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My house was built in 1961 and still has the original galvanized steel pipes. Although I do not have leaks at the moment (knock on wood), my water pressure is greatly reduced. I am pretty certain that there is a good amount of corrosion built up in the pipes. I don't think it has reached a critical point yet, as my water still runs clear and doesn't taste funky, but I am starting to put this on my mind. As a kid, I learned how to sweat copper, and the bathroom addition done by a previous owner has copper piping (connected to the galvanized plumbing without any kind of dielectric union :( ). But reading around on the interwebs, it looks like PEX is a viable alternative to copper and fairly easy for the DIY installer. I would like to know what yall think about PEX vs copper vs other and if anyone has gone this route and what your experiences were with it?

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My house was built in 1961 and still has the original galvanized steel pipes. Although I do not have leaks at the moment (knock on wood), my water pressure is greatly reduced. I am pretty certain that there is a good amount of corrosion built up in the pipes. I don't think it has reached a critical point yet, as my water still runs clear and doesn't taste funky, but I am starting to put this on my mind. As a kid, I learned how to sweat copper, and the bathroom addition done by a previous owner has copper piping (connected to the galvanized plumbing without any kind of dielectric union :( ). But reading around on the interwebs, it looks like PEX is a viable alternative to copper and fairly easy for the DIY installer. I would like to know what yall think about PEX vs copper vs other and if anyone has gone this route and what your experiences were with it?

We ran into problems a couple of years ago with the city when we tried to use it and eventually just ended up spending the extra money for copper.

From what I understand, Houston has a local code that's stricter than the UPC when it comes to pipe materials, but I could be misremembering.

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We ran into problems a couple of years ago with the city when we tried to use it and eventually just ended up spending the extra money for copper.

From what I understand, Houston has a local code that's stricter than the UPC when it comes to pipe materials, but I could be misremembering.

Maybe they've changed it by now, because my architect buddy just used it in his new house. He likes it, but he has only been in the house a month or two, hardly long enough to develop a firm opinion. The fact that he used it at all in his house, given some of the over-engineered things he did, suggests to me that it must be gaining in acceptance.

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Maybe they've changed it by now, because my architect buddy just used it in his new house. He likes it, but he has only been in the house a month or two, hardly long enough to develop a firm opinion. The fact that he used it at all in his house, given some of the over-engineered things he did, suggests to me that it must be gaining in acceptance.

Our plumber was pretty exasperated with the inspector, that the city would be so much stricter than the UPC. I do remember that correctly.

So yes, perhaps the city has moderated a bit.

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Our plumber was pretty exasperated with the inspector, that the city would be so much stricter than the UPC. I do remember that correctly.

So yes, perhaps the city has moderated a bit.

That's really interesting. I just got a demolition permit to tear down my garage. Before you can apply for the permit, a plumbing inspector must certify that there is no sewer connection (or else a sewer disconnect is required). While talking to the plumbing inspector, he informed me that on my own homestead, I could do the plumbing myself! Strange how there can be such a wide range of personalities among the inspectors.

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I just recently redid my house combining PVC/CPVC with PEX using SharkBite fittings. I switched from propane to electric water heating, and was able to relocate the heater. The space where the heater was previously is right above where the water supply comes into the house, and that

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That's really interesting. I just got a demolition permit to tear down my garage. Before you can apply for the permit, a plumbing inspector must certify that there is no sewer connection (or else a sewer disconnect is required). While talking to the plumbing inspector, he informed me that on my own homestead, I could do the plumbing myself! Strange how there can be such a wide range of personalities among the inspectors.

Yeah, you can. They won't let you do electrical, but the city will let you do your own plumbing.

And this was the second plumber in as many projects that didn't like the same inspector. On the first bathroom remodel (that I actually subbed the plumbing out and secretly did the electrical myself LOL), the same inspector red tagged the plumber because he didn't use the biggest 6" nail guards possible (over the top plate). He had to special order them to get it approved and he was pretty hacked by the end of it all.

Edited by cottonmather0
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PEX is a great idea. You have to buy that special crimp tool, but in a house, there are only a few sized used so not that big of an expense. It beats trying to run copper thru the walls on existing construction.

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A repipe can be expensive/ time consuming, especially concealed connections behind bath sink, WC, and kitchen. But if you are going to stay in the house a long time it might be worth your while. The other thing you could do is just start with a nice new 3/4" main line to some central area of the house, and the water heater, and see if that improves flow, before going into walls. You can add dielectric unions any time you want to the connections that lack them.

