The Best Pipe for the Job The Best Pipe for the Job

Building a new house or updating an existing one can be a daunting experience—and installing piping systems for your gas, water, and sewer lines can be very stressful if you don't know what pipe to use for each application. Over the years, different types of pipe have gone in and out of use, so we're going to explain each type and list their advantages and disadvantages.

PEX

Radiant heating plumbing with PEX pipes.

Cross-linked polyethylene, known as PEX, is becoming the dominant choice for plumbing because it offers many advantages compared to other types of pipe. In terms of installation, it doesn't require any soldering and uses few fittings, which means it can be installed quicker than any other piping system. Because fewer fittings are used, the risk of leaks after installation is decreased. In comparison to copper, it's less expensive and is much more resistant to freezing. PEX pipe also reduces energy transfer, which will save you money on the energy bill, and it also won't corrode over time.

PEX is accepted as a water distribution pipe in all major plumbing codes, water service lines, and potable distribution systems. It's also used in heat transfer applications such as floor cooling, snow melting, and permafrost protection, in addition to hot water applications including radiators and residential fire sprinkler systems. It can also be used in radiant floor heating applications.

Even though PEX plumbing pipe has many advantages, it should also be treated carefully. PEX should not be installed where it can come in contact with direct flame, contaminated soil, or near hazardous waste disposal sites or petroleum storage.

CSST

Corrugated stainless steel tubing, commonly known as CSST, is the pipe used to supply gas and propane systems, and has replaced black iron pipe. It's flexible, and made of steel with a proven resistance to leaks due to far fewer connections made during installation. Having fewer connections also reduces the time of installation. However, CSST is prone to cause damage during an electrical storm or when lightning strikes. If lightning strikes even close to the pipe, it can cause the system to become electrically charged as well as start a fire. The pipe must be grounded and bonded properly to help reduce the risk of damage.

PVC

A pile of PVC pipes.

Polyvinyl chloride pipe, known as PVC, is a strong, chemical-resistant rigid pipe that's heatproof and easy to cut and fit. PVC plumbing pipes are used for cold and hot potable water, as well as sewage lines. It's also used to make repairs in sections of existing pipe that have busted or broken. The main disadvantage of using PVC pipe is that you will have to glue each fitting and allow for the drying time, which prolongs the installation process. Once fittings are glued, you cannot adjust or change what you have done without repeating the entire process. Another problem with PVC is that the pipe will split or break if it freezes.

CPVC

Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, known as CPVC, is inexpensive and able to withstand high pressure and temperature. It's used for hot and cold water supply piping and joined together permanently in the same way as PVC using plastic fittings and solvent glue. As with PVC, CPVC will also split when it freezes. (This can happen in a section of pipe where it's joined together with fittings.) Another benefit to using this pipe is that it contains more chlorine than others, making it safer for drinking water. While CPVC pipe is more expensive than PVC, it's more flexible.

Copper

Copper pipes.

Copper pipe has been a proven standard for decades. With a long life span and heat tolerance, copper is not prone to leaks and will not pollute your drinking water. Unlike plastic pipes, copper can be recycled, making it a viable option for the environmentally-conscious. The downside to using copper is that it must be soldered together, and this can cause lead-based solder in older homes. Copper is also more expensive to use than plastic pipe and requires more skill to install.

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