Copper vs PEX:

Copper vs PEX:

Material Options for Residential Water Lines

When selecting modern materials as a delivery vehicle for your residential water supply, only two materials are worth consideration, copper piping and PEX piping. This blog will explore the reason behind these two choices, comparing the pros and cons of each type of material to better inform and help you decide which is the better choice for your residential water needs.

Firstly, common indicators that you need a re-pipe.

  • Leaks: Multiple leaks at once or leaks that happen in quick succession indicate that your pipes are old and worn.
  • Corroded Pipes: Corrosion can cause low water pressure, and in some cases, it can even cause water to leak out of the pipes. Easily visible on discolored pipes.
  • Noisy Pipes
  • Bad smelling or Bad tasting water
  • Discolored or rusty water
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Low water pressure


We commence our discussion with copper, a material that boasts an extensive and established history spanning numerous decades as the preferred choice for water transportation. Copper’s widespread usage in water pipes can be attributed to its distinctive characteristics that render it an optimal choice for this application. It is characterized by its durability, reliability, and impermeability, thereby making it a secure and enduring option for water transportation.

A salient advantage of copper as a piping material lies in its inherent antimicrobial resistance. This attribute confers a protective layer to water supply lines, effectively eliminating harmful bacteria and averting the leakage of toxic substances into drinking water. Furthermore, copper pipes exhibit resistance to corrosion, a critical factor in water transportation. In contrast to other metals such as iron and steel, copper does not succumb to rust or corrosion rapidly, thereby ensuring that the quality of the water coursing through the pipes remains uncompromised.

Moreover, the longevity and resilience of copper pipes contribute to their cost-effectiveness in the long run. Despite the initial investment being higher than other materials, the durability of copper pipes reduces the need for frequent replacements, thereby offering a cost-efficient solution over time. Additionally, the recyclability of copper aligns with sustainable practices, further enhancing its appeal as a material of choice for water transportation systems. Thus, copper’s unique properties and benefits underscore its prominence in the realm of residential and commercial plumbing.

Types of Copper for residential plumbing:

Two types of copper pipes used in residential water supply systems are soft copper, Type “M” indicated by red lettering along the side of the pipe and hard copper, Type “L”, indicated by blue lettering along the side of the pipe. Each type has its unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, making them suitable for different applications.

Soft Copper Type M

Soft copper, Type “M” pipes are known for their flexibility, which allows them to bend easily without the use of equipment. This makes them ideal for installations that require maneuvering around obstacles or fitting into tight spaces. However, Type “M” pipes are thinner walled compared to Type “L”, which may affect their longevity when used for water supply or structure. Despite this, Type “M” pipes are often preferred due to their lower cost and flexibility.

Hard Copper Type L

Hard copper, Type “L” pipes, on the other hand, are more rigid and require specific tools for bending. They have a much thicker wall compared to Type “M”, making them more durable and long-lasting when used for water supply. Type “L” pipes are also more resistant to corrosion, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. However, they are usually much, much more expensive, often double the price or more than Type “M” pipes, which may affect the decision of homeowners and contractors. Additionally, Type “L” copper pipes are more labor intensive, driving up the labor costs to install them.

In Conclusion, copper’s durability, resistance to corrosion, antimicrobial properties and superior performance compared to other materials make it an excellent choice for water transportation. It ensures the quality and safety of the water supply, making it a worthwhile investment for any plumbing system. When comparing the two types of copper, it’s important to consider the specific requirements of the project, including the budget, installation environment and expected lifespan. It is important for the homeowners and contractors to understand the differences between these two types of copper pipes to make an informed decision.

Copper Pros:

  1. Durability: Copper pipes are highly durable and resistant to corrosion, UV rays, element exposure, etc…. making them a long-lasting option for residential water systems.
  2. Reliability: Copper has a long and proven record of reliability and durability in plumbing water systems.
  3. Safety: Copper is a safe material for carrying drinking water, as it does not release harmful chemicals or substances into the water.
  4. Heat Resistance: Copper pipe withstands high temperatures making it ideal for hot and cold-water residential plumbing systems.
  5. No maintenance: Once installed they require zero maintenance over their normal working lifespan, reducing long-term costs.
  6. Resale Value: A newer copper plumbing system will increase a property’s resale value and help recover the cost of installation.
  7. No lead or heavy metal elements in the plumbing system

Copper Cons:

  1. Cost: Copper piping is very expensive compared to alternative materials such as PEX and PVC.
  2. Installation: Soldering copper piping requires skill and specialized tools and expensive fittings, making it challenging and expensive to install.
  3. Noise: Copper piping sometimes transfers water flow noise, clinks, and bangs during thermal expansion as warm or hot water moves through a cold pipe.
  4. Bursting: Temperatures below 32 degrees while not often in California does happen and causes water to freeze in pipes and burst copper water lines.
  5. Theft: Copper due to its high material cost and recycle value is subject to theft,
  6. Scale Build Up Over Time: Even mighty copper is not immune to the ravages of time. Mineral and scale build up inside the inner walls of the copper piping, especially on the hot systems, will narrow the diameter of the pipe, reducing flow volume to the fixtures it serves.

