water for washing or whatever.

    I installed a temperature-control valve at the center of the sink. Mine is a shower mixing valve and works just fine for a B&W darkroom. The mixing valve has two outlets with ball valves. One, which is in the middle left of the sink just has a long poly hose attached to it. I use it for tempered water for mixing chemicals, for a rinse tray when toning, etc., etc. The valve on the right of the mixing valve is connected to a long half-inch ID PVC pipe that runs the length of the sink from center to right. At approx. 18-inch intervals along this line I've installed small PVC ball valve taps that are equipped with nipples to fit 3/8-inch ID poly hose. I use I have three of these (one more would have been nice...). I use these for print/film washers, running-water rinse trays, running water for local bleaching, etc., etc. All in all, I have five different spigots along the length of the sink. I still need a piece of five-foot hose every now and then to get water to one end of the sink when the closest ones are in use.

    If I were to have an L-shaped sink, I'd make sure to have tempered water spigots and separate hot/cold faucets along each side. Same for the washer sink; a tempered line and a regular hot/cold faucet.

    My drain is in the middle of my sink at the back. That minimized the amount of slope I needed to get the sink to drain. I sloped in from either end and the front. If I'd put the drain at one end, the slope along the entire ten feet would have been 2 1/2 inches or so (1/4-inch per foot), which was too much for me.

    I installed a three-inch wide drain, which is really too small for rapid dumping of chemicals, etc., so I now have a large 12-inch-diameter funnel that sits in the drain so I can dump a tray full of whatever down the drain easily without the solution missing the drain and spreading around the sink. Works fine for up to 16x20 trays.

    Make sure you leave lots of headroom over your washer sink; enough to easily lift out the largest print you plan on washing. I have a cabinet over my washer space that makes life a bit difficult at times.

    My cold-water lines sweat when the darkroom gets humid, which is often with all that water and open trays. Run yours so that they will drip somewhere that won't be a problem.

    Here's a photo of my plumbing. The tempered-water line extends farther to the right.

    Hope this helps.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_1039.jpg  

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