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Question DetailsAsked on 1/24/2014

what is the difference between copper and plastic repipe

I am planning on re piping my home. 1200 sq ft home with 1 full bath. I know copper is traditional but now I have heard about plastic or pvc pipes.

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6 Answers


PEX is probably your best option for a re-piping application given the manner in which it can be fished as well as the lack of joints.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


You will find several perspectives on this question - a couple right below these answers, more in the Home > Plumbing link right below your question.

Cost and ease of pulling lines (meaning less holes in walls and ceilings) certainly weigh in fabor of flexible tubing like Pex (which is a brandname for Polyethylene, Cross-linked - meaning it is polyethylene like the soft clear reusable drink bottles, but the plastic molecules are interlinked with each other to give a stronger, more crack-resistant plastic than plain polyethylene like in the crinkly disposable bottled water bottles. Commonly also reinforced with visible plastic fiber reinforcing mesh embedded in the plastic.

The downside to Pex is two fold - tendency to get brittle and split over time, and unreliability of joints due to fact they are a friction fit and also because it is easy to connect a fitting to the tubing incorrectly, so creates an opportunity for leaks (bad), and of the tubing popping completely out of the connector (Really bad - 5 gallons per minute or so worth). Manufacturers and some contractors claim this problem has been solved, both I and a plumber I deal with have seen recent installs with recommended tools and procedure that have stilled failed in multiple places due to tubing splitting in the fitting or the fitting cutting the plastic, or due to leaks in the fitting itself after installation.

My personal opinion - I will not use polyethylene for home plumbing until I see proof the failures have ended. Plastic (PVC,CPVC) is cheap and easy to install but does have joints in mid-run and while somewhat flexible does require a lot more wall and ceiling penetrations to install. Of all the common products used today, rigid copper pipe is the hardest and costliest (as much as twice Pex on a replacement) to install and requires the most repair of wall and ceiling openings.

For my preference - I don't like the plastic taste in the water and worry some about the chemicals leaching from the plastic, so I prefer copper but have specified and installed rigid plastic.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


LCD...Do you have an pics of those failures or do you know the supplier on that piping.

I see mixed revies on PEX but I really like the idea and balance behind it.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


WowHomeSolutions- no pictures - but I have seen it in past 5 years or less on blue, green, red, orange, clear with blue woven reinforcing and pale blue translucent tubing with several different of connections. In my opinion - crosslinked polyethylene is just not a suitable material for this type of application - it splits too easy when used with barb and clamp (internal insert) type fittings, cracks or cuts through when used with clamp or crimp type (external) fittings, and splits when used with push-together type inner and outer compression fittings. I have seen several cases, with different colors (so presumably different brands), where the tubing itself (in mid run) split after less than a year's service where it made a smooth but fairly tight 90 up into walls, where it passed parallel to hot water pipes about 2-3 inches away, for a foot or more continuing a split that started in a connection, and several cases with no apparent reason in hot water use. Similar to the old unreinforced rubber hose - don't remember its brandname - that Firestone Rubber used to sell for low-pressure hydraulic hoses that quickly failed at connections due to cracking, which eventually got phased out of service.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


yes because I have a leak in the copper and I heard it will cause a domino affect and possiable more damage.

Answered 5 years ago by SNorfleet


SNorfleet - I think I addressed your pipe issue in another question recently - but for those reading this thread, when copper pipe starts going bad you get a lot of general green or greenish blue (or black if iron or manganese-rich water) corrosion on the inside of the pipe, and start getting pinholing more and more places as the pipe ages. This can make it look like dominoing of the problem but is really not a case of the original leak "causing" more leaks - just an indication the pipe in general has reached its life for your area.

If when the first couple of repairs that are made there is general heavy corrosion of the pipe or general thinning over significant lengths, which is commonly associated with green corrosion on the outside in a large number of places, then your pipe is well on its way to the grave. However, if the inside of the pipe looks pretty good with just scattered little green bumps, then while that is a sign of corrosion occurring it may be that the failures are localized to specific bad pieces of pipe, or to places near appliances or where the pipe is touching other metal (including nails or metall framing brackets) where localized electrolysis occurred but is not an indication your pipes are going out in general. Also - solder joints leaking is not generally a sign of the pipes going bad - that is a sign of a poor solder job or the wrong type flux or solder being used, although a lot of that type of leak then probably means the same workmanship exists through the house, which might also push you towards a total pipe replacement. Another type of failure which is not an indication of general pipe issues (but is a sign of aging) is failure due to cavitation or erosion of the pipe, commonly in elbows and tees or immediately downflow of any tyue of fittings. This is due to cavitation (bubbling) as the water gets turbulent going through the fitting, and is a sign of aging and wear but (especially with 3/4" versus 1/2" branch piping) is not generally a major issue and is not an indication of bad pipe in and of itself.

My personal preference - copper over plastic, both because all too many plastic products these days have manufacturing problems, but also because (excepting with freezing or overpressure failures where all types fail the same way) copper tends to fail by starting with small pinholes that gradually grow so you can commonly hear the leak before it gets out of hand and don't commonly get major flooding before the leak is detected, whereas plastic piping (both rigid and flex) much more commonly fails catastrophically - either breaking at a joint or splitting wide open, causing significant flooding right off the bat. But, is more expensive because the material itself is more expensive and it is much harder to put in as a replacement pipe (as opposed to in new construction).

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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