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Question DetailsAsked on 6/25/2015

If copper pipe is replaced with PVC, who keeps the expensive copper?

Plumber replaced the copper relief valve piping on my water heater with PVC (I was not asked if PVC was ok or if I wanted copper to remain). They took the copper with them. I'm wondering if that is typical practice? Something does not feel right about it. especially since it did not fix the problem & I then had to purchase an expansion tank to take care of the issue. To my knowledge, there was nothing wrong with the pipe at all, just the valve. This took place in the midst of a major remodel when I was pretty overwhelmed with new issues coming up as work was done, & I know very little about plumbing. Just that there was significant water coming through the valve & pipe & it needed to be addressed. Did I get taken? At least the issue was finally fixed.

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2 Answers

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First, unless the contract says otherwise, usable quantities or lengths of new material you specifically paid for (as opposed to as part of a lump sum job) that is not used on the job stays with you or you should be credited for, removed/demolished/defective material the contractor takes away and disposes of in whatever legal way he wishes.

This fix probably ran about $100-150 (roughly) for the relief valve replacement - expansion tank probably additional $100-200 unless he charged an additional $100 or so trip charge to come back to do that. More if in very high cost urban area.

The piece of pipe he took was almost certainly less than 8 feet long, assuming the tank is on an elevated platform in the garage. Worth about $14 new, maybe $2/lb as scrap. At 1/3 lb/LF you had maybe at most $5.50 in scrap copper. Assuming you could even find a place that would take that small a quantity of copper (and that it was in good enough shape to be taken as scrap tubing), after the gas to drive there and back you might breakeven on it, at the very best.

I am surprised he took it - might have been accumulating scrap copper, but it might have been corroded and plugged with lime deposits so did need scrapping as being cheaper than cleaning out. However, that was probably the case, because the new plastic pipe proba ly cost about $3-4, so I really don't think he was taking you for a ride. If he did, I would say the $1 or so he maybe gained is small fry in the course of a major remodel.

With the relief valve leaking one would normally assume the valve was bad, then the need for an expansion tank if it kept leaking. Of course, if he looked and saw there was a backflow preventer or pressure reducing valve inline on the water heater takeoff, or in the system on a small house or apartment, he probably should have realized it needed an expansion tank first, then if that did not work (but was needed anyway), replaced the relief valve.

However, if the valve had been bleeding off, it probably needed replacement anyway, because the valve seat would likely be eroded and corroded by that time, so it would likely have still dripped after the expansion tank was put in - maybe $10-20 valve, $5 or so piping, so would normally be replaced in this situation regardless to avoid a callback.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Thanks LCD, as I said, I know very little about plumbing... I think I may have been charged on the higher end of normal but so be it. Issue is fixed is the main thing. Appreciate your thoughts.

Answered 4 years ago by Guest_9986626


Thanks for your reply back - AL needs to put a flag on answers so responders know that the original questioner has seen the response. It is nice to hear back about whether a response has been useful or missed the mark or is considered to be full of fluff or whatever.

You may have been charged on the high side - possibly because of difficult access, expensive plumber, markup by general contractor if this was a sub, you are in an expensive area, etc - but glad your issue is solved.

The expansion tank looks like this typically -

the horizontal blue tank with the yellow label in the picture, which holds air (separated from the water with a rubber diaphragm) so when the water in the water heats up and expands, the expansion is absorbed in the expansion tank by expanding the diaphragm into the air pockeet in the tank. Typically last 10-20 years (usually longest if mounted vertically upwards), meaning when it goes out your relief valve will probably start leaking again because the tank will fill with water. Required in smaller houses with shorter water lines that can't absorb expansion as well, and also in many code locales when there is any sort of backflow preventer or pressure regulator in the water line that prevents the expansion from pushing back into the service line - it prevents overpressure on your entire plumbing system from water heating, which can cause leaks anywhere in the house. Typical cost - $30-50 retail, so should not have run (with maybe a bit of incidental fittings) over $100 parts for that part of the job, about $100-150 labor to install typically on a separate call or about $50-100 if done on same call with something else already being done anyway.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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