Copper VS Pex

I was contacted today, via the contact form on this site, by someone who asked my opinion on copper vs Pex piping.

Seeing as I have not posted any articles on this site in quite some time, I thought I would take a moment and post my response here, for others of you who may have the same question.  not that I think this post will be extremely useful, as far as “Plumbing Info” is concerned, but it is plumbing,  and it is info, even if it is just my $0.02 on the topic…

As for copper vs Pex…  This is a debate that I have mixed feelings on, to be honest.  On the surface, Pex seems to be the superior product in almost every way.  Still, I have my reservations.

One of the concens brought to me was the fact that copper is warrantied for 10 years, while Pex is warrantied for life.  I gave lifetime warranties on all of my repipes, because I use only type “L” copper, and I do a quality job.  By putting those two qualities together, I have never had to go back to a repipe customer and fix a leak.

A couple concerns with copper.  First off, the flux residue that is left behind cannot possibly be healthy.  It has been a code requirement here in the Bay Area, for years now, that “water soluble” flux be used.  The problem there is that water soluble flux does not do as good a job of cl3eaning the pipe and sucking in the solder, which can make for imperfect joints that may spring a leak in the future.

Another problem with copper is that it is rigid.  Land shifts, earthquakes, settling, etc. can all put stress on the joints causing the solder to break, causing leaks (it is very difficult, to near impossible, to break the copper itself, with the exception of 90′s).

Pex, on the other hand is flexible, and should not break.  It is also a cheaper material than copper (with the exception of some of the fittings/manifolds), and takes a lot less labor to install (meaning cheaper labor costs).  It is also a “food grade” material, so there is no chemicals to worry about ingesting (except, of course, for the overabundance of chemicals found in our water supplies).

A couple of concerns I have about Pex…  I have done a full repipe in Pex, and a few partial ones, prior to retiring from the trade, and I have not had any problems (that I know of) with it springing leaks.  I cannot help, however, but remember the whole Qest debacle.  People’s homes were springing leaks from that stuff for years from failed fittings, connections, etc.  I naturally distrust plastic pipe/fittings for that reason.

Another concern has to do with rodents.  Rodents do not chew on copper. They do chew on plastic.  I have repaired many ABS drain/sewage pipes due to rodents chewing through them.  If a mouse wants to get somewhere, and a piece of Pex is in the way, I imagine that they would make short work of that pipe (at least up until the point where they get sprayed in the face).  I have zero evidence to back that up, but that is what my gut tells me.

I will admit that I have not kept up much with plumbing practices, news, etc. since retiring, but there you have my thoughts.

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