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Pex vs. Copper: Which Pipe Is Best?

How To Choose the Right Material for Repiping 

Replacing and installing pipes can be an overwhelming project to consider. Not only do plumbers need to locate all the plumbing systems, determine how they connect, and plan for any upgrades or changes, but even just figuring out the correct type of piping can be plenty of work. 

In this article, plumbing contractors help homeowners learn about the differences between the two main pipe varieties and the pros and cons of each.

How are Copper and PEX Pipes Different?

"What's the Difference?"

While many different types of pipe have been used throughout the years, modern plumbing relies on two main types: copper and PEX. Copper pipes have been used since the 1960s, whereas PEX pipes started to be used in the 1980s. In the early days, fitment and longevity issues scared some consumers, but these have been addressed, and now up to 60 percent of new builds use PEX. 

At a fundamental level, the biggest difference in the two pipes is composition. Copper pipes are obviously made of copper, while PEX is made of cross chained polyethylene plastics. Both are used with great success, but there are some pros and cons to consider when replacing or installing new pipes and deciding which type to use. 

The Benefits and Downsides of PEX

Piping running along an unfinished ceiling

PEX pipes have several key benefits. One of the major reasons PEX has grown in popularity is the ease of use. PEX does not require soldering and can easily connect to other PEX lines and fixtures.

Another large advantage is flexibility. Because PEX isn't as rigid, it is much easier to make gentle turns without cutting and connecting piping. PEX is often half the copper pipes' price and holds up better than copper when exposed to acidic water. In poorly insulated or very cold spaces, PEX is probably a better choice since it has more flexibility. This allows it to expand if water starts to freeze and reduces the risk of a cracked pipe. 

There are a few downsides to consider when looking at PEX piping. There are concerns that PEX may leach BPA or other chemical compounds into water, but there is no conclusive evidence for this. PEX is also susceptible to pests, like mice, who can chew through the piping if they decide too. Finally, PEX can't be used in high heat areas, like near recessed lighting, or directly off a water heater. 

The Benefits and Downsides of Copper

Man working with copper pipe

Copper piping has long been considered the best piping material around, and it does have a ton of advantages, the first of which is longevity. Copper pipes can easily last 50 years with no issues. Copper is extremely resistant to most corrosion except that of acidic water, which is often found in well water systems. Additionally, copper pipes can be used next to extreme heat, including the water heater.

The biggest downsides to copper are price and flexibility. Copper is significantly more expensive than PEX, so large or budget projects may prefer the latter. Copper is also much less flexible than PEX. This is less of an issue on new builds, but it can be much more difficult to fit copper pipes into tight spaces on remodel or replacement jobs. Copper pipes also require soldering, which isn't always easy and needs to be done properly to avoid leaks, causing many at home plumbers to prefer PEX.

About HomePro Plumbing

HomePro Plumbing offers fast and reputable plumbing service to the Minneapolis area. They offer service within 24 hours so their customers won't be kept waiting, and use the best technology to address all their plumbing needs.