Every type of pipe has its advantages and disadvantages. PEX (fittings) is being litigated right now in another state. It remains to be seen if city approval here was a good idea or not. PEX is also very sensitive to sunlight and if left exposed in an attic, can decompose. Also there can be long home runs from the manifold, if using a manifold system. So you might have the usual wait for hot water at the shower, and then wait some more for hot at the sink right next to it. I would not do my own PEX. If you mess up the crimp fittings you will regret it.

BTW PVC is not approved for water supply in the city except at the outside of the house (IRC and UPC).

Jus' becuz they sell it at Lowes Depot doesn't mean it is OK.

My house was built in 1961 and still has the original galvanized steel pipes. Although I do not have leaks at the moment (knock on wood), my water pressure is greatly reduced. I am pretty certain that there is a good amount of corrosion built up in the pipes. I don't think it has reached a critical point yet, as my water still runs clear and doesn't taste funky, but I am starting to put this on my mind. As a kid, I learned how to sweat copper, and the bathroom addition done by a previous owner has copper piping (connected to the galvanized plumbing without any kind of dielectric union :( ). But reading around on the interwebs, it looks like PEX is a viable alternative to copper and fairly easy for the DIY installer. I would like to know what yall think about PEX vs copper vs other and if anyone has gone this route and what your experiences were with it?
Edited by innerlooper
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Definitely planning on being here a while, so a full repipe is on the horizon. Given the layout of my house, if I were to do PEX, I think I would go with a remote manifold setup. One bathroom backs up to the kitchen sink, while the other bathroom backs up to the utility room. The things I like about PEX are its simple installation, which might be handy for some eventual remodeling projects, but longevity concerns me. Copper has been around for some time and will be much more durable but the idea crawling through the attic, torch in hand, and ripping out sheet rock, doesnt appeal to me. I guess if I were to do copper, I could piecemeal the system together. Replacing the mainline from the meter to the water heater (in the utility room) would probably make a good improvement in flow, since flow after that point is poor, while at the faucet in the front of the hosue (near the meter) is excellent. What material should that line be or can it be either PEX, CPVC, or copper?

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Any of those, or good old steel. :)

Definitely planning on being here a while, so a full repipe is on the horizon. Given the layout of my house, if I were to do PEX, I think I would go with a remote manifold setup. One bathroom backs up to the kitchen sink, while the other bathroom backs up to the utility room. The things I like about PEX are its simple installation, which might be handy for some eventual remodeling projects, but longevity concerns me. Copper has been around for some time and will be much more durable but the idea crawling through the attic, torch in hand, and ripping out sheet rock, doesnt appeal to me. I guess if I were to do copper, I could piecemeal the system together. Replacing the mainline from the meter to the water heater (in the utility room) would probably make a good improvement in flow, since flow after that point is poor, while at the faucet in the front of the hosue (near the meter) is excellent. What material should that line be or can it be either PEX, CPVC, or copper?
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PEX is a great idea. You have to buy that special crimp tool
Not necessarily. SharkBite fittings don't require a crimping tool. You just push the tubing into the fitting and it is good to flow.

PEX tubing sizes correspond to CPVC sizes. That means with a 1/2" coupling, you can put 1/2" CPVC in one end, and 1/2" PEX in the other.

Crimp fittings are cheaper, and if you do plumbing for a living, or plan to do a very large job, buying the tools would be worth it. My job was relatively small, so I went with the non-crimping fittings.

BTW, tac0meat, I get a kick out of your name because every time I see it, I think of "Eating Rauol".

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I still think copper is the gold standard in plumbing a house.

I concur. It's the only product that we use for water service in commercial installations. Why cheapen your house? Always try to upgrade when you do a remodel. Ask for type L domestic copper. (stay away from the Hecho en Mexico stuff)

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I concur. It's the only product that we use for water service in commercial installations. Why cheapen your house? Always try to upgrade when you do a remodel. Ask for type L domestic copper. (stay away from the Hecho en Mexico stuff)

What makes copper superior to PEX? What makes domestic copper superior to Mexican?

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What makes domestic copper superior to Mexican?

I'm not trying to be xenophobic but generally, when it comes to any building material, domestically produced products are required by building codes to meet certain standards promulgated by entities such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) among others.

