PEX or copper?

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Old 10-08-11, 11:18 PM
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PEX or copper?

I want to completely re-plumb my house as the pipes are currently galvanized and mostly full of sediment causing low water pressure and having to clean aerators often. I was going to go copper because that's what I know, but pex is looking better now. It is a small house, only 900 sq ft single level, with what will eventually have one bath and one kitchen (used to be a duplex so 2 baths right now). What, if any, are the downsides of pex over copper? It will all be in the crawl space which is technically above ground, house is on block foundation. If I haven't provided enough info let me know and thanks in advance.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 07:48 AM
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What, if any, are the downsides of pex over copper?
Other than having to 'retool' and learn a new skill set, I can't think of any.

If I was going to do this I would probably go to a 'home run' design with manifolds and individual take-offs for each fixture. Going this route means that you can usually use all 1/2" tubing coming off the manifold. An advantage to it is that done properly the pressure fluctuations in the system are reduced. Spouse might not yell as loudly when she's in the shower and you flush the toilet.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 09:03 AM
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Downsides? Of PEX? Let's see:

1. PEX is 1/10 the price of copper ($0.30 to $0.50/ft against $3.00+ for 1/2 inch copper)
2. You really have to work at it to have a connection that leaks.
3. PEX takes about 1/20 the amount of time to install.
4. No dissimilar metals connections.
5. If a line freezes, it resumes shape after thawing and doesn't burst. The only problem with this scenario is you can't use a torch to thaw the pipe.

Nope. Just like Trooper, except for 5, I can't think of any.

If you use the Clamp-type fittings rather than crimp rings, you only need one clamp tool for any size tubing. Google "pex clamp fittings" or visit a local plumbing supply to see the differences between the crimp and clamp systems. The mechanically more complex stainless steel clamps are only a little more expensive than the copper crimp rings because of the difference in cost of the materials.

Good luck with your project.
 

Last edited by tldoug; 10-09-11 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 10-09-11, 09:11 AM
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Only thing I can add is there many of fitting "systems" out there. I suggest going with one that is readily available at your local stores you shop at so you don't have to search around for parts. IE: you might want to stay away from online suppliers unless they carry the same type/brand as your local store.

tldoug missed: You can install a fitting even if there is water in the tubeing.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 10:26 AM
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Pex it is

Thanks for all the 'downsides' of pex. From what I have read it did seem a lot better than copper. I do have a question about the manifold. Would that go where the main water supply comes in? The main is pretty much right under where the kitchen will be and very close to the bathroom.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 11:13 AM
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I have a number of rental houses and as their copper plumbing fails I replace it with PEX. Our city water slowly erodes/dissolves copper to the point the pipes become paper thin and of course burst. Many of the houses will sit vacant at one time or another during the winter and I have never had a problem with PEX pipes freezing.

If doing a manifold type installation you can put it wherever you want but to save on tubing costs you want it to be located central to your plumbing fixtures. You don't want the manifold at one side of the house with your fixtures on the other side with every hot & cold line having to run a long distance.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 12:15 PM
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Dane, the only long run i would have to put in is for an exterior faucet. The water heater is sort of on the other side of the house but since it's a small house it won't be a very long run. I would need a manifold for both hot and cold correct? Can it be insulated for energy savings or does it need it?
 
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Old 10-09-11, 01:10 PM
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Wouldn't a manifold system tend to waste a lot of water trying to get it hot? I know that when I run our dishwasher, I run the hot at the sink to get it hot before starting it. I would think the same would be true in a bathroom. (sink and shower)
 
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Old 10-09-11, 02:32 PM
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I generally plumb with trunk lines and not a manifold system. If I ever did a manifold system I would install a shut off valve for each line and label them well at the manifold so I could easily shut off something to repair a leaky faucet.

As Ironhand mentioned I like trunk line system so other uses can get the line filled with hot water. Whenever the washing machine or dishwasher are being used our kitchen gets hot water right away.

Yes, you can insulate your lines. You still have to dump the cold water in the lines until the hot water gets there but then the hot water in the lines will remain warm for longer. No sense in wasting that heat to the crawl space. But, I have never bothered. I've insulated the trunks coming out of water heaters where it's easy to access but that's about it.

