A “re-pipe” refers to the job of replacing all of the water piping in your home. (If your drains are being replaced that is typically referred to as a re-drain, and that’s quite a different job.)
In Southern California, typically the existing water piping in your home is either galvanized piping or copper piping. Up until the ’60s galvanized pipe was the most common pipe used by builders. But the copper pipe was already in existence and being used in the ’50s. Eventually, the copper pipe became more popular as the prices for copper came down and more people became aware of how much easier it is to install as compared to a galvanized pipe. Since then, the Copper pipe became the standard for installation in homes until the early 2000s. Nowadays copper pipe and PEX are equally popular for performing a repipe.
So what should you use?
Galvanized pipe is no longer a choice, and for good reason. It takes a LOT more labor to install and therefore it is cost prohibitive. But, the galvanized pipe has a great lifespan. Usually, it would last 50-60 years! In fact, I still service some 70+-year-old homes that still have galvanized pipe systems.
Copper pipe is a great choice for several reasons. First, it has a long history of use for water conveyance, and therefore we know how long it will last. 30-50 years is the average lifespan for copper and it is affected by things such as water quality, the grade of pipe used, and the quality control of the manufacturer.
- Type “M” copper is the thinnest and it’s not recommended for your water pipe system since it will have the shortest life span. Type “L” is the middle grade of copper and is an excellent choice for a copper re-pipe of your home.
- Type “K” is the thickest standard grade of copper water pipe but is also more expensive. Type “K” is also a little more difficult to install since it takes longer to cut the pipe and to heat up the pipe for soldering the fittings together.
Puchasing Copper Pipe
It’s also recommended to purchase copper pipe which was manufactured in a United States foundry, since our quality control standards are much better than those in other countries that manufacture and ship copper pipe to the U.S. The downside to copper pipe is that it carries sound well, so you will hear water flowing through the pipes in your house. It also allows heat loss, so it’s recommended to insulate the hot water lines.
PEX pipe is also a great choice, but you must make sure you are using a quality PEX-a, such as Uponor AquaPEX. This product currently carries a 25-year limited warranty. PEX has been in use in North America for over 40 years, but early products did not have the same life span as the new AquaPEX product. So far AquaPEX has been a reliable product which we have been installing since 2008. It is quiet and does not carry sound the same way copper does, but it still should be insulated on the hot water lines to prevent heat loss.
PEX is also much less expensive to install on a repipe since the materials cost a little less and the labor required is a little less than is required to install copper pipe, so it will cost you a little less to have a PEX re-pipe as opposed to a copper re-pipe. The one drawback to PEX is that the current products we are installing came out in 1993 & 1995 and therefore it doesn’t have the same history of reliability that copper does (Copper has been in use to convey water since ancient Egyptian times). However, so far so good… their product seems to be holding up well.
What Kind of Pipe Do I Recommend?
If it was my house I would probably install PEX. It’s quieter and, as a plumber, the sound of running water can wake me up if someone uses the toilet in the middle of the night. So I like quieter. Also, I’m a plumber, so if my PEX system fails I can fix it myself pretty easily.
PEX is certainly a good choice. But usually, I recommend copper re-piping for my customers’ houses. Mostly because we know the reliability of a properly installed copper pipe system. If you also have a water softener system installed at the same time as your repipe, the copper pipe system could last over 50 years (depending on other factors).
So, there you have it, I hope this helps you make your decision on what to use. If you have further questions you can send me an email at email@example.com.
Founder, Trusty Plumbers / Mitch Clemmons Plumbing