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Pex Plumbing vs Copper: The Ultimate Guide

Pex Plumbing vs Copper – The Ultimate Guide To Everything You Need to Know

A lot of older houses have galvanized pipes. If you’ve galvanized pipes you may be experiencing some plumbing problems and are thinking about repiping your house.

The question that many homeowners, just like you, have is which piping is better, Plex plumbing vs copper. We will answer this question for you and much more in this ultimate guide.

What Are Galvanized Pipes And What Are The Problems?

If your house was plumbed in the 1960’s or before you’ve probably got galvanized piping and more than likely if it hasn’t been replaced it’s seen its day or about to.

The problem with galvanized pipes, which are nothing more than steel pipes, is that they rust and corrode from the inside out.

When the pipes rust they start to expand. As the pipes start to expand they crimp on the passageways. This crimping constricts the flow of water to and from your house. When metal rusts it expands by 9%.

When metal rusts it can expand by as much as 9%.

If you’ve noticed some low water-pressure or rust water flowing from your faucets there’s a great chance you’ve have some bad pipes.

galvanized pipes

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Repipe?

To repipe or not repipe? Every homeowner should have an emergency fund set aside for just such an emergency.

If you call an expert plumber on the phone he will probably recommend that you repipe the entire house to fix the problem for good. However, this can be expensive so many homeowners often just do patchwork because its a lot less expensive.

They feel that they are saving some money but all they are doing is delaying the plumbing problem giving it a chance to creep back up at some later date in time.

What generally happens is that you fix one hole and it lasts for awhile and then you spring a leak somewhere else a few months later.

By the time its all said and done you’ve spent a lot more money than you would had you just repiped the home in the first place.

How Much Does Repiping Cost?

There’s no way to pinpoint the exact cost of a full house repipe because there are several things that are factored in. Here are the things that determine the price of repiping a home:

  • Size of home
  • Number of stories
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Number of fixtures (anything that has running water to and from – sink, tub, dishwasher, toilet, water heater)
  • Type of piping used (Pex plumbing vs copper)
  • Accessibility (crawl space, basement or slab foundation)
  • Plumbing permits needed to be pulled
  • Inspection costs (if plumber has to be present he will most likely charge for his time)
  • Length of time (an average repiping job can take from 2-5 days depending on the plumbing company

If you know for sure you got old worn out galvanized pipes under your house call at least 3 plumbers and get a minimum of 3 quotes.

Be sure that when you compare quotes that you compare apples to apples.

Is each of them using the same brand and type of piping? Are they quoting you on a full repiping? etc.

You can spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars upwards to $15,000 or more for a full repipe of your home.

Materials Used In Repiping

Soft Copper

soft copper pipe
One of the first materials that people will come across is soft copper. It’s the most durable material but many homeowners have to repipe because their home was piped with soft copper to begin with.

The problem with soft copper is that when you bend it in the same spot a few times it either breaks or becomes very weak.

Soft copper comes on a roll just like a garden hose from the factory. When it’s brought to the installation site (your home) it’s unrolled  and straightened out.

As soon as the plumber unrolls it that’s the first bend.

Then if they have to go around the corner with it, that’s two bends. It’s not a question of if it’s going to leak, it’s a question of when.

Soft copper is not recommended for any repipes. Many homeowners do use it because it’s cheap and it’s easy.

Hard Copper Pipe

hard copper pipes

Hard copper pipe comes in straight lengths and is cut to length and then soldered together. There are several different varieties of hard copper. Copper pipe is sold by wall thickness measured in inches.

Wall thickness is M, L, and K. M is the very thinnest wall thickness and very cheap – just a step above soft copper. It’s not recommended for repiping.

M is the very thinnest wall thickness and very cheap – just a step above soft copper. It’s not recommended for repiping.

The middle grade which is Type L is recommended for the lowest installations.

Type K which is the very thickest is typically only used in very extreme circumstances.

You can’t just say you are getting good pipe because it’s Type L. There’s American and Foreign made Type L copper piping.

Foreign made Type L, even though it’s being sold by wall thickness, may not necessarily have that wall thickness from one end of the pipe to the other on the same piece.

Manufacturing standards in the United States are a lot higher than everywhere else.

So, choosing foreign materials for repiping may not be the wisest choice you could make. A

A repipe is something you’re going to want to do one time and be done with it and not have to go back to redo or repair it again.

Pex Pipe

pex a pipes

Pex pipes is a polyethylene(Poly -Etheylene X-linked) cross lined pipe and has been used all of the world for decades.

Pex piping may definitely overtake copper in its use because it’s thermally more efficient and there is no wear factor. Pex is very durable, flexible and can take both hot and cold water.

It much quieter than a copper installation. The nice thing about Pex plumbing is that its non-corrosive while copper is corrosive.

If you’re located in an area where the water is hard the copper will tend to corrode and the Pex will not.

The warranty on Pex plumbing is 20 years and if your plumber is a certified Pex installer it adds and additional 5 years to the warranty.

Pex plumbing allows you to run tubing continuously without any slicing for elbows or other joints.

When you need to make a connection it’s fast and easy with no soldering required. Pex-a tubing is the highest quality tubing on the market because it is the most flexible and easiest to work with.

It has thermal memory which means it can be heated and returned to its original shape if it gets bent or expanded.

Pex-b is also strong and reliable but is less flexible and a lot more difficult to work with during installation, making it more susceptible to bursting if your pipes freeze.

The cost difference between Pex and copper. Copper is a precious metal so inevitably it’s going to be more expensive than Pex.

Not only are your labor costs decreased but your material costs are as well when you go with a Pex repiping. Sometimes the price of the repipe can be slashed up to as much as 1/3 with Pex piping.

Deciding to repipe your home is not a small job but we hope this guide has given you enough information to be able to make an informed decision to decide if Pex Plumbing vs Copper is the best solution for your home.

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