How to Choose the Right Piping for a Repair or Replacement

copper pipes

Most of the time, homeowners don’t worry about their piping as long as it reliably delivers water to the places they need it most, like the shower, sink and toilet. Some even ignore the first signs of plumbing trouble because the problem doesn’t seem serious enough to warrant an intervention.

What many don’t realize is that even tiny leaks, especially if they occur one after the other, indicate a full piping replacement might be in order. Replacement might also be worthwhile if you are concerned about lead from old pipes contaminating your family’s water or simply wish to update your system with a newer, sturdier material.

The following are surefire signs you need a plumber to come evaluate your pipes:

  • Decreased water pressure
  • Damp walls or floors after water usage
  • Mold growth
  • Noises like dripping, gurgling or knocking
  • Discolored or rusty water
  • Slow draining even after using drain cleaner

You should consult with your plumber to decide which pipes will work best for your situation. Here are some of the differences between the most common types of pipe materials.

Copper

There is a good chance your pipes are made of copper, as this has been the standard metal pipe in homes since the 1960s. There are multiple reasons for its popularity, including its durability, resistance to rust and ability to handle both hot and cold water. Copper is durable enough to withstand sunlight, the elements and even high heat like during a house fire. These pipes are safe enough to transport drinking water, as they are lead-free and bacteria-resistant.

Despite the many positives that make copper a go-to choice, there are a few significant drawbacks:

  • The cost – As a valuable metal, copper is relatively expensive at $285 per 100 feet of pipe. Its high valuation also makes copper piping a target for thieves.
  • The installation process – Compared to the lightweight nature of all plastic pipes and the malleable flexibility of PEX pipes, copper pipe installation can be slower and require more demolition.
  • Inability to handle acidic water – If your water supply is particularly acidic, your copper pipes may corrode.

Galvanized Steel

Another viable metal option is galvanized steel. “Galvanized” refers to a process where pipes are coated in zinc in order to prevent corrosion of the pipe. Unfortunately, galvanized steel pipes don’t withstand corrosion forever and may still experience rust buildup and blockages over time.

If you have an older house constructed between 1930 and 1990, it is very possible you have galvanized steel pipes. You should consider replacing them because corrosion can lead to water discoloration or contamination. Galvanized steel may still be appropriate for use when repairing pipes that are already made of the same material.

Nowadays, new galvanized steel pipes have fallen out of popularity in homes and are typically reserved for heavy duty applications, like outdoor and underground plumbing or water line replacement. They are cheaper than copper and can last upwards of 100 years!

Polyethylene/PEX

Polyethylene, or PEX, pipes are a cutting-edge technology in the plumbing world. Made of flexible plastic, these pipes can easily cut around corners and snake through walls, meaning installation takes less time, demolition and labor. PEX also has many other qualities that make it perfect for indoor plumbing:

Cheap cost – PEX piping is currently over nine times cheaper than copper, costing only $30 per 100 feet.

  • Versatility – PEX pipes pair well with many kinds of pre-existing pipes, making them great for repairs and retrofits.
  • Insulation – PEX pipes don’t lose heat quickly and are fairly resistant to freezing and bursting.
  • Color coding – Unlike metal pipes, PEX pipes can be color coded, indicating the temperature of the water that flows through them.

Because these pipes have only recently become popular in the US, we don’t yet know how they will hold up over decades of use or if there are any ill effects of consuming water from aging PEX piping. However, they have met rigorous safety guidelines and are increasingly a plumbing industry favorite.

PVC

Another type of popular and cost-effective plastic piping is PVC pipe. Besides its multitude of DIY uses, PVC pipes are extremely popular for use in homes, pools and irrigation systems. Because they’re plastic, they do not corrode and don’t require soldering or drawn-out installations. They also handle high water pressure well.

The largest drawback of PVC pipes is that, unlike PEX, they are not particularly temperature resistant. High temperatures will cause the pipe to warp, meaning there could be severe pipe damage over time. Thus, they are generally used for drain lines, vent stacks and water supply lines.

An alternative form called CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) piping is sometimes used instead, as it can handle all water temperatures while ensuring the water remains safe for consumption.

Repair or Replace Your Pipes with South West Plumbing

No matter which kind of pipes you have in your home, South West Plumbing can assist you with any and all repairs or replacements. We have been in the business for more than 35 years and we are the largest plumbing company in the local King, Snohomish and Pierce County area. There’s a good reason more than 15,000 of your local neighbors have trusted us with their home’s pipes this past year alone. Our plumbers are state certified and available 24/7, providing high quality service no matter when you need it. Give us a call at 206-932-1777 today to schedule your service appointment.