Plastic water supply piping (C) Daniel Friedman Copper vs Plastic Pipes in Buildings: Which is Better?

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This article describes the pros and cons of using copper or plastic piping in buildings. We explain the advantages and possible downsides of choosing one or the other (plastic piping or copper piping for water supply or drains).

The question of which is better, copper or plastic piping, copper or PEX, copper or ABS, or copper and PVC or CPVC piping has answers but the results may not be as unambiguous as one imagines. Each piping material & piping connector or fitting system has both its advantages and its concerns.

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PLASTIC vs. COPPER PIPES in BUILDINGS: is one preferable?

Copper, Galvanized iron & Lead piping (C) 2009 Daniel FriedmanMany plumbers prefer to work with copper and, although plastic pipe is less expensive than copper, the fittings are expensive. Some areas do not allow plastic pipes based on environmental concerns.

Some questions have been raised about the chemicals used in the adhesives used to join sections of piping, and the toxic gases given off from plastic piping during a fire.

Polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are only suitable for waste, underground water service pipes or cold water piping systems.

Our photographs of plastic water supply piping connections just below show a new water main (below left) and building supply pipe being connected to copper piping entering a building (below right) in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico in 2010.

Plastic water supply piping (C) Daniel Friedman Plastic water supply piping (C) Daniel Friedman

- Adapted with permission from The Home Reference Book

What About the Relative Safety of Copper Piping vs. PEX Piping in Buildings?

Details comparing the concerns, issues, codes, standards, features & questions about possible health concerns where PEX piping is used are found at PEX vs. Copper Piping, safety. Excerpts from that article are below.

Pex vs. Copper Water Supply Piping - which is better?

Reader Question: my daughter is doing extensive renovations on her house and the question has come up whether to use PEX or copper in the plumbing. I did a google search and the informations is conflicted. Do you have knowledge of, and opinions about, this controversy? - Elisha Fisch, New York 2/17/2013

Reply:

PEX hot and cold water piping installed during new construction (C) Daniel Friedman Eric Galow 2012 2013I have worked with both PEX and Copper piping, though of course

Copper has been around a long time. We recently chose PEX for both water suppy and for a hot water heating line in an addition and so far have been happy with the results.

Our PEX tubing photo at left shows its use in new construction completed in a New York structure in 2012.

You can see the ease of bending radius in these piping runs of both hot (red) and cold (blue) water supply lines.

What follows is an OPINION based on field experience as a builder, renovator & inspector:

PEX water supply piping offers some advantages over copper sweat-fitting piping installation

PEX piping installed in a Haddonfield New Jersey Home (C) Daniel Friedman 2013

Our PEX tubing photo at left illustrates an older PEX piping product installed in a Haddonfield New Jersey Home.

PEX Supply Piping Caveats & Health Questions

Pex water piping markings & codes (C) 2013 Daniel Friedman

Bottom line on PEX - 2014: although in more than one form PEX tubing or water piping has been used in Europe since the 1970's and in the U.S. for the last 20 years without [we have not found report of] a study confirming health injury associated with the material, still based on a literature review (citations are at the end of this article) in our OPINION there may be a contamination concern where PEX water supply piping is used.

We will continue to monitor the PEX health and contamination question and will update here. CONTACT US by email to send field reports or to report on new studies.

Copper Water Supply Piping: features, propertis, comparison with plastic supply piping in buildings

We discuss types of copper piping and their intended uses and copper fittings beginning
at COPPER PIPING in buildings.

Copper Supply & Drain Piping Caveats

Condensation on a copper water supply pipe (C) DanieL Friedman

Water supply piping connection: copper to galvanize (C) Daniel Friedman

We discuss types of copper piping and their intended uses and copper fittings beginning
at COPPER PIPING in buildings.

In sum, I don't believe there is a single "right" answer, and each material has some advantages and features that may make it fit a particular installation best. But when I ask my buddy Eric Galow, who is a full time builder, he's a PEX man all the way.

...


Continue reading at PLASTIC PIPE LEAK CAUSES or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.

Or see LEAK CAUSES in WATER PIPING for a discussion of the causes of leaks in copper or other metal water pipes

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PLASTIC vs. COPPER PIPES in BUILDINGS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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