PEX vs. Copper Pipes

Plumbers: Which do you recommend, PEX or copper? There are loyal devotees on both sides. Copper has long been the pipe of choice for new construction and for replacing older galvanized steel pipes, but PEX has been nudging copper out of the top spot. Many plumbers swear by PEX for its ease of installation and lower cost. But, both PEX and copper have their advantages and disadvantages. Which is best?

Let's take a closer look at these two popular pipes, diving into some of the pros and cons of each.

Copper lasts longer

Both types of pipe will last for many decades. Copper generally has a longer lifespan than PEX, but the longevity of both types of pipes can vary depending on the quality of the water, whether you have a well, and other factors. Factors that shorten the longevity of PEX is using very hot water (more than 180 degrees, which very few households have) and if the household water contains a lot of chlorine. But, copper's lifespan can be shortened, too, especially if the household water is highly acidic. This usually isn't a problem if the residence is connected to city water but if it is on a well, the homeowner should get the water tested before installing copper. The exception to this is if your city has reverse-osmosis water, which can cause the copper to pit and fail.

PEX is less costly

Copper is twice the price of PEX. A copper retrofit in an existing mid-size home can run $10,000 or more, while PEX comes in between $4,000 and $6,000.

Copper requires more fittings

Copper is rigid. It needs to be cut to size and have elbow fittings to turn corners. That means more labor and time for you. PEX is so flexible and bendable that it can run just about anywhere, especially around corners, with no fittings required.

PEX = little (if any) drywall cutting

Another plus of PEX's flexibility — you can thread it through walls without having to make many, if any, cuts into the drywall. It can turn a major overhaul into a quick(ish) project. If you're installing copper, you'll need to get into that drywall in order to make those connections.

PEX has a central shutoff

If you've had to fight with an access panel to shut off the water supply to a tub or sink, you appreciate the fact that PEX has a central shut-off "station," typically located in the basement where the water comes into the house. You can turn the water on or off to any fixture in the house from one central place. This is a great feature for homeowners, too. Also, you can squeeze off PEX to shut the flow off anywhere in the system.

Copper can freeze

Here in the Midwest, we all know that can be a problem. PEX will expand if the water freezes.

Copper is time tested

Copper has been used for decades upon decades, is known for its reliability and has a proven track record. PEX has been around for 25 years, but it doesn't have the track record of copper. Not much does. But according to our plumbing pros, copper is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Today, it can have an increased failure rate.

Bottom line from the pros at Goodin: the decision to use PEX or copper depends on many factors, including budget. Taking all of this into consideration, PEX might be our top choice. But we've got you covered, whether you choose PEX or copper.

Brand Spotlight

  • delta logo
  • moen logo
  • ruud logo