You have options when it comes to the type of plumbing you use in your home. When you need to look at different plumbing options, PEX plumbing comes up often as an inexpensive and user-friendly option. However, is it worth the lower price tag?
In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:
- What is PEX plumbing
- What you need to know about PEX plumbing
- Disadvantages of PEX plumbing
|What's In This Guide?|
What Is PEX Plumbing?
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) plumbing is a type of plumbing material often found in residential plumbing systems.
There are three ways of crosslinking the plumbing:
- Radiation process – electrons are used to fuse the material together.
- Silane process – moisture-cured vinylsilane grafts to the polyethylene.
- Engel process – uses heat-activated chemicals known as peroxide.
You can also choose between coils or sticks, with coils being the easier to work with but slightly more expensive option.
PEX plumbing is typically used for residential hot and cold water systems. However, it can also be used for city sewer lines, sprinkler systems, and floor heating systems.
PEX plumbing replaced the galvanized pipe and then eventually went on to provide an alternative to the popular metal pipes made of copper.
What You Need To Know About PEX Plumbing
It’s important to understand the benefits of PEX plumbing before we talk about the disadvantages of using it. It’s also important to understand the difference between some of the most common alternative options, such as copper.
Benefits of PEX Plumbing
There are numerous benefits of PEX plumbing, including:
- No VOCs
- Resistant to corrosion
- Water conversion
- Low price
PEX Pipe Vs. PVC Pipe
PEX pipes and PVC pipes are very similar except for the fact that PVC pipes are made from polyvinyl chloride as opposed to cross-linked polyethylene.
PEX Tubing Vs. Copper Pipes
Copper pipe is one of the most popular plumbing materials, so which one should you pick for your plumbing system?
PEX has multiple benefits over copper, including:
- Lower cost
- Increased flexibility
- Easier to install
- No corrosion
- No metal in drinking water
- Easier to work with
PEX plumbing pipes work well at preventing your pipes from freezing in the winter due to expansion capability.
Disadvantages of PEX compared to copper include:
- Not as strong
- Susceptible to kinks
- Requires straight cuts for crimps
- Maximum 30-year life expectancy
To provide both plastic pipes and metal pipes, many people use CVPC that are made from chlorinated polyvinyl chloride that provides an additional coating to protect the water supply in your home, which is especially important when it comes to your potable water.
Disadvantages Of PEX Plumbing
It’s important to cover the disadvantages of PEX plumbing to help you make a full decision regarding your plumbing system. Here are some of the reasons many people prefer to steer away from PEX plumbing.
If rodents, such as mice and rats, gain access to PEX pipes, they may be able to chew through them rather easily. When this happens, you can end up with plumbing leaks that lead to expensive water damage repair bills.
Pipes come into contact with heat in numerous ways. When the heat accumulates to a certain point, it can melt PEX pipes until it becomes deformed or completely deteriorates.
If you get a drain clog, you may want to use a chemical drain cleaner to dissolve it. However, caustic chemicals may eat at the PEX plumbing pipe as much as it does the clog.
If not installed properly, PEX pipe can become weak rather quickly, making it ultimately ineffective. This is one reason we recommend how to cut PEX pipe properly during installation.
Recent studies indicate that there may be toxic chemicals in PEX tubing that makes it less than ideal for use in potable water systems or any residential plumbing system.
In fact, PEX tube is currently banned in California due to the fear of toxic chemicals. With that being said, it’s important to note that PEX has been tested and does not contain hazardous materials, making the ban in California more of a precaution than anything else.
Cast iron puts more toxic materials into your water than PEX, which is why many people won’t allow cast iron to be used in plumbing systems, either.
Always check local plumbing standards, especially if you live in California or another place known for strict ordinances. PEX was allowed as early as 2011, so it’s important to understand that things may change.
To be fair, there are also a ton of good reasons to use PEX. See this post on the advantages to using PEX piping.
Working with PEX Plumbing
In general, PEX plastic piping is extremely easy to work with. This is more true of PEX A vs. PEX B, as the latter returns to its coil due to the slightly different composition.
Its flexibility allows PEX piping to expand during freezing, preventing burst pipes, but what happens after the pipes thaw?
PEX pipe, or plastic pipe, has a unique memory that allows the pipe material to return to its original state when necessary. In order to bring the material back to its original state, you can use heat and pressure.
You can use Sharkbite fittings, copper fittings, elbow fittings, and, of course, PEX fittings to connect PEX with a wide range of other materials.
Final Thoughts on PEX Plumbing Disadvantages
We find that while you may want to select another option than a PEX plumbing system, such as PVC, PEX provides one of the most cost-effective and practical materials available. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its disadvantages as well.
PEX pipes may not be toxic, but they don’t provide the same strength as metal pipes. If they break and create a serious problem, it will cost more to pay for the repairs than it would to use metal pipes from the very beginning.
FAQs For Pex Plumbing Disadvantages
Why is PEX plumbing bad?
PEX pipe doesn’t have the same durability as copper piping.
What is the lifespan of PEX pipe?
PEX pipe lasts 30 years.
Do rats chew on PEX pipe?
Yes. Rats can chew on PEX pipe.
Why is PEX banned in California?
California banned PEX tubing out of fear of chemicals in plastic.
Meet Your Plumbing Navigator
About Plumbing Navigator
We’re passionate about all things plumbing, and love sharing tips, “how-to”, and reviewing the latest products to help make your project a success!
Learn More Plumbing Tips
Want to tackle more plumbing projects? Check out these helpful guides!