Are you considering plastic PEX piping for your next plumbing project? Wondering if it will last long enough to prove the best return on your investment?
PEX plastic pipe has been around for a while now and it’s popular thanks to its affordable cost point, but it works best under certain conditions. Is PEX pipe the right choice for your project?
In this PlumbingNav guide, we cover:
- Things you should know about PEX pipe
- Longevity of PEX pipe
- How does PEX pipe hold up compared to other options
- How to pick the right pipe material for you
|What's In This Guide?|
Things You Should Know About PEX Pipe
PEX pipe is made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is a type of cross-linked polyethylene plastic.
PEX pipe is available in two different grades: PEX A and PEX B. PEX A is more flexible and easier to install than PEX B. PEX B provides more rigidness, which can be preferable in certain situations. However, both types of PEX pipes have a lifespan of roughly 50 years.
HDPE material is flexible and resistant to freezing and thawing. PEX piping is also less likely to burst than other types of pipes, making it a good choice for areas that experience freezing temperatures. PEX tubing also comes with the lowest average cost compared to almost all other modern plumbing material options.
Of course, high-density polyethylene does have its deficiencies. Most prominently, PEX can’t handle certain conditions certain plumbing lines endure every day. UV rays, chemical drain cleaners, and excessively hot temperatures can damage the material.
You shouldn’t use PEX for exposed outdoor piping or drain lines, making it best for water pipe supply lines, appliance supply hoses, and indoor vent pies. PEX has a shorter life span of 50 years compared to other materials that can last 100 – 150 years.
- Inexpensive compared to copper
- Flexible (easy to install)
- Easy to cut
- Freeze-resistant and corrosion-resistant
- Safe for drinking water
- Easy to attach to plumbing manifold
- Limited 50-year lifespan
- Susceptible to sun damage and chemical damage
- Not ideal for outdoor use
Longevity of PEX Pipe
You can expect a PEX plumbing system to last 50 years or more when properly installed and well-maintained. When the PEX tube survives past its life expectancy, the material starts to deteriorate due to wear and tear over the years.
Leaks may develop at the fittings and pinhole leaks may develop throughout the material itself, marking the beginning of the end and the need for replacement pipes. These can be especially problematic for a slab leak.
There are a few things you can do to prolong the life span of your PEX pipe, such as using PEX pipe and faucet covers for outdoor applications and avoiding exposure to sunlight or chemicals. You can also perform regular plumbing maintenance, such as regular drain cleaning and regular inspections.
How Do PEX plumbing Pipes Hold Up to Other Piping Materials?
Don’t feel limited to PEX pipe for your plumbing task. It may be the best option, but it may not be. We explain some of the major advantages and disadvantages of PEX pipe compared to PEX pipe, ABS pipe, and copper pipe.
PEX Pipe Vs. PVC Pipe
PVC pipe (polyvinyl chloride pipe) is another popular plastic option that you may be considering for your home plumbing.
PVC pipe is less flexible than PEX pipe, but it’s more durable and resistant to chemical damage and hot temperatures, making it the more appropriate option for hot water lines connected to your water heater. PVC pipe also has a longer lifespan than PEX pipe, which has a life span of 100 – 150 years.
However, PVC pipe is not as resistant to freezing and thawing as PEX pipe, so so PEX pipe makes the better choice in cold temperatures, as long as the pipe won’t experience excessive amounts of UV rays. PVC pipe also contains chemicals that make it unsuitable for a water line that produces drinking water.
Watch the following video to learn more about the difference between PEX pipe and PVC pipe:
PEX Pipe Vs. ABS Pipe
ABS pipe is a third option that you may be considering for your home plumbing.
ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and it’s a type of plastic that is similar to PVC in terms of durability and resistance to chemicals, so you can use stronger chemical drain openers without fear of damaging the pipe material. ABS pipe also has a lifespan of 100 years or more.
However, like PVC pipe, ABS pipe is not as resistant to freezing and thawing as PEX pipe, so it’s not a good choice for outdoor areas or spaces that experience extreme temperatures.
PEX Pipe Vs. Copper Pipe
PEX piping shares many qualities with PVC and ABS piping. The differences, while important, aren’t immediately apparent. However, plumbing PEX tubing and copper plumbing find themselves at completely opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to pipe materials.
While not the most popular plumbing pipe option due to the advanced cost, copper pipe has been in use for thousands of years, and we still use it today for numerous reasons.
Did You Know? Ancient Egyptians created the first copper pipes sometime between 2100 B.C.E. – 2500 B.C.E.
Copper pipe is a type of metal pipe durable enough that you can rely on copper pipes to last over 100 years when properly maintained, even under extreme outside environmental conditions, including hot temperatures, harsh UV rays, and high-pressure levels.
However, copper piping is one of the most expensive options, making it an illogical choice for most budgets. It’s also rather rigid, meaning contractors can’t manipulate it around corners and turns without multiple connectors (possible vulnerable spot for a leak).
PEX pipe is more flexible, which can make it easier to work with and less susceptible to leaks at the fitting. It’s also far more affordable. However, it is also more susceptible to freezing and bursting in cold weather. It also only provides service for about half the time as copper pipes.
Watch the following video to learn more about PEX pipe vs. copper pipe:
How to Pick the Right Pipe Material For You
So, what’s the best type of pipe for your home? That depends on a few factors. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, then PEX pipe is the best option. If you’re looking for a durable and long-lasting option, then PVC or ABS pipe is a better choice. And if you’re on a budget, then PEX pipe is the most affordable option.
PEX pipe may be a better choice than the copper pipe for projects that include abnormal shapes or multiple turns, while copper pipe may be a better choice for projects that require long-term stability you can rely on for 100 years.
Frequently Asked Questions About PEX Pipe Longevity
How long should PEX pipe last?
When installed indoors and maintained properly, homeowners can expect PEX pipe to last 50 years.
What is wrong with PEX plumbing?
PEX piping isn’t as strong as other piping options, leading to its lower life expectancy. It also doesn’t work well outdoors or in conjunction with hot water lines since the UV rays and heat can damage the material.
Is PEX plumbing reliable?
When used for cold water lines inside, PEX proves to be an affordable, flexible, and reliable plumbing material. If a plumbing contractor or DIY plumber chooses PEX piping outside of its recommendations, it won’t provide the same reliability. With PEX tubing, it’s all about using it in the right place under the right conditions.
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