Claims by off-shore manufactures that they meet required standards for their products are difficult to verify. Recall the recent trouble with gypsum board products that were imported from another country. There are different grades of copper pipe based on the way it is formed and its ductility. Certain types are more appropriate for particular uses than others. Without verifiable standards it is impossible to be sure if the correct type is being used.

I once asked a similar question of an engineer about 18 years ago regarding cast iron pipe fittings imported from Poland versus domestically made pipe. This was to be used for natural gas piping and the contractor had offered a significant savings to the client if the imported product was allowed. The engineers response was that the imported fittings had not been subjected to testing for porosity. He asked me if I would be comfortable having gas piping fittings in my home that might potentially be porous. Guess my answer: Substitution request denied.

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I'm not trying to be xenophobic but generally, when it comes to any building material, domestically produced products are required by building codes to meet certain standards promulgated by entities such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) among others.

Claims by off-shore manufactures that they meet required standards for their products are difficult to verify. Recall the recent trouble with gypsum board products that were imported from another country. There are different grades of copper pipe based on the way it is formed and its ductility. Certain types are more appropriate for particular uses than others. Without verifiable standards it is impossible to be sure if the correct type is being used.

I once asked a similar question of an engineer about 18 years ago regarding cast iron pipe fittings imported from Poland versus domestically made pipe. This was to be used for natural gas piping and the contractor had offered a significant savings to the client if the imported product was allowed. The engineers response was that the imported fittings had not been subjected to testing for porosity. He asked me if I would be comfortable having gas piping fittings in my home that might potentially be porous. Guess my answer: Substitution request denied.

One would think that the foreign producers of building materials would recognize that they could tap a very deep market willing to pay a substantial premium for certified products and would go to great lengths to obtain verifiable evidence of the quality of their product. And actually, if they're willing to cheat the standards, why aren't domestic suppliers also prone to cheating? Your skepticism makes a whole lot more sense if it has to do with the legal system in some particular country not being favorable for foreign plaintiffs seeking damages, or if these organizations refuse to do testing of all foreign products, but if the argument comes down to that foreign businessmen are more dishonest than American businessmen... :huh:

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I'd like to know more about the potential for bacteria contamination in PEX, but in every other sense (that matters to me, personally) it seems like a total rout.

I have read about the potential for bacterial growth inside of pex, but I would think corroded steel would make a pretty good home for bacteria as well.

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With a life expectancy of 40+ years, galvanized steel for repairs is still a viable option, depending on someone's needs and budget. If and when we have a hard freeze again, the steel houses will have far fewer pipe failures than the copper or CPVC places. I base that on what I saw in the '87 and '93 freezes. PEX is supposed to "give" a little bit in a freeze but that has yet to be tested around here.

One little-mentioned advantage of PEX is that it can be installed using very few sharp turn connectors hence better overall water flow. Copper and CPVC manufacturers should be making long-turn 90 degree sweeps but don't because nobody cares.

I wouldn't call it "good". "Old", maybe, but not "good". ;)
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One would think that the foreign producers of building materials would recognize that they could tap a very deep market willing to pay a substantial premium for certified products and would go to great lengths to obtain verifiable evidence of the quality of their product. And actually, if they're willing to cheat the standards, why aren't domestic suppliers also prone to cheating? Your skepticism makes a whole lot more sense if it has to do with the legal system in some particular country not being favorable for foreign plaintiffs seeking damages, or if these organizations refuse to do testing of all foreign products, but if the argument comes down to that foreign businessmen are more dishonest than American businessmen... :huh:

Niche, you are exactly correct and I probably should have elaborated the point but my post was getting rather long. I believe it is precisely because a of the difficulty of getting satisfaction through the courts in other nations that the problem exists. The dishonest guys know that it will be all but impossible for their aggrieved customers to obtain redress.

Also, I certainly do not want to imply that all, or even most, non-US businesses are dishonest. My experience tells me that they are honest or dishonest in the same proportion as businesses in this country. In my line of work it pays to be skeptical (but not cynical) until I am satisfied that there is verifiable evidence that the materials or products I specifiy meet certain standards.

No one who cheats the standards gets away with it in the long term. If a manufacturer makes false claims, i.e. cannot back them up with certification from and independent third party, he will be found out and will be open to libility and expensive claims at worst or a severely damaged reputation at best.

Decisions as to whether or not to use materials or products which are documented as meeting industry standards are in some cases mandated by building codes but, in others, are strictly those of the client and based on economics. In other words, "you pay your money and you take your chances."

