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PLASTIC AND COPPER PLUMBING PIPES, WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF EACH?

Copper was once the top choice among homeowners and Tucson and Phoenix plumbers for new home construction.  However in the last couple of decades as the price of copper continued to rise, plastic pipes have become more popular (Plastic tubing PVC (polyvinyl chloride), ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) PE (polyethylene) and PEX (cross-linked polyethylene.) . PEX piping has become the standard for water supply piping in new home construction.

Plastic plumbing pipe: is relatively stable, resists corrosion, is strong and flame-retardant and is flexible, so there’s rarely a problem with “water hammer”, that banging and knocking noise you sometimes hear in metal pipes when you turn the water on or off. It could reduce pressure leaks at solder joints and is easier than copper for the handy do-it-yourselfer to repair and install.  

Some drawbacks to plastic pipes: some people complain that they give their drinking water a plastic taste.  The inside of the pipes could be more susceptible than copper to growing bacteria. Some homeowners are shying away from plastic water piping citing health concerns.

Copper plumbing pipe: is durable as long as the water isn’t highly acidic, is fire resistant and even earthquake tolerant, every building code accepts copper plumbing, its joints aren’t bulky, its small external diameter means it can fit into tight spots, could increase the resale value of your home. 

Some drawbacks to copper pipes: they’re expensive because the price of copper fluctuates with the demand for raw materials.  Some homeowners report a metallic taste to their drinking water.  Pinhole leaks in copper pipes can spring when a home’s water is too acidic. In fact, copper is best suited for use when the pH of the water is between 6.5 and 8.5. They can be difficult to install, especially if the job requires the use of a gas torch.

Which one is right for your home? Your best bet is to ask a professional plumber to help you decide. Your choice will depend on your budget, the acidity of your water, how long you intend to live in your home and which material your trusted Arizona plumber has the most confidence in.  If your home already has copper pipes, for instance, the plumber might advise you to stick with copper for repairs; same with plastic replacements if your home already has plastic pipes.  And if you live in an older home with galvanized steel pipes, your plumber almost certainly will advise you to leave repairs to a pro. As one of my Phoenix plumber friends likes to say, homeowner’s who tackle galvanized pipe problems on their own are “treading where angels fear to go.”  Same goes if you live in a house with a polybutylene plumbing system. That’s one you want to replace, not repair. If it isn’t leaking yet, it’s just a matter of time before it does. 

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