We've come a long way in potable water supply lines, and in some ways we've ended up nearly where we began. But that's a good thing. Copper pipes are the top rung in residential plumbing. And they're not as expensive as you might think.
Of course, many homeowners now opt for PVC and CPVC. And PEX is becoming much more popular in retrofits because it's flexible. The important thing is that you have choices. Safe piping material that's available today doesn't put your family at risk of hazardous materials, not like the old galvanized. And certainly not like lead pipes that were astonishingly not banned until 1986.
If you're building a new home or replacing the pipes in an older one, here's what you can expect.
The vast majority of new construction homes use PVC and CPVC plumbing pipe. Many renovations use it, too. It's an economical choice. And unlike copper, it doesn't require soldering. Lengths of PVC and CPVC pipe are joined using a combination of primer/cleaner and glue or a glueless compression fitting. Compression fittings aren't appropriate for every joint.
PVC is polyvinyl chloride, and CPVC is chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. Both are safe for water supply lines, but CPVC can withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees. PVC can't. For this reason, you'll often see both types in a residential plumbing job. Rigid PVC pipe is frequently used for sanitary sewer lines. And because CPVC can withstand hot and cold, it's often used for both the hot and cold water supply.
You might imagine that the water supply pipes used in ancient Egypt would have undergone a few improvements by now. But copper is resilient in more ways than one. Of course, it's prone to some corrosion, but it takes many, many years. By way of comparison, old galvanized plumbing pipe is often the root cause of poor water pressure. It corrodes from the inside out, which makes the thick sediment both invisible without cutting into the pipe and hazardous to water purity. Copper doesn't do that.
Some homeowners balk at the idea of copper because of the expense. But that's not as accurate as you might think. Yes, copper does cost more than PVC and CPVC. But it's much stronger, has a natural biostatic quality that doesn't breed bacteria, and it's environmentally friendly, too. Copper recycling is big business.
Cross-linked polyethylene or PEX pipe is really more of a hose than a pipe. It's incredibly flexible, which means it will bend and curve instead of breaking or kinking when used in unusual or confined spaces. This flexibility also means PEX can be installed with fewer fittings, as it bends around corners.
PEX has a shorter lifespan than copper. And it's sometimes prone to fitting failures. Any pipe is capable of developing a leak, but the brass fittings used with PEX are more likely than a joint that's soldered well. PEX also has limitations. It can't withstand freezing as well as CPVC or copper, so it shouldn't be used in a crawlspace.
PVC and CPVC cover the plumbing in the vast majority of American new construction homes and remodels. But that doesn't make them better. They're convenient to install and have a lower price point. PEX is more of a specialty plumbing pipe, although it can be used for a home's entire water supply in some areas. Some homeowners love it, and for some it's a method for navigating a difficult space here and there where copper and PVC pose a great challenge.
Copper costs a little more and offers many benefits. It has a higher resistance to breakage in freezing conditions, which makes it an ideal choice for Massachusetts homeowners. It also has a remarkably long lifespan. There's no glue involved with the installation, and the low corrosion and natural properties of copper help reduce the likelihood of bacteria in the water supply.
Whichever you choose, Rodenhiser can install new plumbing or re-plumb your existing home using the most reliable and safest pipe on the market. When you need an expert plumber in Framingham, Marlboro or anywhere in the Route 495 / 128 area, call Rodenhiser.
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