Gather a group of a dozen plumbers and ask them their opinion on plastic pipes versus copper pipes and you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. What’s the truth? Who can you trust? What questions should you ask?
That’s the goal of this article is not to leave you more confused but to ensure that you’re asking the right questions and understand the differences between copper and plastic piping systems.
We’ll point out the pros and cons of both, and whether or not you need to consider updating your home’s plumbing system to plastic.
Copper Water Pipes: The Longtime Gold Standard
When copper water pipes were introduced into homebuilding by plumbers it signaled a significant advancement over galvanized steel.
Copper is less susceptible to corroding and its rigid nature means it lasts a long time. Copper resists degrading when exposed to ultraviolet light, making it ideal in areas that see exposure to natural sunlight.
Plastic pipes are not resistant to UV rays and therefore cannot be used in these applications. Copper is also naturally resistant to the growth of bacteria making it ideal for delivering safe water to our homes.
Couple this with the ease of installing and the familiarity that most plumbers have with copper and it’s easy to see why many sing their praises. With this background in mind, let’s turn our attention to the newer plastic pipes that are gaining in popularity.
Plastic Pipes Aim to Be the Future for Piping Systems
Plastic pipes or PEX tubing as it is often referred to, offer some great advantages. PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. It is many plumbers’ first choice when taking on a re-piping job.
What makes it so popular?
First, the cost. PEX is significantly less expensive. It can be 10 to 15 times cheaper than copper. Most plumbers, once they get used to it, find it easy to use and love that there are far fewer fittings. Since it is flexible, it can bend around tight spots and fit into smaller cavities without specialized elbows and fittings. This can also reduce installation costs.
PEX is non-metallic, which means it resists corrosion and is less likely to burst during extremely cold weather. This makes it a great choice for our cold northern climate.
So, is it out with the old and in with the new?
Repiping Your Home, Copper or Plastic?
Just like at the grocery store, there’s a choice to be made when repiping your home. Your decision will likely depend on how much repiping your home needs and the accessibility of the existing pipes.
We’ve told you a little bit about the upsides of both copper and plastic piping, but what about the downside? Copper, as we’ve mentioned above, is more expensive.
Older homes with copper may also have solder used to join copper pipes together that contain lead. This causes many concerns with homeowners about the safety of copper. Copper is resistant to corrosion and minerals to a degree, but it is still a reactive metal. With minerals in the water and a slightly acidic pH, copper can corrode as bad as steel.
Plastic is not as rigid or impermeable as copper. This means that it is slightly more susceptible to contamination. PEX has also had some reports of rodents chewing through the material causing leaks. If you have concerns about the plumbing in your home, you need to really dive deep into the benefits of both copper and PEX systems.
Think carefully about your investment and work with a professional to make sure you’re considering all the facts. We help homeowners just like you decide if they need a whole repiping or can just upgrade certain areas of their plumbing. Give our experts at S and J Plumbing a call today and we’ll be happy to go over all your options.