Should You Repair Failing Copper Plumbing With PEX Tubing?

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PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is the material of choice for plumbing in many new residential construction projects, but copper remains ubiquitous across much of the United States. Many plumbers prefer PEX due to its ease of installation, but what should you do when a pipe fails in a home that still uses copper?

Copper Pipe Failures: Repair vs. Replacement

Copper pipe is highly corrosion-resistant and can last for an exceptionally long time under ideal conditions. Many homes that are half a century old (or older!) may still use their original copper plumbing. The durability of copper plumbing means that it remains popular with some plumbers and builders, even as newer options have become available.

Most homes don't exist under ideal conditions, however. Excessive water velocity and even electrical grounding issues can cause wear on copper pipes, reducing their lifespan and causing them to fail. If you've ever experienced a pinhole leak, then you know that copper plumbing is certainly not immune to trouble despite its strengths.

Unfortunately, these failures often indicate a systemic problem, so the troubles rarely end with a single leak. Repairing a single leaky pipe typically means that water will find the next-weakest section of plumbing, leading to more leaks weeks or months in the future. For this reason, it's often best to consider evaluating your failing copper plumbing for replacement.

Using PEX to Replace Failing Copper

PEX plumbing offers several advantages when dealing with failing copper plumbing. In addition to being easier to install, the material itself costs less. Not only does this mean that you can budget less for your repair project, but it also may allow you to replace more of your plumbing. Replacing a more significant portion of your old copper plumbing will reduce the chances of future failures.

Transition fittings exist to allow you to join PEX tubing to your existing copper plumbing, as well. Combining PEX and copper is valuable if you want to minimize your replacement costs, especially if you have copper plumbing in challenging areas such as behind walls or ceilings. Since PEX is flexible, your new plumbing runs may be shorter and contain fewer joints and connections than your old copper.

PEX's flexibility means that you can also use it for more minor repairs. If your budget does not allow for a total replacement of your old pipes, a plumber can cut out a leaky section of copper and replace it with PEX. This approach enables you to cheaply fix your immediate problem without potentially creating new leaks for the future.

To learn more, contact a plumber.

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