Additionally, many manufacturers from other countries do submit to "American" testing protocols and market those products which meet the standards. These manufacturers do recognize the value of doing business long-term in the US. Finally, other developed nations such as those of the EU, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and Japan do have materials standards that, when adhered to, result in products of quality equal to those meeting standards in this country regardless of the origin. Economically emerging nations like China, India, and some South American countries are also beginning to institute more widely accepted standards.

We deal in a global economy and, just like the entrepreneurs of the past who sought to move from a local or regional client base, those wanting to take part in this global economy will have to decide, and have been deciding, whether to make a quick buck and hope, in the words of P. T. Barnum that, "a sucker is born every minute" or be diligent and honest and enjoy long-term success. The good news is there seem to be more honest than dishonest manufacturers world-wide but the dishonest ones are those that attract the most attention.

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What makes copper superior to PEX? What makes domestic copper superior to Mexican?

I will answer your question with a question.

What makes granite counter tops superior to plastic laminate?

What makes ceramic tile superior to VCT?

What makes cement board siding suprerior to vinyl siding?

Each has it's benefits.

Copper is a proven product for water service in the plumbing industry. PEX is unproven. We've seen many products come and go in the plumbing industry over the past few decades. Copper has performed exceptionaly well over the years and shouldn't be discarded just because a new product is promoted as being better. PEX does have good potential with the manifold type of installation and no fittings in the walls. I do like the labor saving benifits of PEX. Remember though, that copper does come in rolls also. A properly installed copper water system to me just appears to be a superior system.

What makes domestic copper superior to imported? I've repaired plently of leaks throughout the years. Split seams and washed out fittings being the most plentiful. And what did all these leaks have in common? "Hecho en Mexico"! I don't work as a plumber anymore, nor do I own stock in Phelps Dodge or Cerro, but just ask any plumber (except Joe the Unlicensed Plumber) their opinion, I'll bet their opinion echo's mine.

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One little-mentioned advantage of PEX is that it can be installed using very few sharp turn connectors hence better overall water flow.
When I ran the lines to and from the water heater and supply manifolds, I had to wind the tubing through the overhead, through the ceiling trusses and around and sometimes through insulation, but I needed no connectors in the entire run. I can sweat copper, too, but there was no way I could have run copper without taking much of the ceiling down.

The IP referred to

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From looking at pictures of PEX manifold installations, it looks like the manifold block is mounted between two studs, and the pipes are then arced up through the adjacent openings. My house is pretty small and I don't think I can spare 4 feet of wall space for an install like that. Is it possible to mount the manifold in the attic without the risk of freeze damage (rare in these parts, but does happen). I would think the manifold, having rigid valves would be the most at risk to freezing temperatures.

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I see no problem with the manifold in the attic, as long as there is some insulation around it.

Where is your water heater? Is it in a closet, or a closed space? If so, you could mount the manifold(s) in there. You could run the main supply line into the space, then branch off to the water heater and the cold water manifold, and then out of the water heater into the hot water manifold. The branch lines could go right up into the attic.

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Currently, my water heater is in a utility room in the center of the house, but part of the re-plumbing will be to replace it with a tankless water heater that will be mounted in the attic, but still above the utility room. Once the water heater is out of the utility room, I will put shelves/cabinets in its place to give more storage. Basically, my only "open" wall is shared with a bathroom that has its plumbing running through the same wall. But I guess that might not be too bad, as it would mean I would just need to run a couple of feet of tubing for those fixtures. If the manifold were to be in the utility room, it would need to be mounted inside the wall cavity with a cover over it because you have to walk through the utility room to access the bedroom/bathroom on that end of the house (this was all originally a 1 car attached garage)

Originally, I was thinking about using the Vanguard/manabloc system, but if I use the Wirsbo/Propex system, I think I the manifold could fit between two studs. I am leaning towards the propex system because I think the connection is more reliable than some other methods and the tool is fairly reasonable.

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  • 1 year later...

Actually PEX is quite better than some other pipes for water lines. It is cheaper and easier to install by plumbers. It is safer for re-plumbing an old house that has a quite complicated water line system.

While all of what you say may be true, I have found old houses to generally have very uncomplicated water systems for the simple reason that they had fewer plumbing fixtures than today's houses. Pier and beam houses have much easier access to plumbing lines than most slab homes as well.

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