Since you are redoing all the plumbing. One thing I like to do is run outside spigots on one circuit separate from the water in the house. It payed off years later when I installed a water softener and have it only soften the water for inside the house. The outside spigots for watering the garden do not get softened.

I also installed main shut off valves in easy to reach locations. The most often used one shuts off water to the inside of the house, both hot and cold. Useful when we leave for vacation. It leaves the outside spigots working so my folks can water the plants and fill the cat's water bowl but turns off water inside so we don't have to worry about a burst pipe flooding the house.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 03:05 PM
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I second pilot danes recommendation of trunk lines. I myself do not run manifolds either. Usually I will run a hot and cold line down the center of the house and pipe 3/4" all the way to the farthest bath.

Also so I dont have to mess with different size pipe, I often just pipe 3/4" right to the fixture. Once the trunk is in then I start cutting tees in the trunk line to the various fixtures.

Just makes it easier. This way you are purchasing all 3/4 pex fitting, tees, ells, adapters, rings, etc... And you could use one tool. Never really use the 1/2" crimper. For larger homes I will run 1" trunks then 3/4 off them.

Although I still use 1/2" copper stubs with valves for through floor only. Once in the crawl or basement I solder 1/2 cc x 3/4 pex adapter to the copper and run 3/4 pex right to them.

But thats just me and how I do it. Everyone has thier own methods but around here I dont see too many manifold set ups.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 10-09-11, 03:19 PM
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One of the main downsides of the manifolds would be the expense. Tees are much cheaper than manifolds. I would probably drop to 1/2 inch to the actual faucets since the house is so small.

A little off my own topic but do hot water recirculators actually work?
 
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Old 10-09-11, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by 1sthouseSLC View Post
A little off my own topic but do hot water recirculators actually work?
They work in the sense that you will have hot water at fixtures but your are also paying to keep that water hot in the lines. Which "wastes" energy.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 03:36 PM
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Just remember 1/2 to a outside hose bib may get you less volume there. So if you want to run a high gpm sprinkler or device you may consider 3/4"

As far as recircs go. I would install this type.

https://www.wattspremier.com/product...ulating-System

Yes they work well. I install them all the time. They have a timer so you can set the times for HW circulation so the hot water is at the fixture instantly. Also no need to run a sepeate loop.

Also .2 amps. So less power then a 25 watt lightbulb.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 10-09-11, 03:52 PM
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I guess in a small home with one bath and a kitchen (probably right next to each other) using a manifold might not make much sense...

Definitely design for high flow for the hose bibs! Don't ya just hate it when you can't get enough water pressure to squirt the squirrels on the bird feeder? or the neighbors cat that's planting 'bulbs' in your garden?
 
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Old 10-09-11, 09:39 PM
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Good point with running 3/4 to the hose bibs. I think the galvanized is only 3/4 and with the corrosion and sediment its only about 1/2 or less. I'll have to look at that recirc pump. I also like the idea of copper stubs, mainly for the look and easy to put on shut offs. I wish main shut offs were easy to get to, the block foundation is hard to get through for shut off access.
 
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Old 10-10-11, 04:53 AM
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If you do a recirculating pump I would definitely insulate the hot lines since you will be keeping them constantly hot. Without insulation the plumbing will be like a radiator in your crawl space, heating an area you don't want to heat.

Also, definitely run 3/4" to the hose spigots. You will appreciate the extra flow when watering or filling a bucket.

When doing trunk lines I run 3/4" trunk lines and install 3/4 x 3/4 x 1/2 tees. So each fixture gets a 1/2" hot and cold line. I like doing the runs to the fixtures in 1/2" because it's more flexible and easier to run. You can also use a smaller crimping tool that can be operated one handed and is easier to get into tight places. I do not use any copper. No copper stubs. That way there is no soldering and even though the stubs are short they still erode away over time just like the copper piping. I run the 1/2" pex through the floor or wall right up to the fixture and crimp on a shutoff valve. The one drawback is for toilets you may see a short section of the PEX pipe. If it's noticeable and objectionable looking I quickly mask off the floor around the PEX and shutoff valve and give the tubing a quick shot of spray paint.
 
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Old 10-10-11, 07:54 AM
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I wish main shut offs were easy to get to,
What I often do for homeowners during a repipe is bring the main line up in a closet. I drill two holes and come up, valve, then back down in the crawl. This way if they have to shut the main off they just reach in a closet, instead of going in the crawl.

