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Repiping Your Home: Copper vs. Pex

copper vs pex repiping Joe's Drain

Choosing the Right Piping Material for Home Repair 

The pipes that make up a home’s plumbing system can be made of various materials, including copper, stainless steel, galvanized steel, cast iron, PVC, CPVC, and Pex. But these terms don’t mean much to the average homeowner, and it can be hard to choose which to use for a home repiping project.

In this article, homeowners will learn the difference between copper and Pex pipes.

Pex vs. Copper Pipe: What’s the Difference?

red letters

Copper pipe is usually made of pure copper, though if it’s made of recycled materials, it may contain traces of zinc, tin, nickel, or iron. It is available in both rigid and flexible styles and is used for both hot and cold water lines. Its appearance is a shiny orangey-brown, like a new penny.

Pex is made of plastic (cross-linked polyethylene, to be exact). It has thicker walls than copper and can be blue, red, or white. Pex can be used for hot and cold water and is gaining popularity with homeowners for its flexibility and lower cost.

The Pros and Cons of Pex Pipe

red and blue pipes

A major advantage of Pex is how inexpensive it is. Since it is made from synthetic materials, it is much cheaper to manufacture and, therefore, cheaper for consumers. 

Another benefit is that it is flexible and long-lasting. Pex pipe can be gently bent around corners and doesn’t rust like copper and other metals. But it is not quite as sturdy as copper and won’t withstand a lot of pressure or torque, particularly around shut-off valves. It is also not ideal for outdoor use, as UV rays will quickly break down the plastic.

The selection of colors (blue, red, and white) make it easy to differentiate between hot water lines and cold water lines. Pex pipe can withstand temperatures of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature falls below 20 degrees, Pex pipe can freeze, but the synthetic materials it’s made of offer a small margin of expansion, so it is less likely to burst.

Although Pex pipe itself is cheaper, the tools and fittings to install it can quickly break the bank, making homeowners less likely to tackle a DIY Pex project. The clamps used to connect Pex pipes can be tricky to master, and if installed incorrectly, there’s a risk of a leak or a burst pipe.

The Pros and Cons of Copper Pipes

fixing a pipe

Copper is still more widely recognized in the plumbing industry. It is hardy and can withstand scorching temperatures of up to 400 degrees. It is also stiff enough to withstand the wear and tear of heavily used appliances like the washing machine, utility tub, and water heater.

Although copper pipe is often made from recycled materials, copper is considered a non-renewable resource, which means the supply is finite. Copper pipe is usually at least twice as expensive as Pex and other plastic pipes. The cost is made up for by longevity; these pipes can last up to 70 years, far longer than Pex.

Many plumbers are familiar and quite comfortable working with copper, which usually needs to be soldered together using a torch. On the other hand, DIYers generally don’t want to mess around with soldering, which can break and leak if not done properly.

When deciding between copper or Pex for a repiping project, an experienced plumber can guide homeowners through the pros and cons of each.

Consult Joe’s Drain Cleaning, LLC

Joe’s Drain Cleaning, LLC has been providing plumbing solutions for Lancaster and Central Ohio residents for years. This small, family-owned business consists of a team of technicians experienced in all manners of plumbing repairs. They offer flat-rate pricing, clean, courteous service, and 24/7 emergency availability.