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Should Our Water Pipes Be Copper or Plastic?

We want to re-pipe the existing plumbing lines in our old home. Should we use copper or plastic?

Copper has been the longtime standard for plumbing. It has been around a long time and we know the material is durable and reliable for water pipes. However, plastic piping (PEX) works well because it is made of a flexible material. It is also resistant to cold temperatures and has fewer joints, so it may be less costly to install.

What exactly is PEX?

PEX, or crosslinked polyethylene, is a fairly new material and has become more frequently used for re-piping of water supply pipes and some pipe repairs. It is durable during extreme temperatures. It is flexible, and provides fast installation with fewer connections and fitting. It is also ideal for areas too small or tight for rigid copper.

What are the pros and cons of copper vs PEX piping?

Copper has natural qualities that make it ideal for plumbing. It is extremely durable. It creates a biostatic atmosphere, which makes it difficult for bacteria to grow inside of it. It also resists corrosion and it is not affected by ultraviolet rays, which allows you to use it outside.

Copper does have a few disadvantages, though. It has become expensive, can still corrode based on pH levels of water, and in cold climates, frozen water can cause copper pipes to burst.

PEX installs quickly, which significantly reduces labor costs. It is easy to install due to its flexibility, and has fewer fittings, which can reduce the chance for leaks. PEX pipes do not corrode and are not susceptible to freezing.

However, PEX piping cannot be used outside. And, since the material can expand and contract, it is not completely impermeable like copper. This can lead to water contamination. Also, there have been reports of rodents chewing through or eating PEX piping.

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