If you do a recirculating pump I would definitely insulate the hot lines since you will be keeping them constantly hot. Without insulation the plumbing will be like a radiator in your crawl space, heating an area you don't want to heat.
My thoughts are different in this respect. I sealed my crawl and added heat. That is the thinking today with crawls. Every crawl is different. I am against pipe insulation because the r value is so small its just a waste of money IMO. The warm pipes may help your crawl out actually.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 10-12-11, 11:00 PM
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I might be able to bring the main up in a cabinet depending on their eventual placement. I would rather have fast access then going in the crawl which is neither insulated or plastic on the ground.

I go back and forth on the pipe insulation. Any savings will be something, yet i wonder if its worth the hassle. It doesn't seem that expensive, especially with how little pipe there will eventually be.

Should I run 3/4 or 1/2 to the water heater? Hoping to change the current one to something more energy efficient but that will be down the road. Don't want to bite off to much at once.
 
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Old 10-13-11, 04:00 AM
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If no plastic on ground, they are asking for mold problems. Not that it has anything to do with your plumbing job, but it needs to be addressed.
Pipe insulation in an uninsulated space is a good idea. It only takes a little exposed pipe to make for a frowny faced day when it bursts. Insulate. It also helps keep the temperature of the water in the pipe stable.
3/4" everywhere but to the appliances (tub/toilet/sinks). Water heaters have 3/4" inlets and outlets, and you don't want to choke it down.
 
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Old 10-13-11, 03:03 PM
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My basement gets pretty cold in the dead of winter. I insulated the hot water pipe from the tank to my shower. It make a noticeable difference. So in that resepect, it is well worth it. I did some other insulating of my boiler piped and it was probably a great waste of money. I am now a smarter man.
 
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Old 10-14-11, 06:22 AM
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I insulated all the exposed cold water pipes in my basement. Condensation on the pipes was adding to the humidity in the basement.

You can purchase R-4 Frost King foam pipe insulation. I put that on my hot water pipes in the basement. I'm not sure how much difference it made, but with that R value I'm sure it's reducing heat loss.
 
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Old 10-14-11, 07:29 AM
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The repipe

There was no mention of legonella. Is it still a problem and if so, how many feet of copper is needed to control it? Would the copper manifold be enough? Just asking.
Sid
 
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Old 10-25-11, 06:33 AM
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An indirect advantage of PEX is that because it is so much less expensive, it doesn't cost much to oversize piping and avoid pressure drops in your system. Keep in mind that the ID of PEX is smaller than that for copper (for the same pipe size, especially at the fittings), and so it is a good idea to size higher than you would for copper. I plumbed the main trunks with 1" PEX in my house, where I would have used 3/4" for copper. This removes a small amount of the cost advantage.

I think the main potential downside to PEX is potential for negative impact on home resale value. Especially in parts of the country with older housing stock, folks are less used to PEX, and to some it appears lower in quality to have a home full of PEX vs. copper. A good copper plumbing job is an obvious work of craftsmanship, while PEX, for all its advantages, looks easy and often looks sloppier than copper. There has been (refuted) negative press on health impacts for PEX that might impact some buyers. In my area, home ads sometimes point out 'all copper plumbing', which means that realtors who write these ads see this as a selling point.

I don't think anyone would recoup the cost of an entire copper plumb job at resale, but if you already have mostly copper, might make sense to keep it all copper.
 
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Old 10-26-11, 01:30 PM
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I never thought about pex actually having a negative impact on resale value but I see your point. I will still likely use pex because all I have now is corroded galvanized pipe. The interior diameter is probably down to 1/2 inch now. I guess I will just have to research the upsides of pex and give it to the realtor when we sell (4-5 years down the road). Copper would just be to difficult, expensive and time consuming.

Thanks for the heads up on it.
 
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Old 10-26-11, 03:53 PM
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I have never heard of problems selling a house with pex installed. Where did that come from?? Polybutylene, sure, but not pex. Let's hear some back up on that one, please.
 
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Old 10-26-11, 04:11 PM
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and to some it appears lower in quality to have a home full of PEX vs. copper. A good copper plumbing job is an obvious work of craftsmanship, while PEX, for all its advantages, looks easy and often looks sloppier than copper.

This looks like craftsmanship to me.

Try doing that with copper!!!!!















