Plumbing With A Purpose

Plumbing With a Purpose

Should You Have Your Home Repiped With PEX?

Joann Gardner

For years, plumbers have used copper and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) for plumbing in residential properties. But if your home's pipes are leaking, deteriorating, or otherwise nearing the end of their serviceable life, your plumber may be proposing an alternative plumbing solution: PEX.

PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. It's a new type of flexible tubing that is increasingly being used for both residential and commercial plumbing purposes. Some plumbers love it, while others are still warming up to the idea of PEX. So should you go with the new and innovative PEX for repiping, or should you stick with copper and PVC? Here are some benefits and drawbacks of PEX to consider as you make your decision.

Benefit: PEX can often be threaded through walls without the need for extensive renovations.

If you are already renovating your home, this might not be such a big deal. But if you do not want to tear down your walls or create big holes in them, PEX has a big advantage over other plumbing options. Your plumbing contractor can "fish" it behind the wall through a small opening, much like you would with an electrical cord. They only need to make a small hole, if anything, and such a hole can easily be patched and painted over.

Drawback: There might be problems with PEX that are not yet discovered.

Plumbers did not discover what a bad choice polybutylene pipes were until they were installed in a lot of homes. Although PEX seems to be a viable, safe plumbing option right now, it is a new material. There might be issues that arise with it in the future that nobody is aware of yet.

Benefit: PEX is less prone to leaks.

PEX plumbing does not have joints. Most plumbing leaks occur in joints where two pieces of pipe come together. PEX plumbing consists of one long tube; there are no joints. As such, there is a decreased risk of leaks with this type of plumbing in comparison to copper or PVC. 

Drawback: PEX is easily damaged when someone is working on the home.

There is some change of leaks with PEX when someone is working on the home. Unlike copper pipes, which are nearly impossible to hammer a nail or drive a screw into, PEX can be punctured by these practices. You can reduce the risk of damage by running the PEX through a conduit, but there is still a chance of the conduit and piping being pierced. You'll need to know exactly where the pipes are so you can avoid damaging them when hanging paintings and the like.

Benefit: PEX is affordable.

Because PEX is easy to install, it tends to be more affordable than other piping options. The material it is made from -- a flexible sort of plastic -- is a lot cheaper to purchase than copper, which is notorious for its high value.

Drawback: PEX may allow water to freeze if not well insulated.

PEX piping works really well in modern homes where the walls are well insulated and in climates where the temperature never falls below freezing. But if you have an older home in a sometimes-cold climate, PEX is not a smart option. The material is not a great insulator, so the water inside of it might freeze, causing the piping to split and leak. You could have a contractor improve your home's insulation, of course, if you are set on PEX piping.

To learn more about PEX and repiping services, talk to a plumber in your area. They can look over your home and its pipe layout to give you a better idea of whether this option will work for you.


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About Me
Plumbing With A Purpose

When was the last time you realized that you had a serious plumbing problem? About a month ago, I knew that I had to make some big changes, so I began talking with different plumbers about getting the job done. I told them that I wanted to replace the bathtub in the bathroom and the sink and faucet in the kitchen, and they took my requests in stride. Before I knew it, my entire home was updated and I felt great about the work. I wanted to start this blog to help other people to learn more about plumbing and repair.