Copper or Plastic – Costs and Benefits

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When I’m out doing plumbing service calls in Guelph, I’ve got a lot of tools and materials at my disposal – and this, of course, includes piping. Often clients ask me, which is better: Copper or PEX?

There isn’t a really simple answer to that. I like working with copper and I take pride in being extremely adept at soldering. Then again, PEX is a great material. If I had to choose, I’d say in general that if all things were equal I’d opt to work with PEX.

What is PEX?

PEX, or cross-linked polythene, is piping that has been constructed from highly0-durable plastic. We first started using it in North America in the 1980s. Now, it’s become commonplace as a material for plumbing projects.

One upside to PEX is that, since it’s a synthetic material, it’s arguably a more eco-friendly option than copper piping. While PEX has a variety of potential uses (and re-uses,) copper is a non-renewable resource. True, some new copper piping is made from recycled copper, it’s still a far more costly material. Copper prices have gone up in recent years, and certainly this material is a target for thieves on new construction sites. Many a contractor has arrived on a building site to find that thieves have cut out an entire household of copper in the night.

Aside from the cost differential, PEX is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine, and can be installed considerably faster than copper piping. While we don’t use PEX for outside applications, the material is very resistant to freezing temperatures. Water pressure is often greater with PEX, since the material is more forgiving and is installed without the kind of hard turns we use with copper – especially in tight spaces. It means water can move faster through the piping and most Guelph home owners like the idea of great water pressure – understandably!

There are benefits to copper, without a doubt. One is the material’s longevity. Some manufacturers offer a 50-year warranty on new copper piping. PEX has a long life span, but copper will always win out on this point.

Which to Choose? Copper or PEX?

There isn’t always a clear choice. In some plumbing applications, all things are equal and it comes down to personal preference and budget – as well as the advice of a licensed plumber. I find that many Guelph home owners opt for PEX once they consider the cost savings in both materials and installation time. But there are cases where copper is clearly needed, and it’s important to work with a Guelph plumber who is skilled in both applications.

Thanks for reading.

2017-09-16T16:43:54-05:00February 29th, 2016|Plumbing, Renovations|0 Comments