 
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Old 10-27-11, 05:13 AM
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I agree that a PEX install is more liklely to make a positive impression on a prospective buyer. It's an indication that the home's plumbing has been updated.
 
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Old 10-27-11, 05:34 AM
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I think of PEX as a superior product but yes, I have met some older folks who think copper is the best because it's more expensive and that's the way they did it in the good olde days.
 
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Old 10-27-11, 10:58 AM
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I certainly don't think of PEX being superior to copper. I've read of PEX being chewed on by rodents, deteriorating from sunlight exposure and unexplainable longitudinal splits; I've never read of these problems with copper.

In my mind PEX with its sweeping curves will never "look" as nice as copper done with perfect 90 and 45 degree angles.

PEX certainly takes less labor to install and in most cases it is as good as copper but I will never think of it as being superior to copper except in those instances where the water is either highly corrosive to copper or has so much entrained abrasive that the copper erodes from the inside due to the abrasive.
 
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Old 10-27-11, 07:12 PM
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I have never heard of PEX splitting and while I like the look of the copper angles, I don't plan on seeing much of the plumbing once I finish it. My house won't have much plumbing to do so there won't be any manifolds just a few tees.

As far as older people, I really doubt they would be the next buyers of my current home. The neighborhood is all pretty much young families. I would think that most younger folk would realize the advantages of pex.

For the rodent problem, I really am not that worried about it because I will be strapping it up high and the only way to the crawl space is the access hole in the foundation. There are no vents. I realize they could burrow in if they really wanted but since the duct work is insulated flex laid on the ground I don't see creatures going for the pex.

I plan on doing more research before actually starting but still leaning toward the pex.
 
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Old 10-27-11, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by 1sthouseSLC View Post
A little off my own topic but do hot water recirculators actually work?
Whether to use a recirculator is not only a function of convenience/energy costs. Here, in the mountains of the desert Southwest, the primary objective is to conserve water and in some local subdivisions recirculation is mandatory for new construction and some remodeling. Wasting 2 to 3 gallons of water just to get hot water at the faucet is completely unacceptable. Using recirculation is also one time that insulating hot water pipes truly reaps a meaningful ROI.

Not only that, I know the value of my home and property with water. I also know that it wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel without water. Yeah, my motivation is something other than altruism.
 
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Old 10-29-11, 06:42 AM
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PEX certainly takes less labor to install and in most cases it is as good as copper but I will never think of it as being superior to copper except in those instances where the water is either highly corrosive to copper or has so much entrained abrasive that the copper erodes from the inside due to the abrasive.
I'd have to agree with you, Furd. I have a plumbing contractor friend who was reluctant to use PEX in residential applications a few years ago, but has started using it almost exclusively in subdivisions just to compete. There are few other ways to reduce labor and material costs in a competitive subdivision environment where every penny counts. He also uses it in older neighborhoods after copper thieves have struck. But, in his million dollar plus custom homes, copper still rules. I have yet to see PEX in a commercial building although it is probably used in some areas. Propress is now the way to plumb copper in a commercial building in this area.

Propress Fittings , Copper Propress Fittings , Viega Propress Fittings , Propress Tools - PexSupply.com
 
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Old 10-29-11, 10:43 AM
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ProPress is sweet but totally out of reach cost-wise for the handyman or DIYer. I have a failure rate of about 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for sweat-soldered joints so I have no problems with soldered copper. Nice thing about PEX is that a semi-skilled person can run the piping easily and it only takes a few minutes to become proficient with the tools to attach the fittings.
 
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Old 10-29-11, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Furd View Post
Nice thing about PEX is that a semi-skilled person can run the piping easily and it only takes a few minutes to become proficient with the tools to attach the fittings.
That's a downside for me. I think too many unskilled people are involved in the trades these days. Maybe it has always been like that, but I don't see an upside to it.
 
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Old 10-29-11, 02:01 PM
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I've always felt that a semi skilled person can run copper supply pipe. Sweating a joint is a pretty simple process.

Whenever new products or processes hit the street there is always some blowback. I remember my uncle the plumber complaining about plastic drain pipe years ago. He was convinced that the widespread use of plastic in DWV systems would be the downfall of the plumbing trade. He's long since retired but his sons are still in the business and doing just fine.

Reality is that most people are not DIYers simply because they don't have the time or the inclination. For most people DIY means calling the guy - fans of Two and a Half Men will get that.
 