PEX piping the new dominance over copper:

Cross-linked Polyethylene (PEX) is a material that was invented in 1968 by German scientist Dr. Thomas Engel. PEX is made by forcing polyethylene molecules to permanently connect, creating connection points called crosslinks.

PEX has been used in Europe since the 1970s and in the United States since the 1984 when UPONOR introduced it for radiant floor heating. By the 1990s it became more popular when it was used for residential water distribution. Traveling from the Eastern United States of America, California was the last state finally approve and adopt PEX for residential water systems after PEX met and passed very stringent testing standards. On January 22, 2009, the California Building Standards Commission certified the Environmental Impact Report on crosslinked Polyethylene (PEX) tubing and unanimously adopted regulations approving PEX water distribution systems into the California Plumbing Code, taking effect on August 1, 2009.

Since then, PEX has emerged as a popular alternative to traditional copper piping in residential plumbing systems. This shift can be attributed to several key differences between the two materials that make PEX a more appealing choice for homeowners and contractors alike. PEX is a popular choice for plumbing systems because it’s affordable, flexible, quick to install, and resistant to corrosion. It’s also less likely to burst in freezing temperatures compared to copper pipes.

Advantages of PEX Piping

PEX piping is celebrated for its light weight & flexibility, which allows it to bend around corners and obstacles, making it easier to install in tight spaces. This flexibility also means PEX requires fewer fittings, which can save time and money during installation. PEX is highly resistant to corrosion and scale buildup, common issues with copper pipes. Moreover, PEX is less likely to burst in freezing temperatures, making it a more reliable choice in colder climates.

Cost-Effectiveness of PEX Piping

One of the most compelling advantages of PEX is its cost-effectiveness. On average, installing copper water pipes are 75 percent to 100 percent more expensive than PEX. This cost difference can be significant, especially for larger projects or whole house plumbing renovations.

PEX Pros:

  1. Quiet: PEX pipes are far quieter than other types of water pipes.
  2. Inexpensive: PEX pipes are cheaper than copper pipes.
  3. No soldering needed: PEX pipes do not require soldering for installation, they can be connected to proper fittings or adapters using a special tool.
  4. Color-coded: PEX pipes are color-coded, making it easier to identify what a specific pipe is used for.
  5. Corrosion resistant: PEX pipes are naturally resistant to corrosion.
  6. Easily repaired: Repair splices are easily installed, even in wet conditions.
  7. No lead or heavy metal elements in the plumbing system

PEX Cons:

  1. Outdoor Use: PEX is not suitable for outdoor use as exposure to UV rays will degrade the piping.
  2. Rodent Damage: Rodents find the plastic-based tubing irresistible and can chew through PEX pipes, causing extensive water damage.

In Summary:

In conclusion, the selection between copper and PEX for your residential plumbing project is contingent upon the specific requirements and circumstances of the task at hand. Like any significant decision, it is crucial to thoroughly consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option prior to making a definitive choice.

Imagine a scenario where you could leverage the strengths of both these exceptional materials in harmony. Your wish is our command!

DB Plumbing is equipped to install a hybrid potable water plumbing system, offering you the best of both worlds. The majority of the water transportation is facilitated by extensive PEX runs in attics and through the walls. Meanwhile, any pipes protruding from your walls that are exposed to UV rays, touch points, or heavy wear, such as an attached ball valve or angle stop, are robustly managed by TYPE “L” copper.

One of the remarkable aspects of copper and PEX is their compatibility and their ability to function seamlessly together. This hybrid system not only ensures efficient water transportation but also enhances the durability and longevity of your residential plumbing system. It’s a strategic blend of materials, designed to optimize performance and reliability, all while keeping the costs affordable.

If you are experiencing issues with your plumbing water system or any plumbing issues at all, call the local plumbing experts at DB plumbing today. Our team comprises adept problem solvers who excel in diagnosing and rectifying ongoing plumbing issues, often succeeding where others have not. Their precision and proficiency are testament to their dedication and pride in their work.

At DB Plumbing, we believe in delivering nothing but the best. We source industry-leading, name-brand materials to ensure the highest quality in our installations and repairs. Our commitment to excellence extends to every aspect of our work, from the smallest repair to the most extensive installation. Every plumbing task is not merely a service job, but an opportunity to enhance the value of your property.

Thank you for your time!

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