So many choices, so much at stake. That’s the dilemma homeowners face when it comes time to choose the right type of pipe for plumbing repairs or home improvement projects.
The jury is still out when it comes to a definitive answer as to which type of pipe is better for plumbing in your home. Some experts still prefer to use copper pipe even though other types such as plastic PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and PEX (Polyethylene) are very popular and less expensive.
Here’s a look at your choices:
These gray metal pipes are what most of us think of when we think of plumbing, but they are hardly used in the construction of today’s modern homes due to the negative effects of galvanized pipes. Homes built between the 1930’s and the 1980’s commonly have galvanized steel pipes for plumbing. Most of these homes should be re-piped to ensure removal of all the lead in your home’s piping. Copper and PEX are frequently used to replace galvanized pipes.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
This is the common white or gray plastic pipe used most often to carry high pressured water. Although it can’t be used with hot water (causes warping), it’s often used for the main supply line into a home. PVC piping is lower quality, but it is the least expensive at $3-$4 per foot.
PVC pipe does not rust, corrode, or degrade over time. It is very good for your home’s sink, toilet, and bathtub drain lines or vent stacks. Also, PVC is the most common choice for irrigation systems in the yard.
PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene)
PEX pipe is used extensively for interior plumbing in new homes. It is often characterized as a flexible plastic hose. PEX resists heat much better than most plastic pipe. It is very versatile and easier to work with than almost any other type of pipe. PEX can be snaked through walls fairly easily and single runs can often extend for great distances throughout the house, alleviating the need for extra joints and connectors.
Since PEX is very heat resistant, it can be used for hot and cold water supply. It is excellent for plumbing retro-fits. PEX is corrosion resistant, and does not rust, rot or corrode. It is very leak tight. PEX maintains optimum flow rates and virtually eliminates breakage from freezing. All this leads to a lower instance of repairs.
PEX piping has been approved for usage in some of the strictest environmental regulating states in the U.S. If you’re thinking of replacing plumbing, you should be able to limit wall demolition by using PEX tubing. For example, a home that requires two days of labor to re-plumb may only require one day with PEX. Some homeowners prefer the ease of being able to turn off each segment of piping when using PEX pipes and don’t mind the extra tools required.
Since PEX has only been widely used in the U.S. for about a decade, it doesn’t have enough of a track record to indicate how long it will last.
Copper pipe has been used since the early 1960s and is very reliable but also very expensive, sometimes costing 15 times more than PEX. Copper pipes are highly resistant to corrosion and they tolerate heat. Since the connections are soldered, leaks are rare. In older homes, however, copper plumbing may contain lead-based solder. On the downside, copper can freeze and break in extremely cold temperatures.
Durability and flexibility are important features of copper pipe. In a natural disaster, copper pipe may flex and resist snapping, making it a safer choice for earthquake prone areas. It is resistant to bacterial growth, which keeps the water in your home clean.
Not seen as often in household use, stainless steel pipes are strong and highly resistant to corrosion but even more expensive than copper pipes. They’re most often used in marine environments such as floating home communities, where saltwater would erode other metal pipes.
Don’t Flush Money Down the Drain
It really depends on your area of the country and the expert advice of your plumbing contractor as to which type of pipe is best for your home.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, your best bet is to call in the experts from South West Plumbing to make sure you make the best choice for your situation and budget. Visit their website: www.southwestplumbing.biz and read some of their great reviews.