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Old 10-29-11, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by drooplug View Post
That's a downside for me. I think too many unskilled people are involved in the trades these days. Maybe it has always been like that, but I don't see an upside to it.
Yes, it is a downside IF you demand high quality workmanship but (unfortunately) high quality workmanship is getting to be quite rare. Now total cost of installation is paramount and by using materials and processes that require less skill the total cost can be less. Back some 30-40 years ago labor was considered to be about 2/3 the total cost of any job with materials being the other third. With the exception of union labor it is almost upside down now with materials being 2/3 and labor being 1/3. Overall quality has suffered in my opinion but...
 
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Old 10-29-11, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Wayne Mitchell View Post
I've always felt that a semi skilled person can run copper supply pipe. Sweating a joint is a pretty simple process.

Whenever new products or processes hit the street there is always some blowback. I remember my uncle the plumber complaining about plastic drain pipe years ago. He was convinced that the widespread use of plastic in DWV systems would be the downfall of the plumbing trade. He's long since retired but his sons are still in the business and doing just fine.

Reality is that most people are not DIYers simply because they don't have the time or the inclination. For most people DIY means calling the guy - fans of Two and a Half Men will get that.
Wayne, the difference is two people who both claim to have 30 years of experience. One person does indeed have thirty years of experience but the other has only one year of experience thirty times over. Not too many of the first order but lots and lots of the second.
 
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Old 10-29-11, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Furd View Post
Yes, it is a downside IF you demand high quality workmanship but (unfortunately) high quality workmanship is getting to be quite rare. Now total cost of installation is paramount and by using materials and processes that require less skill the total cost can be less. Back some 30-40 years ago labor was considered to be about 2/3 the total cost of any job with materials being the other third. With the exception of union labor it is almost upside down now with materials being 2/3 and labor being 1/3. Overall quality has suffered in my opinion but...
This has been the most disappointing thing in my career. It's been nothing but corner cutting. It's gotten to the point that the company I work for now is trying to cut corners off a circle. It's impossible to have pride in your own work when you are forced to make garbage.
 
  #39  
Old 11-01-11, 06:20 PM
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I don't have a scientific survey to show that Cu piping is better at resale for older homes. I do see many many more real estate ads touting Cu than PEX - in fact I've never seen a real estate ad that mentions PEX or polymer or PE or plastic plumbing. Which leads to my main point - folks are less educated about PEX, there is confusion between it and other polymer plumbing materials, and there is a lot of bad information around about health effects. Especially in parts of the country with a lot of old housing stock, folks will be even less educated about PEX. So, all things equal, I would keep a copper system (or part copper system) copper and maybe install new copper in a house for the job creator folks.

Also, aren't some new homes still being built with Cu (I'm actually not sure)? If they are, the only reason I can think of is that the builder expects to recoup the added cost at sale. Which would point to better resale value for copper. Can you think of another reason that a builder would ever install copper, other than that he could recoup the added cost?

As far as the craftsmanship appearance side of things, I guess this is in the eye of the beholder, and certainly a nice new PEX plumbed large home can be a purty sweet looking job. BTW, why copper to the manifolds?
 
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Old 11-01-11, 06:47 PM
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Also, aren't some new homes still being built with Cu (I'm actually not sure)? If they are, the only reason I can think of is that the builder expects to recoup the added cost at sale. Which would point to better resale value for copper. Can you think of another reason that a builder would ever install copper, other than that he could recoup the added cost?
All the homes I see in NJ are all pex as far as I could see. I dont think the contractor is recouping anything. If you dont bid with pex most likely you will lose the job.

The material and labor alone is far cheaper for pex. A 300ft roll of 3/4 is about 100 bucks. 100 ft of 3/4 L copper is about $500 bucks. Also I would say its at least, and I mean at least, 50% less labor to install pex.

If your not installing pex your probably losing jobs.

But I am not understanding the logic that the plumber will recoup the cost of copper? With any material more or less you calculate your time, material, and add a profit percentage onto material, say 10%. Then add that all togther and add 10% on to that. Thats how I used to bid jobs. It covers your arse if you screw up somewhat.

If I were looking for a new home today, I would be looking for a home with pex. I as a plumber would hope never to see copper again if I could help it.



Mike NJ
 
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